Water, water, everywhere and not a drop to drink
Sun, 10/09/2016 - 12:00am
“Can you imagine having to walk a long distance to a pond like Kendal Pond with a bucket, wade into the pond among the ducks and frogs, and carry that bucket of dirty water home to serve the needs of you and your family for the day?”
(Things that matter, January 24, 2016)
“Water, water, everywhere, and all the boards did shrink; Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink.”
(From The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 1798)
Human pregnancies last nine months. Elephants’ 23 months. When I wrote the column with this title nine months ago, I hoped for delivery of water by now to the poor suffering people of the northern half of Barbados. However, since the “baby and the bath water” is way past expected delivery date, I’m back on the subject.
When my wife and I came to live in Upton 37 years ago, there was a serious water shortage in the area, because apparently the pipe supplying Fort George reservoir which served us was too small, and the population served had grown too large (personal explanation from Mr. Wendell Sealy, CEO of BWA). Simple – demand too big, supply too small. We had to buy a 600 gallon tank and a pump. And we installed another 600 gallon tank to harvest roof water, to water the garden.
Unfortunately, some-times there was no BWA supply for days and our tank emptied. I recall the first time this happened unexpectedly and I had to go to work with a token wash from a pep bottle of water. I gave a speech that day to the Barbados Employers Confederation, and I said that we had returned to the lifestyle of the 1930s, except that there were no standpipes. I hit the front page of the papers next day, and became a hero to some and a rebel to others.
Since then we have a far larger tank, harvesting all our roof water, for garden and fruit trees, while the pump for the house often works like mad when the pressure is so often low. Which makes me wonder why so few Bajans harvest water. In many Caribbean islands many if not most households’ only source of water is the rain on their roof! Why are we so dumb? As I wrote in January “I know a lovely lady with a lovely garden, watered with water simply caught in a drum from her two valley gutters, and kept tightly covered when it’s not raining, to keep out mosquitoes. Right now there should be a booming trade in drums, tanks and pumps, to assuage the wailing and gnashing of teeth.” We seem to have lost that spirit of independence and common sense, waiting on hoped-for action in a climate governed by the now endemic disease IDD (Implementation Deficit Disorder).
It will be small comfort for us to recall that the cholera epidemic of 1854, which killed some 22 000 Barbadians, led to piped water for Bridgetown – but 11 years later! Barbados has been recognised as a water scarce county for more than 20 years. In fact, at less than 300 cubic metres per person per year we are defined as having absolute scarcity. So this is not a political criticism, since all administrations for 20 years have procrastinated in providing adequate solutions (and adequate water). Apart from the obvious, much vaunted inefficiencies and inaction, it is way past time for government to provide incentives for pump and tank systems, as I’ve said in the Senate, and for private citizens to harvest their rain water.
My quote above from the Rime of the Ancient Mariner was inspired by the magnificent seascapes in the exhibition just held at the Pelican Gallery by Dr. Raymond Maughan, when the comment was made to me by someone: “All that lovely sea water down St. Andrew and St. Lucy and the people can’t get a drop to drink.” In fact for me the highlights of Dr. Maughan’s magnificent range of photos are the seascapes. He captivates us with his panoramic views of the East coast, of Foul Bay, Martin’s Bay, Bathsheba, and the secluded but magical Cluff’s Bay. These beautiful wide photos, some enlarged to just over six feet in span, are crying out to be displayed on corporate walls and civic buildings all over Barbados.
But the range of subjects is huge. Of the smaller pieces I particularly liked Bajan Child, Bajan Pride and Morning Mist. And the magnificent picture of the Scotland District through a “window” at the top of Chalky Mount (titled “Windowed”) is a unique and inspiring shot.
Fine art – visual art, sculpture, paintings and photography - is richly appreciated in Jamaica, which has had a powerful art movement for some seventy years. Our own explosion of culture is much shorter – some forty to fifty years, since Independence, the Barbados Community College, DEPAM, and CARIFESTA in Barbados. It includes an explosion of both painting (see Arts Directory Barbados on the web) and fine art photography - from Ronnie Carrington’s folk scenes to Bob Kiss’s architecture (Barbados Chattel Houses, et cetera) and portraiture, et cetera. But unlike Barbados, in Jamaica art is deeply appreciated and many artists make a good living. Almost every corporate entity there, but especially the insurance companies and the banks, are patrons of the arts, and almost seem to compete with each other to be better patrons – buying, collecting, commissioning and displaying. In Barbados only the Central Bank, in the entire city of Bridgetown and our business sector, seems to be aware of the importance and value in every way of art, and supports it. I hope to be proven wrong in the near future.
Once again I say, where there is no vision the people perish. Our inscription of Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison five years ago opened the doors for us to nurture our rapidly growing and dynamic body of artists, photographers and sculptors and develop the economic opportunities. But alas …
Dr. Maughan is one of those many doctors and scientists with a humanist and artistic side, and many of his photos reveal the humanitarian. The photos in the show can be seen in his catalogue at the Pelican Gallery and he can be contacted at 230 0366 or by email at HYPERLINK “mailto:email@example.com” firstname.lastname@example.org. Prices start at 200 dollars.
Postscript: Someone asked me recently if I had noticed that the crisis with the BWA was associated with a costly new headquarters, and that the crisis with the Sanitation Service Authority was associated with a new 28.7 million headquarters being built … and if there were other lavish headquarters proposals that would bring other government entities to their knees. I certainly hope not.
Professor Fraser is past Dean of Medical Sciences, UWI and Professor Emeritus of Medicine. Website: profhenryfraser.com