Sunday, April 14, 2024

EDITORIAL: Try a little contrition


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. . . Or visit my village called Talparo; where dey ain’t get no water fuh years; so much different race; so much different colour; with a bucket, sit down shedding tears . . . Sufferers don’t care bout colour; Sufferers don’t care bout race/Sufferers don’t care who migrate from where; Or who living in who place; /Sufferers don’t care who from country; Sufferers don’t care who from town;/ Sufferers only want to hear; Where de next food coming from. – Sufferers (calypsonian Black Stalin)


IT IS appropriate to thank you, Minister of Water Resource Management Dr David Estwick, for finally saying something about the water crisis that has been plaguing thousands of Barbadians for far too long. But it is just as appropriate to let you know that when all the fluff is stripped away this crisis is not about Mia Mottley and the Barbados Labour Party (BLP).

Yes, we agree with you that the BLP failed to institute the programmes that would have gotten the upgrading of our water storage and distribution system underway. We believe your criticism in this area is well placed because the BLP Government prided itself on its social achievements, with improving of the standard of living in terms of the housing stock being among its priorities.

The huge expansion of middle class housing put immense pressure on our potable water reserves and that alone should have compelled the BLP under Owen Arthur to do more to ensure that the ageing distribution system was maintained and upgraded.

However, ranting about the BLP’s supposed politicisation of the lack of running water in so much of rural Barbados in recent months when you addressed the Press two days ago made no sense.

Oppositions politicise issues – that’s what they do. But we are reasonably sure Miss Mottley did not lose her water supply for a single day, and if she had, her level of inconvenience could not have come close to what residents of Chimborazo, Parks Road or Bissex Housing Area suffered over the Christmas holidays.

Mr Minister, as the person at the top of the system, your tone could have shown at least a little contrition, and an apology to all those who suffered. It would have gone down much better. Your argumentative style and repeating more than once, “Look, don’t get me vex!” were totally out of place.

On the other hand, we are sure your explanation regarding the plan to acquire two desalination plants, finally utilising the northern pipeline of the desalinaton plant at Black Rock for the purpose for which it was intended, the planned replacement of the critical main between Golden Ridge and Castle Grant reservoirs, the purchase of eight new water tankers and the drilling of new wells in Sweet Bottom and elsewhere were well received.

What you did in the process, though, was confirm our earlier assessment that the management of operations at the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) is woefully lacking. Why are all these things now being done? Why did the situation have to reach crisis proportion for you and the management of the BWA to speak with the suffering population?

Again, Mr Minister, your explanation of the drought impacting Barbados and the rest of the region was thorough – but for people who read and observe their surroundings, otherwise follow current affairs, or are in anyway engaged in farming, there was no news in this. It’s common knowledge. What it did emphasise, though, was that the BWA and the authorities generally have failed miserably in their effort to sensitise Barbadians to the need for conservation.

For a population that has grown comfortable knowing that when they turn the tap or flush the toilet, water is guaranteed to flow, only a strong and creative sensitisation and education programme will achieve the desired conservation results. And even if all the repair, upgrade and augmentation efforts of the BWA are successful, future water security will still require such an approach.

So again we thank you, Mr Minister, for finally engaging the population through the Press, but in the future we admonish you to focus your attention on the people, not the Opposition. As Black Stalin sang, “sufferers don’t care ’bout colour” – political colour, that is. Just tell them “where de next [water] coming from”.


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