“Seeing as the government knew about the need to carry out river flood protection, why did they give Harlequin’s Buccament Bay Resort permission to build in a known flood plain on a river that required river bank flood defences installed?
Why did they approve of building private houses in a flood plain, next to a dangerous river requiring bank and river base restructuring and defences?
Why? Why? Can they tell us Why?
Why did they fail to install those defences?”
by Peter Binose
(Photo courtesy of I-Witness News)
Whilst researching the Christmas Buccament floods I discovered that both Ralph Gonsalves and Julian Francis as government ministers were both informed as early as 2001 that Buccament was likely to flood. They were instructed to carry out urgent river defenses but almost every year for about 13 years just got more and more reports on the matter. They had the reports done because the World Bank was paying for the reports, they cost us nothing. But after getting the reports they failed to act – and that failure to act proved to be fatal for a number of people.
In some of the reports it is even quoted that Buccament is in a flood plain. As such they allowed new building in a flood plain next to a river that was almost certainly going to flood, and it did.
Remember the videos of Gonsalves walking through Buccament with tears in his eyes? Was that all an act? He must of been terrified that the people would find out that he was pre-warned and failed to act, thus being a direct contributor to the loss of all those poor people.
The piece below is something I have submitted to all the newspapers and online publications. We will have see if the SVG newspapers have the courage to publish what I have written, regardless of the fact that its all verifiable as the truth.
Buccament Bay flood deaths neglect, dereliction of duty or something worse?
On December 24 and 25, 2013, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines was hit by a low-level, high-impact trough system which caused severe infrastructure damage to the country. The trough brought high winds, torrential rains and floods. Local rainfall stations reported between 200mm and 310mm on the windward side of the island and 153.3mm in the leeward side of the island.
As a result of the disaster event, there were 11 confirmed deaths and 3 persons were never found. The final disaster assessment concluded: 77 homes were completely destroyed or severely damaged; approximately another 300 homes were damaged; and 500 people were displaced and housed in temporary shelters.
Since their first year in power there is unequivocal evidence that the Unity Labour Party [ULP] government have been fully aware of the vulnerability to serious flooding at Buccament and in other places. They were aware that Buccament is generally a flood plain area. Their studies from 2001 to 2014 show just that. They have had thirteen years to put river defenses in at Buccament, but failed to do so. The Christmas 2013 Buccament flood tragedy occurred and lives were lost.
For thirteen years the government had dragged their feet and carried out numerous studies for Social Assessment Disaster Vulnerability Reduction Projects, at Buccament and elsewhere.
Here are some of the official references to studies regarding the flooding danger from Buccament river. From them it is most obvious that the government were fully aware of the dangers of doing nothing.
October 3, 2000: Report No: PID8714
Project Name: St. Vincent and the Grenadines-St Vincent and the Grenadines-OECS Emergency Recovery & Disaster Management Program (APL)
May 31st 2001: Extract and abridged version, World Bank Report, Environmental Assessment #E560;
Project ID: P069923
Title: St. Vincent and the Grenadines – Emergency Recovery and Disaster Management Program Project : environmental impact assessment
“The Emergency Recovery and Disaster Management Project. Riverbank protection of the Buccament River by building gabion structures along sections of the river. Existing policy assuming the government to shoulder the cost of riverbank and property protection should be reviewed. Criteria should be established as the basis for future government involvement in riverbank protection projects. 4) Gabion structures could be made more endurable by utilizing PVC coated wire baskets for the areas close to the sea and subject to corrosion “.
[When this type of report is written, it is composed by information directly gathered from the government. So such a report only confirms what the government already knows, confirms what they told the World Bank]
2006: Hydrological and hydraulic studies completed for several rivers including the Buccament River regarding require river defense by the IBI Group.
[sorry can’t find the report]
December 2010: Government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Disaster Vulnerability Reduction Project (DVRP) Environmental Assessment Report.
‘Disaster Vulnerability Reduction Project (DVRP) Environmental Assessment Report # E2703’,
An extract of the report follows:
“As described, the project has a number of activities scattered throughout St. Vincent and the Grenadines (Bequia). Most of the sites are located in communities in the following areas:
a) Coastal protection and river defence works. This includes: (i) coastal protection investments in Sandy Bay, Georgetown, and Kingstown around the South river; (ii) river defence works along Buccament river. St. Vincent and the Grenadines Disaster Vulnerability Reduction Project Environmental Assessment”
or at BFP here: svgdvrpenvironmentalassessmentdec. 2010
Government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Disaster Vulnerability Reduction Project (DVRP) Social Assessment Report.
Discussions in the communities of Buccament and Marriaqua: Due to the size of these communities, their proximity to the rivers and the risk and incidence of flooding, it was anticipated that river defence activities would have significant impact. Residents were therefore invited to a discussion on the project.
Buccament is located on the south leeward side of the island and sustains the largest and most reliable source of potable water on the island, the Dalaway catchment, which provides over 40% of the island’s total water supply. Apart from this, the river supports community activities such as sport fishing, bathing, and water for farms and stones for building construction. From documentation, it was revealed that the riverbanks are relatively shallow at 8ft to 15ft. (2001). Additionally, the river has a profound impact on the structure and life of the communities. It empties into a flood plain of relatively poor drained soils near Buccament Bay that runs along the main road.
