A photo of Layou from the 1920-1930 period showing the ample sandy beach just before the era of rampant sand mining for the manufacture of concrete blocks for the popular “Curacao houses” that were replacing the earlier stone and/or board structures.

By C. ben-David

The current Unity Labour Party government of SVG has been employing lots of resources, time, energy, faith, and political capital trying to transform the mainland into a desirable international tourist destination.

Regrettably, these efforts have not been accompanied by any serious concern with protecting, restoring, and enhancing the physical environment, as is required for a thriving tourist sector in an age of so much international competition. Foreign visitors simply don’t want to come to a place that is dirty, nasty, and rusty when they can choose from countless locales that are clean, attractive, and unspoiled.

In a recent essay, I posted images of the neglect and decay at both the shuttered Buccament Bay Resort and adjoining beachside portion of the community of Buccament.

My aim here is to document a sliver of the widespread and acute neglect of environmental concerns in the neighbouring leeward community of Layou, a place where several local people have valiantly tried for years to tap into the tourist market with various types of visitor rental accommodation.

The small, compact town of Layou (population approximately 2,500 people) located on the mid-leeward coast, a community tracing its post-contact roots back to the first French settlement in the early 17th century, was ideally suited for habitation given its seaside location, sheltered bay, flat elevation, and access to drinking water from the Layou River bisecting the surrounding valley.

The town has gradually grown due to a high pre-contraception birth rate tempered by high infant mortality and adult lethal morbidity. This has been augmented by the emigration of people from neighbouring communities and overseas.

A dramatic population burst occurred as a result of the 1902 Soufriere volcanic eruption, which saw hundreds of refugees displaced from the northern parts of the leeward area relocated to Layou where they received small board houses and agricultural land from the British colonial government to compensate for their loss.

The most striking recent growth has resulted from the sale of house spots by the owners of Rutland Vale Estate (misspelt as “Ruthland” in recent years), named after a county in the East Midlands of England, presumably the ancestral home of Josiah Jackson, its first owner, to accommodate retirees coming home from England after decades of largely menial work. This has been supplemented by the movement of mainly middle- and working-class people from other parts of the mainland to the sprawling neighbourhood north of the Layou River stretching from the sea to the Leeward Public Highway leading to Barrouallie.

Apart from the many large homes that have built on the former Rutland Vale Estate, historically the largest planation in valley named after it, the most dramatic physical change has been the slow but steady degradation of the natural environment and supporting human-made infrastructure beginning in the 1960s, if not earlier, whose consequences are no more starkly seen than by the ugly retaining wall that occupies much of the southern part of Layou Bay made necessary to prevent chronic flooding intensified by decades of ceaseless sand-mining.

All of the decay and neglect described below has occurred under the watchful eye of Sir Louis Straker, the town’s parliamentary representative and, as the country’s Deputy Prime Minister, the second most powerful man in the land. Straker lives in a palatial residence on the secondary road shown in the following photographs in the seaside neighbourhood called Plan.

 

Like most secondary lanes in the country, the decrepit but heavily travelled road leading to the sea beside Sir Louis’ home has gone largely unrepaired since it was first built over 20 years ago.
This photo shows the extent of disrepair of this Plan road.
This photo shows the extent of disrepair of this Plan road.

As is typical all over the country, the dead dog had lain on this road for three days when the photo was taken. It was only removed the next day. The town clerk responsible for the removal of animal carcasses lives a five-minute walk away.

One of hundreds of derelict vehicles all across the land, this one has been resting in peace on this spot less than 100 metres from Sir Louis’ home since 2011.
The unsigned government “clean-up” sticker on the windscreen of the same abandoned vehicle ordering its removal long ago, as good a sign as any of chronic police negligence, indifference, and incompetence.
The Rutland Vale Estate sugar factory, its chimney in the background, built during the 1770s, a solid structure that could have been restored as a prime tourist attraction (like many of its counterparts elsewhere in the region), has been slowly left to decay instead since last used for arrowroot processing in the early 1960s.
As elsewhere in the country, poor road drainage results in such flooding for days, accompanied by the breeding of mosquitos, even after a moderate rainfall.
An open drain adjacent to the Layou Primary School is treated like a garbage bin by students who are supposedly taught not to litter. These drains are our only method of effluent disposal and a major venue for garbage disposal which, given the absence of sewage treatment, pollutes our rivers and coastal waters doing irreversible damage to our inshore aquatic biosphere while causing unsightly refuse buildup. Yet we continue to blame the developed countries for ecological destruction while neglecting serious environmental threats of our own making.

 

The sand-mined Jackson’s Bay beach has largely turned to gravel and will soon require a retention wall of its own since illegal sand mining regularly takes place during high daytime.

***

These photographs on a single secondary road and adjoining beachfront reveal only a tiny portion of the environmental neglect and decay in a once pretty little town, a community where people were able to drink untreated upstream river water until the 1960s and where five seines used to regularly catch inshore fish up to the mid-1970s.

