The future is as dark as the silt-laden waters
by Peter Binose
(Photo courtesy of I-Witness News)
The 3rd Duke of Bridgewater and perhaps even Isambard Kingdom Brunel would turn in their graves if they could see how the Unity Labour Party have neglected our little island’s waterways and bridges to the extent that bridges are destroyed on a regular basis.
It’s ever so simple to comprehend really – streams, rivers and tributaries have to be kept clear of obstructions and siltation on a very regular basis. If this procedure is neglected even for one season, flooding will ensue which will cause river bank and bridge damage, if not total loss of bridges. Everyone with half a brain knows that, but obviously not the ULP leadership.
Over the last fourteen years just about every bridge on our tiny island of Saint Vincent has suffered serious damage. The rivers are allowed to collect tree trunks and roots and other debris and rubbish without regular round the year maintenance and clearance by teams of work men clearing and burning such vegetation waste. When it rains heavy this debris floats down river and blocks under bridges.
Of course the silt level under bridges is allowed to grow to such an extent that between the debris and the silt, an effective dam is created.
When the silt and debris effectively blocks the water flow under the bridge the water builds up to an enormous pressure that damages the bridge and attached road. The sudden release of a large volume of water rushes down river taking with it the next bridge, if there is one, where the bridge dam sequence and sudden release is repeated on a magnified basis, also taking river banks on its way. Eventually this torrent overflows into the ancient flood plains as has happened for hundreds of thousands of years.
When it comes to building on a floodplain, Death and Destruction are not an accident
Recent buildings by riverside and on or in the flood plains has recently attributed to death and destruction such as happened at Buccament in December 2013, that saw 12 persons drowned, property destroyed, and many people left homeless.
My worry which should be every Vincentians worry is the possible culpability of the ULP Government leadership in the deaths, destruction and gross failure to maintain our infrastructure. Their failure to effectively manage our infrastructure, whereby roads, government buildings and bridges are being destroyed because they are not properly controlling the ministries responsible for such infrastructure.
We cannot pass the blame to the ministries and government workers. The failure is at the top and is passed from them right down to the bottom. Many of the problems are generated and expanded by underfunding ministries and projects. Huge capital projects like the new airport at Argyle have drained just about every cent from the country. A project that we were told would be funded by selling Crown Land in Bequia, which has proven a huge flop.
The other funding source we were told would be from a large group of countries that were described as “a coalition of the willing”, this proved to be untrue for one reason or another. Then were told that Venezuela would buy us all the machinery and equipment, and that turned out to be untrue for one reason or another. Venezuela paid for the first US$10 million and we paid for the next $70 million ourselves.
Then we were told that all the Cubans that were taking Vincentians jobs were being paid by Venezuela. That turned out to be untrue for one reason or another, and we have been saddled with paying more than $300 thousand every month for Cubans’ wages. All that money paid to Cubans ends up back in Cuba where it boosts their economy whilst destroying ours.
With a deficit balance on our books which I believe is approaching $3billion dollars since 2001 when it has only $340 million, that’s almost an increase of a thousand percent under the ULP government. That may all be OK for you brothers and sisters in the Diaspora, but we the people in SVG are suffering and living the consequences of your support for Gonsalves and his ULP Government.
Counting smashed machines in the Argyle Airport graveyard
I went this week to Argyle airport and then on to look at Rabacca. I went to count the crippled and defunct vehicles and machinery in the Argyle airport graveyard for such. I was appalled by the enormous amount of oil and hydrolic fluid spillage on the ground. It makes anything that Bigger Biggs spilt at Argyle like the size of a postage stamp in the Sahara desert. The pollution is several million times worse than I imagined that Biggs did, and was spitefully put out of business for. So after looking at that I went to Rabacca and looked at Biggs land, couldn’t find any evidence at all of spillage.
But back to the bridges sorry for the digression. What further appalled me was the fact that government negligence has destroyed most of our countries bridges, yet the new bridges at Rabacca which were opened by the Prime Minister with a flash of glory and big party has fallen apart on the top, I didn’t get to look underneath as I sprained my ankle and could hardly walk. The railings and protection for pedestrians has rotted completely away and is laying in the river bed. The other smaller bridge that is a few hundred yards before the Rabacca bridge also has lost all its railings to rust and rot, but worse than that, silt is starting to block about 50% of the flow area under this bridge, just the beginning of the right formula to lose yet another bridge.
What I asked myself several times as I drove back from Rabacca, if this government cannot look after, cannot maintain our little brook sized bridges, what chance will the bridge under the Argyle airport that carries the Yambu river have? What chance will that stand of surviving the negligence? What chance will the new runway stand of surviving the negligence of the paving and it’s failure because of previous improper compaction at some time shortly after it’s finished?
Then we must remember that Gonsalves has brought in a battalion of Ecuadorian army personnel and its officers to erect a few temporary Bailey Bridges that should take between two days and two weeks to erect each of them, the battalion are going to be here for eight months. I would ask, why? You should also ask why.
Every year for the past fourteen years a report has been written regarding disaster management, in all of those reports there were recommendations and warnings regarding Buccament and other rivers. I would like to say no heed was taken, but is was – it was simply a matter of not acting on the reports with regards to Buccament. An example was the 2010 report of which I now submit some extracts.
December 2010: Disaster Vulnerability Reduction Project (DVRP) Environmental Assessment Report Central Planning Division, Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning [Minister Ralph E. Gonsalves] 1st Floor, Administrative Centre, Bay Street, Kingstown, St.Vincent Tel.: 784-457-1746 ● Fax: 784-456-2430 ● E-mail: email@example.com
“St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) is among the most disaster-prone countries in the world, regularly suffering disasters related to natural events. These hazards have caused significant and recurrent damages to national infrastructure including housing, road networks, schools, hospitals and other facilities such as phone lines, water and electricity”.
“The resulting impacts significantly affect human welfare, national economic activities, property, and natural resources”.
“Coastal protection and river defense works. This includes: (i) coastal protection investments”
“(ii) river defense works along Buccament”
“The study focused on the proposed civil work activities, namely construction of the XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX and Buccament river defense”.
“The study revealed that the major issue at Buccament was severe erosion and undermining of the bridge abutments. Along the right upstream bank there has also been erosion to the point where the existing main road is also threatened indicating that there is a need for river protection. It concluded that gabion basket system as proposed is an appropriate alternative for the existing situation”.
“The Layou seawall XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX and Buccament river defense. While the other proposed works were undertaken under that project, the Buccament river defense was not”.
If you remember I mentioned previously culpability well the above report came out of the office of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, Gonsalves is the minister. Knowing how he wants to control everything, I do not believe for a minute he did not read and approve the report – a report which still failed to get the works at Buccaament river started, hence death and destruction. But then there had been many other reports about the same and none of them brought the results that may have saved the lives of those 12 persons, including children.
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Remember when the black sigatoka debate was hot, Gonsalves said “I have to accept the responsibility but I am not going to accept the blame” will that also apply to this matter?
It’s not up to me to make any accusations, I can only tell you all what I have found, you look at what I have submitted and make your own judgments.