It is often said that without the rain there is no rainbow. However, with all the rain falling on Antigua and Barbuda, many people are looking for the rainbow at the end of the rain. The droplets from the heavens have brought much needed relief to the lengthy drought conditions that we have been experiencing but, at the same time, it has highlighted the deficiencies in our basic infrastructure.
For as long as anyone can remember, Antigua and Barbuda has had bad roads. The last few years have seen potholes multiplying faster than rabbits and the road works, especially on Friars Hill Road, have many people proclaiming that our roads are the worst ever. Maybe social media has played its role in amplifying the road conditions, for example, who has not seen and been entertained by the Friar’s Hill Road video or the Pigotts video with the accompanying colourful and hilarious commentary? The videos are relatable to everyone and have become so popular that they have been remixed into often requested songs at fetes.
More recently, social media has provided us with another classic, as an intrepid videographer captured a long line of disabled cars that had damaged their tyres (and possibly more) in a water-filled pothole in the All Saints area.
The video was so effective that it prompted a quick response from the Ministry of Public Works that dispatched a team to do a temporary fix. Which brings us to one of our points, as it relates to our roads. We seem to be in a constant state of temporary fixes.
We apply band-aids even when major surgery is required and seem to always to be reactive rather than proactive in our road maintenance. Why is that?
We understand that constructing and fixing roads are expensive, but at the same time, ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.’ Why not build them right the first time, and then maintain them properly? We will probably get more value from our limited dollars if a different approach is taken. And, just so that we are clear, traffic management has to be part of the maintenance. We cannot build side roads, designed primarily for low volume and minor tonnage, to be used by heavy equipment on a regular basis.
Those vehicles should be kept to the main roads that are designed for that application.
This brings us to drainage. At some point, we have to get a master plan for dealing with our drainage.
There are areas in Antigua that become impassable at the slightest drizzle, and they remain waterlogged long after the drizzle subsides. Many of these areas suffer from clogged drains or drains that go nowhere; they just stop. It is like the budget ran out so the contractor left the job, incomplete mind you, at that point. Those drains eventually become ponds and many times, turn areas that traditionally had no drainage problems into swamps. There should be no permission given to anyone to construct drains unless the water is properly managed and official approval is given as part of the master plan. No purpose in shifting the drainage problem geographically.
Now to the main point … the rain effect. It is easy to see the obvious effects of rain – the camouflaged potholes, the inadequate drainage and ineffective water management. But what is not so obvious are the effects that these deficiencies have on our economy.
Yes, the rain is a blessing to farmers and our national ground water reserves (See our page 4 story and related front page photo), but with the deficient infrastructure, the rain also brings downsides. Ask any business owner and they will tell you about the rain effect. After a shower of rain, they can predict with great accuracy the post-rain “sickness” levels. Not illnesses like flu that one may get from frolicking in the rain, no, we are talking about the rain sickness related to being stranded at home for one reason or another.
Sometimes, people literally cannot leave their house because it is surrounded by a natural or unnatural moat. Other times, they wake up to a message from their kids’ school or daycares informing them that the institution is closed due to flooding. And they find themselves without a place to send their kids for the day or a person to watch the children while they trudge through the water to get to work.
It would be a worthwhile exercise to examine the economic impact of the rain effect. We are fairly sure that if it were calculated, it would show that proper drainage and rain-resistant infrastructure would pay for itself in worker productivity. Maybe Bob Marley said it best when he declared, “Some people feel the rain. Other people just get wet.”
We invite you to visit www.antiguaobserver.com and give us your feedback on our opinions.