By Sheldon Bramble
St. Vincent and the Grenadines has prided itself in identifying as the “natural place to be’”. This is because of the pristine conditions of our nation’s islands, compared to much of the developed world. Detecting the current threats to this is so crucial to retaining and enhancing our near future comforts. It is very valuable that this is viewed as important to locals — the Vincentian people — and not just for the sake of visitors.
While we are grateful for the work done by the National Parks, Rivers and Beaches Authority, CWSA and government ministries thus far, here are a few alarming and concerning trends that are worth addressing and requiring urgent action.
The removal of and lack of replanting of trees:
The removal of trees to facilitate the dividing of lands for houses and communities are being done without much thought to its impact on local air quality, weather and the comfort of communities, homes and their inhabitants. One can see the disappearance of trees and plants not only as a disruption of the natural habitats for birds and other land animals, but also affecting our air, temperatures, rainfall and humidity in local areas.
In several areas where coastal communities have become rapidly expanded, this is most prominent. Take for instance the Arnos Vale — Villa communities. Without environmentally informed action now, the new city to be built in Arnos Vale will further compound this problem which has already begun from Villa all the way to Casson Hill. So many trees have been removed from the residential areas in particular on the low-lying areas of this coastal plain. The decommissioned ET Joshua Airport site has seen no attempts to start any tree planting programme and so the entire landscape is sitting awaiting proposed infrastructure. However, it would be wise for our authorities to begin a planting and replacement process taking into consideration infrastructural plans as trees take time to grow and influence local weather and air quality. The exponential increase in vehicular traffic in this area has also had a huge impact on the rise of air and noise pollution.
Trees are the lungs of the world. They are crucial for providing us with purer and cooler air. We can all use more shade in these last several years of hotter temperatures and more latent UV rays from the sun. This is a call on our relevant authorities to aggressively address this before we experience more adverse effects. Building infrastructure is good, necessary and will take much time, but a plan of action can begin now to plant new trees and replace ones already gone.
Even Kingstown can greatly benefit from a plan to have some greenery added. Beautiful greenery is not just for the Botanical Garden. On a tropical island such as ours, it should be a norm and trend where we reside, operate and conduct business. Gardens have been making their ways onto rooftops and trees planted in containers.
The risks of sea bathing related illnesses and seawater pollution:
Another crucial environmental concern is the quality of sea water at our local beaches. Run offs from domestic and public building drains all end up in the sea all over our islands. Vincentians have a right to feeling safe on our beaches everywhere.
There is a rise in pollutions of our waters in Indian Bay, Villa Beach and other nearby beaches for years now. With the recent years showing a rise in sea temperatures, the bacterial levels from domestic drain waters and careless Yacht and boat operators are a cause for concern. Ear infections, sebaceous cysts, skin infections and stomach illnesses are among diseases sea bathers can experience following a swim in these waters polluted by drains from hotels and homes bordering the beaches.
Brighton Beach is a totally different experience on a rainy day when the sea becomes murky and has a stench of sewage when gutters flood in nearby areas and empty into the bays and coves around.
What is your experience on a beach near your community?
Water treatment facilities for domestic waste water from our coastal communities bordering beaches are needed? The establishing of a canal and drain system bordering coasts and covered by a boardwalk and taking drain waters far out to sea or into Eco-friendly water treatment facilities are a must if we are to see improvements in these areas. These need to be addressed aggressively soonest. This is as important as the recent airport and currently ongoing port project when one considers it carefully.
The CWSA must be complimented for their work throughout SVG. Most households seem to be complying with the weekly garbage pickup in communities. However, we are yet to see a large sector of the Vincentian population desisting from littering and dumping waste in drains, gutters, rivers and other waterways. Plastic bottles and wrappers as well as cans etc. are among the items found in heaps. Areas where people congregate outside of shops, snack vendors, food businesses and minivan waiting areas are a hotbed for this sort of behaviour. A mass education and public sensitising programme for better garbage disposal on the part of people on the go is urgently needed.
Some community groups have already adopted local springs and beachfronts. There is a need for the nationwide adoption of rivers, streams and beaches by our educational institutions and communities to ensure that these places are kept litter free and healthy. If every primary and secondary schools in SVG adopt a beach or coastal area for ongoing sensitising and systematically held cleanup campaigns by the community, this work can be shared as well as serve to practically educate and inculcate healthier habits into the everyday lifestyle of our youth. If our youth do not identify with the idea of ownership of our coasts, it is less likely for them to see themselves as part owners of our public spaces.
One the heels of new resorts and projects, the expansion of our tourism offerings and product, may our leaders vision become clearer and much action ensue.
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