This neglect and decay, right under the indifferent nose of both the people and their elected representatives, is also a microcosm of what has occurred all across our beautiful land for at least the past 60 years. Yes, we now have more food to eat, more clothing to wear, more current to burn, more toilets to flush, and more money to spend on nice time and nice things than in the late 1950s. But our beloved country — the physical space that defines both who we are and how people see us — has been unconscionably despoiled in the process.

If we really want to grow our mainland tourist industry, a shiny new pint-sized, budget-class airport would not do the trick, if only because tens of millions of tourists have shown their eagerness to visit remote but attractive destinations around the world without the alleged incentive of direct overseas flights.

With so few desirable or unique attractions on the mainland, including no natural, pristine, miles-long white sand beaches fronting shallow, glistening aquamarine waters, we are simply damaging our efforts to attract thousands more international tourists unless we pull up our socks and clean up our act.

On the other hand, if all these tourist efforts are nothing more than window dressing meant to gain more votes, not more visitors, as I have repeatedly declared in my series of Argyle airport essays, then this nastiness is destined to continue for years to come.

***

This is the 71st in a series of essays on the AIA folly. My other AIA essays are here.

The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to news.iwitness@gmail.com.

22 COMMENTS

  1. Oh Ben now…… Unless we pull up our socks”??? You never eluded to having a chance before….. Hmm mmmm.. What changed????

  2. Let the pride of a people turn the ‘nasty’ in pleasant as have been the attitude within the Area of Mesopotamia, Belmont, Evesham, Richland Park and all those neighbouring ambiances.

    Have you extended Kudos to Hon. Jimmy Prince for his proficiency in getting the constituencies together in maintaining their area? Go, please visit and watch the wonderful self-help work they have done.

    Ben, how about taking some pic and meeting with those ‘niceness’ people in an effort to implement a teach some, help some community clean-up program in SVG. Those pics you shared will fall under that Community self-help program. And Yes, I know how it feels to get dirty while looking back on what is accomplished for my village, my neighbourhood, and my people my country. Peace!

    • Elma what happens if he goes there and photographs all the rubbish areas, dreadful potholes and even a missing road, there are plenty of those situations in Mespo and the roads leading to Mespo. Take the blinkers off and stop being silly.

  3. Here is a charlatan using a stolen identity making valid points of view and all you nasty people can do is make silly remarks about other things and other places. This is not about Mepotania. So give support where support is due and praise the man despite who he is or what he stands for. This is one very special report which I fully agree with and support.

    This is a political matter because Louis Straker the American with a British knighthood which is against the US regulations. He lives in Plan and passes and re-passes every day in what can only be described as sh…pot conditions. He seems to be as happy as a pig in sh.. Straker also has the title of Deputy Prime Minister which there is no provision for in our constitution, a title he is not legally entitled to use.

    So instead of turning up the heat on the writer congratulate him for a good job well done.

    Hopefully this will be the first of such reports.

    I actually believe C-ben David is another well known writer, perhaps even Peter Binose the king of the internet crazies.

    • Is G.T. a name in disguised?
      Am I incorrect to allege that to divulge your identity by camouflage put you in the same category as >>>“a charlatan using a stolen identity making valid points of view?”<<< Or is this the views from one of an oblivious mindset of entitlement?

      • Don’t be a silly girl now Elma. How on earth can G.T. be a stolen identity. Your silliness just points to the readers how to judge what you write. You are always writing idiot talk.

  4. C. Ben-David, I am inclined to agree with you because my mother, who has recently visited SVG, also complained about potholes and sewage in the middle of Kingstown. Your photos clearly show what you are talking about. It saddened me then and it saddens me now after reading and seeing your photos.

    The people of SVG will have to work very very hard and for many many years to come, in order to change this Nation into truly tourist-friendly islands and to improve the standard of living in this nation. One would think that the things which you point out in your above essay are an easy fix but that there is no willingness on the people’s part for these huge problems. The people have to begin to care about their history, their present and their future.

    The ULP, in power for 17 years, have not done a proper job. They don’t, it seems to me, as having any long-term planning or goals towards improving life in this nation. We receive lots of money from tourism on the smaller islands and we have a lot of fertile ground for agricultural development on the big island. It appears that the Gonsalves government mostly is to blame for not being progressive enough and for not having any strategy to achieve the outcome that we want for this nation. They should be held accountable by the people, come next election.

    Assuming that this essay of yours is meant as self-criticism for the betterment of our Island Nation. I will endorse your input as being a positive contribution to our [SVG] further development.

    Kenton Chance is also doing a good job in facilitating this forum, where people can voice their concerns and, to discuss and debate local affairs.

    • Unfortunately, many of our people do not even notice this degradation or the direct role they play in exacerbating it even when they remain silent about its effects. Except for the poor condition of the roads, something that can only be addressed by the government (even though the root cause is overweight privately-owned trucks which have broken up the roads), sand mining, garbage dumping, and vehicle abandonment lies with ordinary people which is why I titled the essay “Nasty is as nasty does.”

