• Flooding – a Failure of Leadership

    On Sunday a tropical wave passed over Trinidad. Within minutes several parts of the island began to experience flooding. It was particularly acute in Port of Spain and parts of Diego Martin. The rainy season has only just begun and already the danger signs are there: many communities will experience flooding; countless homes and businesses will suffer losses and distress.

    The Movement for Social Justice is well aware of the impacts of climate change. Climatic conditions have become more severe: more powerful hurricanes; more intense rainfall in short periods of time; rising sea-levels; coastal erosion are all manifestations of global warming and the resultant climate change. But we cannot put all the blame on climate change for the ravages of flooding.

    In Trinidad and Tobago the frequency and extent of flooding is due in very large measure to a failure of leadership in the country. Had our leadership not failed then:

    • More than ten years ago a law would have been in effect to ensure the recycling of beverage containers. The Beverage Container Bill was prepared by the Environmental Management Authority more than ten years ago after extensive public consultation. The Manning PNM government and the Persad-Bissessar UNC government failed to have this law passed. One reason was their failure to make this a priority. That demonstrates a failure of leadership. Another reason is that some large businesses that make and sell beverages in plastic bottles did not want to pay consumers a deposit when the bottle is returned (as happens for some beverages in glass bottles). Those powerful business interests demonstrated that their self-interest (profits) are more important than the environment. They too failed. In the ten years since, thousands of tons of plastic bottles could have been kept out of the landfill and prevented from clogging drains and watercourses;

    • The “Keep Charlie Away” campaign - the brainchild of our late creative genius Pat Bishop - that was started in the 1980’s would still be going today. The public awareness and education of that powerful campaign would have changed the attitudes and behavior of our citizens so that today we would be very involved in waste recycling, reusing and proper disposal. The failure of governments over the years saw the death of Charlie and the loss of a generation of public awareness and education;

    • The actions necessary to ensure that our watercourses and drains are able to manage all but the most extreme weather conditions would have been taken, and proper maintenance programmes would have been in place;

    • There would have been a proper Land Use Policy and laws to support that Policy, and a strong Town and Country Planning Agency in place to ensure that buildings are not constructed illegally; that watercourses are not blocked by so-called “developers”; that there is a proper water management system in place for the run-off from buildings and roads; that construction does not take place on our hillsides or on aquifers;

    • The Queen’s Park Savannah would not have been paved over which paving has resulted in more water flowing into drains that head downtown;

    • There would have been serious far-reaching Local Government Reform that would empower the Regional and Municipal Corporations as well as Village and Community Councils with the financial, physical and human resources and the capacity to manage environmental and infrastructure matters such as drains; and not have these responsibilities centralized in government Ministries and locked down by the “contractocracy” – the real beneficiaries of government contracts (with spin-off benefits for the party in power).

    Sadly, the population will continue to suffer as the failure of leadership persists from government to government. Only the MSJ has the leadership with the vision, the policies and the political will to bring about the changes that are necessary to mitigate the problem of flooding in Trinidad and Tobago. That is why we say that “The MSJ is the Only Real Alternative”

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