More than 90 residents of Yambou have signed a petition asking the government not to locate its asphalt and/or concrete batching plants in the South Windward community because of health concerns.
One resident of iWitness News, on Thursday, said that the government has called a meeting with residents this Sunday but villagers are planning to boycott it.
The residents feel that there is nothing to discuss, and even if there were, they are being consulted after the fact.
As far as villagers are concerned, the plants should not be located in their community or any other residential area in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The May 27 petition is addressed to the Chief Executive Officer of BRAGSA, a state agency responsible for the construction and upkeep of public roads and other public infrastructure.
The petition says that villagers have observed that construction work has begun on what they were told is an asphalt and concrete batching plant.
“We consider this action highly insensitive, highly high-handed, grossly disrespectful, to the hard-working and peace-loving residents of Yambou, inconsiderate of your institution and [shows] total disregard on your part to the health risk associated with this plant.”
The petition noted that there are elderly persons and children in the area who suffer from respiratory ailments like asthma.
“We do not have to alert you to the effect and medical issues that such a plant can have on our citizens. Our village is not a dumping ground for your institution to protect other citizens in other area,” the petition said.
It said that the lands around the plant will have no agricultural or residential value “as no one would want to build a home or plant crops near to it”.
The petition said that BRAGSA has ignored the fact that there are seven houses directly opposite to the plant, on the other bank of the Yambou River.
“The homes are in very close proximity to the plant and the children of some of these residents already suffer from asthma and breathing problems.
“Your action has been done without dialogue/consultation with any of our residents. Would you place your family and those of your loved one in such a situation? What do you do not like for yourself, you must not hand out to others whom you believe are below you,” the letter said.
“We emphatically state here that we reject your action. We are completely against you placing this plant in our area of Yambou and we ask that you immediately cease construction and take your plant to some other area where people do not reside.”
The letter said that the situation has already been called to the attention of Parliamentary Representative for the area, Frederick Stephenson, “who acknowledged that he has already stated his concern to the relevant authorities”.
iWitness News visited the area on Thursday, where a large portion of land appeared to have been graded off and compacted with stones to create a relatively level platform.
It is located a few hundred feet from houses on the other side of the Yambou River.
Residents spoke to iWitness News in objection to the plant being located there, but asked that they not be identified in our report.
One woman, the mother of a young child, said that villagers were not informed that the plant would be located in their community.
She said both she and her child are asthmatic and her objection to the plant being located in their village would remain even if the government had consulted with them.
“… since they have been doing work over there, when I come out in the porch I have to be washing my porch every day because of the dust. I have to keep my children locked away in the house,” she said.
“I was wheezing for two weeks, I am still having the congestion in my chest from all the dust that was coming my way and my son, when the allergies took him with the dust, he had swollen eyes,” she said.
“Progress is needed in the country; things need to go on, but for them to just move it to this area without informing anyone, it is not right,” the woman said.
“Me and my kids and other people in the area, we already suffer from allergies with the grass, the little dust around us, but with that, that is more major stuff to deal with us.”
She said that she was also concerned that the fumes could lead to cancer and suggested that the plant be moved to a non-residential area.
One man who spoke to iWitness News said residents are familiar with the effect of an asphalt batching plant based on their experience with the one that was located at Argyle International Airports during its construction.
“And once that’s in operation, you have to be locked away in your house because of the amount of smoke. If you wash your clothes and hang them on the line, you have to wash them over because all of the smut sticks onto your clothes and this one will be a greater problem because it’s closer.
“It’s hazardous to health and I don’t think it should be in this area,” he told iWitness News.
Another woman told iWitness News separately that they used to smell, in Yambou, the fumes from the plant at Argyle.
“When they did it down there, you used to smell it up here so this one would cause a problem.”
And, a third woman who spoke to iWitness News at her Yambou home said:
“We are human; we love fresh air and we don’t want to be sick and if we don’t have enough money to take our kids to the hospital, then we will suffer down here.”
She suggested that the plant be placed close to the La Soufriere volcano, where no one lives.
The woman told iWitness News that she has asthma and sinus problems and some of her five children suffer with the same ailments.
“We do have certain plants that make us sick so, if they put that there we will really be in danger, she told iWitness News adding that “other people in the area suffer with asthma and sinus problems”.