      Your mother was experiencing what is called “culture shock,” an understandable reaction to experiencing the results of human action that she found repugnant but which is seen as normal by those who cause and experience it on a daily basis.

      Since this degradation began very slowly decades ago it is now seen as the new normal. As you imply, it would take just as long to reverse the process, if there is even the will at the grass roots level and active support at political level to do so.

      • Despite the fact that I too sometimes become incensed by your opinions expressed here. I still think that you are a very reasonable person and that you should be respected.

  5. Very well researched and written. You people live in paradise, and you’re slowly destroying it, mostly by being plain stupid. I’m sort of a tourist, but I have a suggestion. Here in Ontario we have conservation authorities that manage watersheds. It’s a very sensible territory. They aren’t big government. They’re even well funded, but they do amazing things. They started in the 1930s in response to annual floods, because all the trees upstream had been cut down. I had a summer job finding remnant relatively undisturbed natural areas and doing botanical inventories of them. The trees that were cut down in the late 1800s. There are some photos of them They were 10-15 people across at the stump, 1,000 year old Pine trees. They would have rivaled a virgin redwood forest. Anyone seen star wars? Like that. It would really have been something to see. Not one tree survived. Not even one. Every single one was cut down. If I hadn’t seen the old photos I would have trouble believing they ever existed. England protected them for the navy because they were ideal masts for sailing ships. Canada cut every one down in a blink of the eye, and they’re gone forever. So please, take care of paradise for me.

  6. r, why you guys quick to identify the negative while ignoring the positive. Your mom didn’t see anything else, only those? We have problems, don’t expect overnight fix. The great US infrastructure is grumbling and they has a lot of wealth. I’m sure there are numerous potholes and slums where your mom resides. SVG does not have the wealth that most of these country has, but non of them are better than us. US/Canada/UK is not Heaven, they has issues too I hate when folks continuously wash their mouth on Vincy.

    • Observer, It is not my intention to offend anybody. What C Ben David is showing in pictures here amounts to the same as what my mother said about Kingstown, when she returned from her last visit there. I have been to most of the Caribbean islands and I see a big difference from SVG in certain things. Observer, We [SCG] are not doing enough to protect our environment. This is important not just for people but for wildlife and fisheries. The whole ecosystem. I don’t understand why you think that we are only focusing on negative things.

    • So no country in the world is better than SVG, you say?

      So why did you have to flee to America to earn a bread?

  7. C.Ben, I’m living in Vincy, never migrated and have no intention of doing so regardless of which political party is in office. R, the reason why I’d emphasize simply because most of our folks tend to say things cause they are living in a foreign land. Due to experience working on cruise ship, would be amazed of what others say. I didn’t meant to be hard on you or your mom. Was simply highlighting few points. Some has to go, while others chose to stay. Could speak of numerous ills in societies I’ve visited during my time at sea. Encountered potholes, loads of garbage in New York city etc.

    • If you actually worked on a Caribbean cruise ship, you could not have been blind to the fact that our environment has been much more despoiled than most of our neighbours, with the possible exception of Haiti.

      Also, nearly every large and prosperous city in the world has some potholed streets. But much of our entire country is one giant rural and urban pothole.

      Why is there so much decay? Because we don’t have the resources or the will to pull ourselves up to an acceptable standard which is why your assertion that no country in the world is better than SVG is so foolishly ludicrous.

      Time to grown up, sir, and see, think, and reason like a big man.

  8. Westernized dude, I’m a proud Vincy. Trying to belittle SVG on every occasion, what have you achieved? Your ratings poor, in fact, regarding this piece, as of May 1st 2018, 1:30 pm, according to IWN Facebook you’ve amassed 23 likes, 25 comments thus far. Your entire collection has no taste. So boastful yet little followers. Can’t you see no one is interested in your GARBAGE, period.

  9. My estimate is that at least 50,000 people have accessed my 71 Argyle International Airport essays on this and other Internet sites, though I cannot say how many of these people read and and agreed with the content of these essays from start to finish.

    This volume of reads gives me immense pride regardless of whether anyone agrees with my findings or interpretations.

  10. Layou is where I was born, grew-up and visit regularly. Those pictures are real and I see them every day I walk to Jackson Bay to swim. The water is terrible and I once challenged some Strake’s supporters to build a mesh fence to keep articles from entering the sea. I offered to put up the first $100, but found no takers. They have to reintroduce the system where school children clean up the school environment. This practise can then be transported to their homes and surroundings. It worked then and still can today. Of course it needs the help of the government and the education department.
    Check out my web site http:www.skeckpalmer.com and see what I am building about my family and my town.

  11. By the way: Louis will need the support of Julian to get those roads repaired and I don’t think there is any love lost between them. I was told Julian has an investment – a bakery, in Layou.

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