The installation of gabion walls comprising staggered stocks of gabions baskets varying in height between 12ft and 15ft. The walls will be 50ft in length on both banks downstream of the main bridge and 1000 ft along the right bank upstream of the bridge and 500 ft along the left bank.
Residents living along the river in the Buccament and Colonaire areas are in agreement for the project, given their agricultural based livelihood. They support the structures because they are of the opinion that the Gabion basket or wall would help to protect their lands as well as reduce the serious soil erosion that results in the devaluing of their properties. One land owner in Buccament indicated that almost 8 feet of his hand was washed away during the last five years due to torrential rains and flooding.
or at BFP here: disaster_vulnerability_reduction_project_2012
October 2013: IMF, World Economic Outlook Database.
Project Information Document PID.Additional Financing PID # A2445
Scaled up consulting services for River Defence work at Buccament
[just more consulting services]
WORLD BANK Report dated February 2014 instructs and advises the Government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in the Regional Disaster Vulnerability Reduction Project (RDVRP) Social Assessment Report.
“Buccament and Carriere River Defence Sub-projects Background. The lower sections of the Buccament and Carriere rivers pose potential threats to significant property and road infrastructure. In recent years, the Buccament valley has witnessed the development of a significant number of residential houses and a major hotel development. As a result, clearing and other poor land use practices in the development process have led to flooding of the river in its lower sections – requiring an intervention. Hydrological and hydraulic studies (DLN 2006) have been completed for several rivers including the Buccament River.
The current project seeks to implement the most critical flood mitigation measures proposed by the hydraulic studies“.
“This would include river defence measures that include a combination of reinforced concrete works, gabion baskets, realignment, levees, tributary drainage improvements, vegetation, and any other proven complementary efforts to improve past designs. The integrated watershed management activities would involve both technical studies and permanent remedial measures. With regard to the technical studies, this sub-project would inform the existing management plan for the Arnos Vale watershed by providing critical field data. The activities associated with this aspect of the sub-project would include workshops and knowledge management support, which would be organized to facilitate regional collaboration around integrated watershed management. Additionally, a maintenance plan would be prepared, which would include activities related to periodical drainage cleaning and educational programs to change human behaviour in relation to land use and waste disposal management“.
“Location: Buccament is located on the south leeward side of the island. From documentation, it was revealed that the riverbanks are relatively shallow at 8ft to 15ft. (2001). Additionally, the river has a profound impact on the structure and life of the communities. It empties into a flood plain of relatively poor drained soils near Buccament Bay that runs along the main road.
Activity: The installation of gabion walls comprising staggered stocks of gabions baskets varying in height between 12ft and 15ft. The walls will be 50ft in length on both banks downstream of the main bridge and 1000 ft along the right bank upstream of the bridge and 500 ft along the left bank“.
Government Neglect, Dereliction of Duty and Inaction
Should we conclude from the 12 year long failure for the “riverbank protection of Buccament River by building gabion structures along sections of the river“, that the government are guilty of neglect and dereliction of duty?
Is it a possible that if the river defence structures were in place by December 2013, that lives would have been saved and millions of dollars of structural and flood damage to public and private property would not have occurred?
I have wondered for a long time why there are hundreds rock baskets for building gabion structures, folded as flat packs, laying in the government small works yard at Arnos Vale. They have been there since 2006 and are still there today.
Did this ULP government fail to act on their own advice and recommendations and that of the World Bank to carry out the work mentioned by the World Bank in the Project P069923 Vincent and the Grenadines – Emergency Recovery and Disaster Management Program Project? I appears to me that they were very happy to keep having expert reports flowing for years, because someone else was paying for them. But when it came to action, there was none.
Seeing as the government knew about the need to carry out river flood protection, why did they give Buccament Bay resort permission to build in a known flood plain on a river that required river bank flood defences installing? Why did they approve of building private houses in a flood plain, next to a dangerous river requiring bank and river base restructuring and defences? Why? Why? Can they tell us Why?
Why did they fail to install those defences?
I may be wrong, but it’s my honest opinion and belief that the Prime Minister should take full blame for what happened at Buccament, including the loss of life. It was all very well walking among the people stricken by the flood, people who lost family members, whole families dead and gone. Walking with tears in his eyes and talking about the tragedy as if it was an act of God. Was it an act of God?; or was it the non-action and failure of his government?
Perhaps if he had spent more time correcting the things that save lives and less time on pumping all the countries money into the Argyle airport, perhaps the people and children lost at Buccament would still be with us.
I advise every reader to go to each of the reports online and read them carefully, you will see many other things that this government has failed you on.
There are hundreds of references and evidence that the ULP government led by PM Gonsalves were aware of the probabilities of this tragedy happening, too many to list here.
Did the people die at Buccament because of Government neglect and dereliction of duty?
See also: I-Witness News – Were Buccament flood deaths murder by governmental neglect?