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(See video at the end of post)

There is a “ticking bomb” in the forest of St. Vincent, which, unless defused, could lead to more disaster like the one on Christmas Eve, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves says.

Eight people are dead and five are still missing after torrential rain triggered flooding across St. Vincent, resulting also in major damage to housing and public infrastructure.

Gonsalves told the media at the end of a planning meeting on Saturday that Chief Engineer, Brent Bailey, flew over the country on Friday and has given a “graphic report” about the wide expanse in a number of areas where rivers have spread and lands have been denuded by landslides.

“He suggests the figure of 10 per cent, which is a huge number,” Gonsalves said.

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The debris from the 24/12/13 disaster shows many old logs deposited in communities.

“If the logs are not cleared, And if we don’t deal properly with the river defences in the upper areas of the river, … we have a time bomb, a ticking bomb, because when the rains come again heavily, they would just simply wash down what is, so to speak, in the pipeline, in addition to new material which would come,” Gonsalves said.

Gonsalves’ comments came as he addressed the media on Saturday after a planning meeting.

I-Witness News was the only local media present when Gonsalves gave a briefing at the end of the planning meeting.

The planning meeting included members of the Cabinet; diplomats; senior government officials; Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda and chair of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), Baldwin Spencer; local and foreign contractors, utility companies, financial institutions, representatives of the governments of Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago, and representatives of Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA).

The severe rains and high winds due to a low level trough system has also impacted St. Lucia, and Dominica.

5 replies on “‘Ticking bomb’ in St. Vincent’s forest could lead to more disaster (+Video)”

  1. empress modupe olufunmi-jacobs says:

    agree with the PM that something must be done about this “ticking bomb”. all those logs he is speaking about need to have been removed since the last hurricane, Tomas. unfortunately, the state apparently then did not and now does not have the financial and other resources, nor enough human power(paid workers) needed to do this job. i have not seen a picture of the air assessment given the PM; but from having visited the Leeward coast yesterday and seeing for myself, the size of the logs, on the river banks, road sides, in peoples’ farms, back & front yards, homes, indicate the hazards they can cause to human lives, livelihoods and the natural environment. we must be honest about the problem of deforestation, caused not only by humans, but also by nature as we saw with hurricane Tomas and this recent storm.
    there are several things the state and citizens must consider doing; cause everybody have to play a part in resolving this ecological problem, it affects us all. 1) the state must immediately do more to find and allocate resources $$$ to Forestry, BRAGSA, CWSA, VINLEC & Local Qualified Private Contractors, to clean up the “ticking bomb”. the PM may want to appeal to international sources for support in this emergency situation. 2: As preventive measures for the future the state can: a: develop through the ministry of education, a public education and sensitization campaign, starting at the primary through secondary school level; in order to raise awareness about deforestation and other environmental problems that impact on all our lives. b:The schools must teach and implement new ways of looking and thinking about our environment and how our behavior, the way we treat our environment; will determine how we fare in times of natural disasters. c: adults must model and practice what they preach in terms of their contributions to making the environment better
    3: Private enterprise, CBO’s, NGO’s, Churches, Community Groups must also partner with likeminded groups that promote & support existing environmental programs. through education, awareness and sensitization, adapting a mindset of becoming a caretaker of your community, environment, country, becomes easy, and could only enhance and improve all our lives . as an old proverb goes “…When the rain fall, it don’t fall on one man’s house…”. while those who may have been spared the devastation i have seen from cumberland, rose bank, petit bordel, chateauxbelaire; does not mean it will not happen in your area one day. i have not yet seen the windward side which i have heard has been adversely affected, i imagine its just as bad. hence the reason i say we must change the way we are doing certain things, and learn better ways that will protect and enrich our lives at the same time. i cannot imagine any sound thinking Vincentian fighting against that.
    4: immediately, the state and private enterprise should help relocate those families who still live in those precarious homes on river banks and under mountains prone to landslides. Further, immediate legislation must be passed to prevent the construction of housing, business, or anything that can put one in danger when a river overflows.
    5: as we have witnessed since the disaster, many citizens throughout SVG, have been pulling all their resources, time, energy to help those affected. we must give Much Raspect to all those people who are continually working to improve those conditions caused by this recent storm. here i must ask though, if we have the capacity to respond in times of crisis like this, why then can we not find the time to form or join groups that are already working to make SVG a healthier and safer place to live.
    6: the state & citizens must:a. join in an immediate campaign of reforestation of all food, fruit & other trees that would help replenish the deforested areas of SVG. b. further, state must begin to look at decriminalizing, legalizing, industrialing the plant cannabis. as we all know its cultivation in SVG has contributed to a major part of the deforestation and degradation of the land. the criminalizing of the plant, its possesion and sale; has done nothing but criminalized citizens from various sectors of the nation, reduced the livelihood of farmers affected by the decline of the banana industry in SVG, and by extension affected the economy derived from the informal sector; which contributes also to the GDP. we have seen how this Drug Act, and those Draconian measures taken during VincyPac, and the continued eradication raids , have done nothing to reduce the impact of deforestation in the land; and the effect it now has on the ecology and economy. Further, it has brought in and encourage outside criminal elements to engage in further destruction of our forests. Comerade am here pleading with you, to now more than ever to call a moratorium on Vincy herb growers; to bring together the herb farmers, advisors, economists, legislators, thinkers, specialist, in SVG together to consider ways in which we could resolve the problems being attributed to the cultivation of Cannabis in SVG. We can turn it around to benefit the nation and our environment.
    7: i think more citizens need to actively learn the meaning of volunteering for civic duties. from the preschools, primary, secondary through tertiary levels, that should be a requirement. i don’t mean only during emergency times such as these, i mean as part of your community action plan. Volunteer at NEMO, the Hospital, Police Stations, Coast Guard, Fire Brigade, Electoral Office, NIS…any of the government institutions needed to make things run smoothly in the country, not just during times of emergency, but at all times. yes! people it is also one’s responsibility as a citizen to govern our country, it’s not just the state’s perogative; and should not be if we elect them as our representative. on every level one has a part to play in national development. in order to effect social change and social transformation, one has to be a part of the solution and not the problem.
    Finally, i know i may get some blows from critics, and political psychophants on both sides, for sharing my thoughts on “the ticking bomb”, mentioned by the Prime Minister. i tell you in advance, i don’t mind, i heard it all already and i am returning the compliments in advance. may this New Year 2014, bring all citizens of St. Vincent & the Grenadines; especially those who have lost families and loved ones during this recent natural disaster, good health of mind, body and soul, with renewed hope and faith in one another to help make SVG Green & Clean. #wordswithdeeds

