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FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: Collective decision making

Dr Frances Chandler, [email protected]

FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: Collective decision making

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IT WAS REFRESHING to read the report on Barbados Workers’ Union/Massy negotiations, which seem to have resulted in a reasonable compromise.

Sir Roy Trotman is quoted as saying: “This has been done not purely by skills on the part of the workers, but also goodwill on the part of the employer and they being willing to entertain suggestions for some new initiatives which could be taken to effect a different approach to the level of the workers on the breadline . . .”. Sir Roy also noted the importance of people “coming together”.

We need this approach not only to problems  involving companies but also national problems. The public mustn’t be ignored while Government makes unilateral decisions that affect our well-being. We must “come together” and make ourselves heard.

Why is the Opposition being criticised for doing its job? That is, monitoring what Government is doing and speaking out against what it sees as wrongdoing. It’s clear that if the Opposition Leader didn’t speak out and  encourage others to do so, we would still be in the dark about the water supply and the Cahill issue. Coming together and speaking out can do wonders!

Contrast the union’s recent approach with that of the minister. When he finally made a public statement on the growing water problem, viewers were wondering if they were watching  a heavyweight boxing match.

On the other hand, Voice of Barbados and Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation must be commended for their informative programmes on the issue. All speakers were knowledgeable and willing to share information so the layman could better understand what’s involved in water sourcing and distribution.

Of course, all this comes after the horse has bolted and doesn’t excuse lack of vision by successive administrations. Too much energy is spent blaming others instead of doing what’s necessary when you’re “in the driver’s seat”.

While climate change  and drought may have exacerbated the problem, St Thomas and St Andrew residents, especially, have experienced water woes for years without any solution – perhaps because they didn’t “come together” and make noise. Is it a fact that our last reservoir was built in 1980? Population increased by about 40 000 since then, not to mention tourists. Didn’t successive governments see the need for increased water storage?

Furthermore, I’ve heard since time immemorial that about 60 per cent of our water was leaking from the ancient mains. We heard of various International Development Bank loans supposedly for replacements, yet very little if anything was done until about two years ago when the present upgrade started. Replacing leaking mains is obviously a priority. What’s the point of introducing high-tech methods of increasing water supply if it will still leak from the mains? Yet before we fix the mains we build a Barbados Water Authority (BWA) edifice!

We must harvest rainwater, not only for farming but for household use as Bermuda has done for years. Apparently, only about ten per cent of ours is harvested. Why not dam gullies as was recommended by the late Keith Laurie ages ago?

Some years ago, Town & Country Planning demanded that houses over a certain size have underground rainwater tanks. People complied, but the plan wasn’t taken to completion – that is, a method of ensuring that the rainwater wouldn’t mix with the BWA mains water. Wasn’t it obvious that there could be separate plumbing from the tanks to toilets (which are apparently responsible for 35 per cent of water usage) and for irrigation? Only now, it seems to have dawned on someone that a colour coded system could be used.

Then BWA contracted to buy desalinated water without providing for its distribution. Now, suddenly we’re told that a pumping station at the Lazaretto is being commissioned to send this water down the west coast and that water can be diverted from the new water augmentation project in St Philip.

Households must conserve and store water – a much better solution than community water tanks. The fear of water becoming “stale” can be overcome by having the mains water passing through the tank continuously (as mine does).

Finally, every time we have a real problem to fix, you hear about the high cost. Am I right in saying that  BWA had a handsome reserve fund way back in the 80s but it was “huffed” just as similar  funds in the sugar industry were, leaving those involved in their present precarious position?

Dr Frances Chandler is a former Independent senator. Email:[email protected]