NATURE is a powerful force. And the devastation that has occurred this week at Cedros is a reminder of the need for constant vigilance and reassessment of measures to deal with forces that threaten all of us. Coastal erosion is hardly a new phenomenon. As an island nation, we have long experienced its dynamics. But while we have devised many measures to cater for the power of the sea when it comes to land development, those measures need to be constantly reviewed.
The collapse of a part of the Bamboo Extension Road may have seemed abrupt, but the situation was hardly something that developed overnight. All of our infrastructure is affected by both long-term and short-term dynamics. That’s why it is so important for skilled engineers and designers to be involved in the process of constructing and maintaining our road network, and for there to be a degree of continuity and coherence in the State’s oversight.
We are heartened to learn that the families that have been left homeless by the disaster could be accommodated in emergency housing. That is a matter for the relevant agencies to arrange, using fair and transparent criteria to assess eligibility. However, the State also needs to look at whether it can do a better job of shoring up weaknesses.
The economic situation has reduced the funds available, but that does not mean we should not ensure we get value for money. Eventually, the State spends more by putting plasters over serious engineering issues.
Those issues need to be addressed at the design stage. By the time a road has collapsed, it is too late.
With even more volatile weather patterns all over the world (for example the UK is currently feeling the wrath of a Siberian blast), we need to up the ante. Is there a plan to deal with the possibility of increased stresses on our infrastructure in coastal areas? It is instructive that many countries all over the world have built sea walls to protect themselves. Could it be that we have not assessed this matter properly?
Particularly with plans to develop coastal areas of north-east Trinidad on stream, it is imperative that we formulate an efficient system of infrastructure management.
In this regard, local government reform may be necessary to reduce the duplication and bureaucracy that in the past has hindered efforts to effectively serve constituents. This problem did not happen overnight, and neither will its solution.