EDITORIAL: March on, St Joseph!
IF THERE IS A RATIONAL PERSON alive today whocan find fault with the decision of residents of St Joseph to march in protest of the consistently poor water supply they have been experiencing for almost a year now, that individual would have to be from another world.
We do not know of the political leanings, if any, of those who organised and led the march or who participated in it, and quite frankly we do not care.
When members of a household wake up at five or six in the morning to prepare for work and turn on their taps and receive only air, their political colours don’t assist in getting a shower, making a cup of tea or otherwise preparing for work or school.
We understand the impact of low rainfall on the reduced supply of water in aquifers and reservoirs built by the Barbados Water Authority (BWA), and only the completely dumb could fault the agency for that.
By the same token, however, it would take the return of Einstein to convince us that the prolonged water woes of the good people of St Joseph are entirely, or even largely, the result of low water levels caused by reduced rainfall.
The problem, in our view, continues to be poor overall management of the system by the authority and its failure to adequately respond with reasonable mitigation aimed directly at the people of St Joseph –or others who suffer similarly.
After a horrendous Christmas without water last year, and repeated howls of protest from across much of the island, Minister for Water Resource Management, Dr David Estwick, finally spoke to the country and made specific promises about immediate, medium- and long-term solutions.
We were told then, and subsequently, about water augmentation projects in the east, about new water wells in St George, new pipelines to supply the Castle Grant reservoir and a multimillion-dollar mains replacement programme to eliminate wastage through leaks. Eight months later the people of St Joseph still can’t get a consistent water supply.
At the same time Minister Estwick promised the immediate installation of community water tanks and the urgent importation of half a dozen new water tankers. And to be fair, the authority lost no time in putting those tanks in place, perhaps an even larger number than many anticipated.
Eight months later though, as the people complain that these tanks are often empty, the BWA is stating it does not have enough water tankers on the road to replenish them at the required rate. How long does it take to source and import a water tanker?
Alternatively, how long would it have taken to purchase a few chassis from one of the auto dealers and contract one or two local metal fabrication companies to build and attach a tank to it to hold drinking water? It was done years ago for the same BWA by Coles Engineer Limited.
When Dr Estwick met the press back then he promised that two packaged desalination plants were being sourced for urgent deployment, while arrangements were made for the construction of permanent desal facilities. We are in the ninth month of the year and still no relief for the people of St Joseph.
They are entitled to protest. They have suffered much and they have suffered long. Barbadians from the urban corridor who have not been to places like Sugar Hill, Lammings, Parks Road, Chimborazo and Bissex Housing Area at sunrise to see Barbadians of varying stations in life with buckets of water on their headsor in their hands heading to or from the community tank – in 2016 – may never appreciate how these residents feel.
A Government with a heart would never have allowed this situation to go on so long while those responsible display a level of indifference that is nothing short of hurtful.
March on, St Joseph residents, raise your placards high. They may say little to nothing, but they can never justifiably say they did not hear your shouts for relief.