Sunday, April 14, 2024

BLP COLUMN: Water, water everywhere

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You have our money. Where are our new water mains? This is the cry from thousands of lips, given the rupture of major supply mains over the last few weeks in Bridgetown and on the South Coast.
The public relations justifying why we had to pay 60 per cent more for our water came from the highest office in the land; a Cabinet minister was moved to head the Barbados Water Authority; a restructuring of the authority was said to be in the works all to accommodate a massive islandwide mains replacement programme.
More than a year has passed, the public has coughed up millions more in rates to the BWA and nobody, not a minister, not a CEO, not a hare or a cricket has said a single word about when, where and how the mains replacement programme will start.
The public was given the impression that this was a programme ready and waiting only on the money to start. To date we have not even seen a plan, much less the start of any work.
In fact, the only thing that could possibly match this for maladministration in the annals of BWA history is when in 1987 Errol Barrow seized the $20 million accumulated for capital works by the authority and placed it in the Consolidated Fund. It is a financial blow from which the BWA has never recovered.
So having already ravaged the coffers of the BWA, a new DLP dispensation is ravaging your pockets to do what it should rightly have done with the BWA’s $20 million the first time around.
We intend to be vigilant and keep a close watch on what the BWA is doing with your money. We urge you to do the same.
The delay in the mains replacement programme led to major embarrassment for the country when a huge stretch of the tourist belt on the South Coast was without water for two days at the start of the AIBA Boxing World Championships. Tournament officials had to be relocated and at one point the championships looked in danger of cancellation.
A month or so later at the start of the Michaelmas term another burst main under Roebuck Street forced the closure of several businesses and schools and caused major inconvenience to the residents of Greenfields and other areas for yet another two days.
One would have expected Minister Denis Lowe to use either or both of these incidents to bring the country up to speed on the BWA’s plans, how its restructuring is going and to generally reassure the public that these types of scenarios would soon be a thing of the past. Not a word. Nada, zero, zilch.
We can’t even say that the minister was busy trying to mitigate for the flooding on the South Coast and in Bridgetown as he was conspicuous for his absence. Of course this Government had big plans for the Drainage Unit too, remember?
Abdul Pandor resigned as chairman of the National Housing Corporation to become the drainage czar in a reconfigured Ministry of Water, Drainage and Sewerage, remember?
Can the minister tell Barbadians if Mr Pandor has taken up his post and what recommendations he has made to improve the flooding in chronically flood-prone areas, if he has?
It appears that Denis Lowe is a confirmed member of NATO – no action, talk only. He has survived one Cabinet reshuffle, but how much longer will the public have to suffer because of his inability to get things done.

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