  2. These comments about a “ticking time bomb” are being offered now, in December 2013, as though they mean something. In a practical sense, the comments appear to be useless. Why do I say this? Because one of our forestry experts, one Mr Joel Poyer, warned precisely about the same thing after the passage of Hurricane Tomas in October 2010. But it seems that no one paid him any mind or did anything about it.

    As I understand the chain of events: several months after Tomas struck, a tropical wave dropped a fair amount of rain in the interior of the island, which in itself should have been no huge deal. A large part of the problem, as Mr Poyer explained in this April 2011 interview, arose because the debris deposited by Tomas months before was simply left where it fell. So the next significant lot of rain that came was magnified into a disaster.

    Which is what our prime minister is now advising us could happen in the future.

    But he ought to have known this years ago when Mr Poyer warned, in no uncertain terms, of the exact same thing. And it is clear that some of the damage the country suffered on December 25th was exacerbated by fallen material, building up over the past two and a half years, that was not properly dealt with.

    Oh, and by the way, it is alleged that Mr Poyer was moved from his position shortly after this interview. Is that true?

  3. Everytime these floods occur lumber logs are the main problem. Even deposited by the floods outside the airport terminal at Arnos Vale.

    I have written about this problem everytime one of these floods take place. The last one on the windward coast placed multi thousands of lumber logs jammed under bridges and the sea was full of them.

    Its no good talking about it, find some funds and get the min of Ag Forestry Dept to sort it out, the situation is all about underfunding, nothing more, nothing less.

  4. I addressed this issue many years ago and pointed to what I saw while driving down to Washington. There were paths from the hills that directed the water down to the lower level. This ensures the water will not destroy the land and take away the soil. I was impressed and thought what a wonderful idea it was. I remember as a kid we played hide and seek in the muddy sea water after a heavy rainfall. The Washington system will help to reduce the erosion of the land and help to reduce the chances of landslides. I hope Bailey will send people to trace the path carved out by the water to see how to combat the erosion of the soil. It will take people on the ground and not in a plane to address this issue.
    He should also start refusing building plans that don’t show proper drainage system. There is a picture of a house right in the path of a drain – what do you expect. These disasters are showing up lots of things that have to be done, to ensure no more lives are lost, because of poor planning.

  5. Dr. Dexter Lewis says:

    I cannot say what part the misplacement of connecting water lines played in the floods of last week, but I have been told by those who should know that they played a part in the Georgetown floods 3 years ago.

    When the reservoirs were being connected 3 years ago, workers at CWSA were being told that monies for the job were in short supply and so the lines were “not a problem” being on the surface or just under surface of the earth. So in the events 3 years ago and in the interruption of water supply last week broken water lines played a major part.

    I have no doubt that workers at CWSA know what needs to be done, but if they are being bullied to make short cuts by people whose only interest is the next elections, then we have a problem on our hands.

    Today,similar complaints are currently being made about diversion of the river at Argyle.
    We need better leadership or we will suffer and die.

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