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RON IN COMMON: Prohibition a waste of time without education

ERIC SMITH, [email protected]

RON IN COMMON: Prohibition a waste of time without education

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That word is associated with a particular era in America’s history perhaps more than anything else.

For many like me in Barbados, the connection with that era was brought to life watching the television series The Untouchables many years ago on CBC-TV. It wasn’t the prohibition that caught my eye or excited me, or indeed the many other fans of the series, but the action drama of Robert Stack.

The actual prohibition was to put it mildly, a waste of time, given all the factors.

The nationwide constitutional ban on the sale, production, importation and transportation of alcoholic beverages in the United States from 1920 to 1933 could not work in Barbados. After all, Barbados is the home of rum, which has always been a big employer and is loved and imbibed by many.

That is why Barbados has never had and will never have a prohibition squad led by any Eliot Ness and his squad of Untouchables, the men who could not be bribed or intimidated by the mob.

So when the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) announced two Fridays ago that it was instituting a water prohibition order, it would have caught many people off guard.

Most Barbadians do not want to encounter the kind of hardships and suffering people living in rural areas from St Lucy to St Joseph, with others in between, have been facing in recent months because of water shortages.

So people will generally wish to comply with any efforts to preserve water, given the lack of rainfall. Up until a few weeks ago it did not seem like there was a serious drought as the landscape remained rather green and lush. But now everywhere you go the evidence is now there in plain sight; green has been replaced by brown. The only things not very visible are the many cracks on open land. The situation is clearly unsettling.

So the prohibition order from the Barbados Water Authority is in place until at least the end of May, though we wait to see how it will be enforced.  

This is not the first time we are having a water prohibition order on this little rock. Perhaps Dr John Mwansa and his team at the BWA had looked not only at the pros and cons of such a move, but how successful previous efforts had been, After all you must learn from the past to understand the present and plan for the future.

My impression is that the BWA has made some missteps. The overarching nature of its dictate seems not to have considered all the businesses, from food production to cleaning operators to leisure activities, which must have access to sizeable quantities of water on a daily basis.

Yes, engineers are the key drivers of things at the BWA, along with accountants, internal auditors, HR managers and other professionals, perhaps with a scientific background. These are the critical people at the BWA. Those with the soft skills, such as marketing, customer relations and corporate communications, are not the ones, it would seem to me, who are considered as critical.

Car washers have said prohibition will cripple their business.


Perhaps that it why the BWA did not meet with farmers, horticulturists, hoteliers, auto valet and the power washing businesses, golf course operators, or even reach out to the public with a few public service notices or even a pre-prohibition news conference before the action was taken.

So, the BWA started wrong and it might be difficult to end right.

People were looking for the BWA at Agrofest so they could tell the farmers, the business people, the householders, children, indeed all of the thousands who flocked to the exhibition last weekend, about the prohibition plan and why it is important. It was a good chance to get some buy-in.

In fact, lots of people were hoping to see Minister of Agriculture Dr David Estwick at Agrofest. After all he is also Minister of Water Resources and it would have been a good chance for him to reassure farmers and everybody else that they will not be left in the wilderness, with crops wilting and livestock dying. He could have spoken about the need to use new technology and all the other methods to protect their livelihoods. And he could have spoken to many Barbadians to let them know that the BWA cares.

But that was just wishful thinking on my part.

The BWA might make some adjustments to its order and wait and watch until the end of May to determine the success of its efforts to reduce water consumption.

Hopefully, the adjustment to the order will be made public before the end of May.

But the BWA should not be surprised if people in the meantime water their plants and kitchen gardens at night and do a lot of their scrubbing and cleaning after dark and generally undertake their business with little regard to the BWA’s directive. The word around is that this is already happening.

Hopefully, we will not have any extended drought and there can be relief from water woes for all Barbadians.

And even at this stage the BWA should let its staff with the soft skills undertake a national public education campaign on water usage, including conservation.

It is the only sure way to success. (ES)