Thursday 28th August ,2008

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  • For how many more years are we going to see min-isters on tours related to flooding?
  • Water resources manage-ment a major challenge for all Caribbean countries.
  • Flooding problem persists because we do not care enough to do something about it.
  • Solving problem would be boon to hard-working farmers.

After 46 years of independence, we have much to be proud of. T&T has indeed become the little industrial giant of the region.

For yet another year, it seems (I have not looked at the numbers), the students from our secondary school system have done better than their counterparts from everywhere else in examinations set by the Caribbean Examinations Council.

A silver medal at the Olympics, in a team event, is something to be cherished. And next year we have two big events to look forward to that will expose T&T to the leaders of the world—the Summit of the Americas and the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference.

But there is much yet to do. There are deficits to be attended to and gaps to be bridged. There are mundane things that affect the lives of ordinary people which need to be fixed. The fact that we are a sovereign people, responsible for our own lives and future, requires us to do something about these things.

Let me begin with the reality of flooded homes and communities which so many people have lived through because of heavy rains in the last few days. The causes of the flooding and the dislocation are not in the homes and communities; clogged drains, blocked water courses, poor building practices at community level—these are not the source of the problem.

The real causes of the problem are well documented in reports and studies and recommendations and solutions have been put forward.

But someone needs to pay attention to these things: a project on a national scale needs to be conceptualised, local knowledge needs to be taken into account and integrated into both the planning and execution framework, a plan has to be developed, a timeframe needs to be established, the main project and subprojects need to be costed and these need to be successfully managed so that outcomes are in fact achieved.

For how many more years are we going to see ministers on tours related to flooding? How many more times are we going to investigate the causes of the problem?

Water resources management is a big issue in the world. It is certainly a major challenge for all Caribbean countries, in various ways, including our own. Could we not take the issue of water resources management seriously and develop a national project with long, medium and short-term objectives that would address a number of key issues in a comprehensive and coherent way?

For instance, a policy to cease housing construction on the Northern Range and its foothills; addressing reafforestation deficits in a systemic way; a rational approach to the management of quarrying; integrated strategic actions focused on our rivers and natural streams; a systematic cleaning of our man-made drainage systems, with continuous maintenance activity built in to a managed plan, monitored on an ongoing basis.

These things will deal with the flow of water, but we also need to deal with the trapping and collection side—and if this is properly done, then we can address the issue of the management of water assets and resources as well as access, deployment and distribution. Action on these fronts will become stimulus to productive activity.

Clearly this is not beyond us. A lot of work has already been done on flooding and water resources management. There are many experts in the field. The problem of perennial flooding is not one lacking a solution and it is a solution that many would be happy to contribute to and become involved in. Moreover the solution to this problem will have benefits for WASA, for leisure and tourism, for irrigation with positive impact on food production among other things and will generally transform wastage into tangible assets and opportunity.

Is there anyone in a position to do something about this? Who cares enough to act? How can we justify dealing with annual flooding, the trauma, inconvenience and loss that it causes to countless citizens, when solutions exist but the problem persists because we do not care enough to do what is required to solve it.

It must be obvious to every citizen that the basic problems with agricultural production and distribution, besides the key issue of land tenure, have to do with four things: (1) flooding, (2) irrigation, (3) road access, and (4) praedial larceny.

Solving the flooding problem will be a boon to hard working farmers. Solving the flooding problem could yield the irrigation solutions which will make a decisive difference at this time when the high cost of food presents a dilemma for everybody.

Why can we not solve a recurring national problem and unleash entrepreneurial initiative and productivity, help to manage risk for the farmers, and make our country more self-sufficient at the same time?

The larceny of food crops, fruit and animals is an issue of crime. I won’t say any more about crime except that there seems to be no end to crime in sight and that things seem to be getting worse rather than better. However security for the citizen is basic and we are failing miserably in this area.

Water, food and security. What could be more basic than that? Perhaps if we saw the flooding problem as an opportunity for solving challenges in both water resources management and food security we would do something about it.

Perhaps if we saw the delivery of peace and security to the ordinary citizen as an essential service to the people, a vital responsibility of government, and an essential ingredient of good governance, then we would do something about it.

Food, water and security. What a foundation on which to build a genuine independence. What a platform for production and productivity. What a boost to a sense of freedom. How little it takes to bring happiness to ordinary people?






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