Sewage issue sets tone for Barbados’ coming elections

26 January 2018

Unresolved issues relating to sewage on a part of Barbados’ south coast vital to tourism, have become intensely political in the run up to the country’s next General Election which has to take place by May of this year.

In a scathing attack on Government, Mia Mottley, the Leader of the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) has accused the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) of neglecting the south coast sewerage system in favour of three major tourism related redevelopments: Sam Lord’s Castle, the Pierhead Marina and Grantley Adams International Airport.

Speaking to a large crowd of supporters at the official launch of the BLP’s 2018 election campaign, Ms Mottley suggested that that funding for maintenance of the sewerage system, had been denied because of an “internecine war” between the Minister of Finance, Chris Sinckler, and the Minister of Agriculture and Water Resource Management, Dr David Estwick.

However, in a subsequent response, Donville Inniss, the Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce, and Small Business Development said that there was no way that Government would have been made aware of a major risk and not sought to address it. Mr Inniss said that Government was not turning a blind eye to the sewage leaks, adding that based on his discussions, the relevant agencies have been working around-the-clock to find short-term and long-term solutions.

According to the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) the short-term fixes they have introduced are holding for the time being. Reports in the Barbados media suggest that by taking some customers offline and introducing new pumps and filters it has been able to remove waste water from the streets. It has also said that consultants from Trinidad are undertaking assessments in order to help resolve the issue.

Despite this, travel advisories issued by the governments of the US, the UK and Canada remain in force about the dangers to health posed by raw sewage in a tourist area of Barbados between Hastings and St Lawrence.

In its warning, the US Embassy has told US visitors to avoid water activities in the affected areas; beware of sewage on the streets. It also warned ‘If you come into contact with sewage, wash your hands, shoes, and any clothing that may have come into contact with the effluence ….  If you become seriously ill, seek medical attention’. In a similar health warning the UK government says that certain areas of the South Coast are experiencing breakdowns of sewage pipes. ‘Leakages are occurring; you should avoid coming into direct contact with raw sewage and normal hygiene precautions should be followed’. The Public Health Agency of Canada has advised visitors to avoid the affected area.

According to reports in the Barbados media the issue has gone unaddressed for over a year. Some industry sources, say however, the problem is at least three years old. The leaks, which began sporadically, have according to the BWA have reached crisis levels, with growing criticism from residents and businesses which in some cases have been forced to close following inundations.

Speaking at the end of December, Barbados Minister of Tourism, Richard Sealy, said that he had been assured by the BWA and other officials that the problem was being urgently addressed and that long-term solutions will be put in place.

The Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA), earlier this month called on the authorities to act swiftly to end the crisis. Tourism remains the mainstay of the Barbados economy, with its total overall contribution to national income estimated at US$3.5 billion in 2016, or close to 40% of GDP

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