by Peter Binose
The private housing development along the Buccament River, in fact beside the Buccament river in the flood plain, was going full speed when I visited last week. Express work is taking place on finishing about a dozen further units, with all stages in progress from start up on.
I walked with a family member of the land owners and builders, who told me the family is worried that they may be stopped from building. But he thought perhaps because of the relationship between them and the ULP leadership they had some considerable protection.
Considering the devastation caused by the December 2013 flooding it is unbelievable, perhaps even criminal, that the government has not stopped further building in an area which has been recorded as a disaster zone for centuries. The area is an ancient and modern floodplain, as shown by the follow records going back to 1876!
Flood years for the Leeward coast and cause: (br)=brush (ts)=Tropical Storm
1876tsbr, 1886ts, 1886, 1887 4tropical storms, 1888ts, 1891ts, 1894br, 1895ts, 1896ts, 1898, 1898ts, 1901ts, 1901tsbr, 1905tsbr, 1916ts, 1918tsbr, 1921, 1928ts, 1933-2tsbr, 1943tsbr, 1944-2ts, 1949ts, 1951br, 1954, 1955br, 1960br, 1967tsbr, 1980, 1986tsbr, 1987ts, 1994tsbr, 2001-2ts, 2002ts, 2003ts, 2004br, 2007br, 2010, 2012ts
That is 44 times in 141 years to the end of 2012.
My worry is what has been going on along the river on the Harelquin Resort side of the main road. I noticed that rocks and boulders of varying sizes from fist sized to sheep size have been piled up the sides of the river banks on the village side of the bank. This has created a flat bottom that will allow water to flow unhindered. That is until there is once again a high volume of water when they will all be dragged back into the river, and now being very mobile will block it at some point and cause further devastating flooding to the resort and the village.
In 2006 the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines commissioned a Drainage Improvement Study to assess the existing drainage conditions of Buccament.
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.
The flood plain described in the above report is the same flood plain that there are now a rush of houses being built, and also the area where the Government allowed Harlequin resorts to build.
The government have done nothing to eliminate flooding at Buccament despite having received numerous reports since 2001 right up until this year 2014, recommending if not instructing the necessity of installing a river defence. The reports should of been available to the Minister of National Security and therefore Prime Minister Gonsalves and also planning department heads and to Senator Julian Francis, Minister of Transport, Works, Urban Development and Local Government. The reports should of been with full knowledge of all those people – if not it is a failing on their parts.
The failure to act on those reports may of well contributed to the loss of life and property at Buccament. The Ministers may well carry a responsibility for the loss of lives and property.
Since the flooding they have done nothing – it will happen again, and so will the sea surge. This matter should be treated with the utmost urgency. It is obvious what will happen if there is a serious sea surge at Buccament Resort because the land was not raised and buildings are not built on piles, but on concrete rafts or slabs just above sea level. The whole thing they may be undermined by a surge and be taken out to sea, concrete slabs as well.
Building in the flood plain should have been stopped at least since the deaths and destruction of December 2013. That is another failing of the Ministers and planning department. We must get rid of this ULP thing, this attitude, ‘own the flood plain‘ and ‘we are at war with nature‘. The ULP has a ‘build what you want, where you want’ attitude.
It is now time for an Inquiry to show who knew what when and how the people of Buccament were failed by the Ministers, government and planners.
It may well be that Harlequin have a serious claim against their legal advisors who did the original searches on the land they acquired. They may also have a serious claim against the SVG government if the government failed to tell them of the numerous official reports regarding flooding probabilities.
Add to that the failure to give them the Argyle airport on time, that they promised would be ready several years ago. Putting all that together Harlequin could quite well end up owning SVG. At least they will not have to pay Aliens Land Holding Tax again since they became citizens. Thinking about that did they pay ALHT the first time around? Or did the granting of citizenship cancel that out? Was the citizenship anything to do with ALHT?
I call on the Director of Public Prosecutions, Colin Williams, to consider prosecutions in all these matters, dereliction of duty and perhaps even manslaughter charges. Someone must be responsible for something! Lives have been lost and we need closure, not a ‘nolle prosequi‘ before a case is even considered.
Install the river defenses now and stop the building in the flood plain!
Death is coming again. The only question is how many will die next time.