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My Dear Jomo

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Candy Edwards

As promised last week, I will continue my response to Jomo’s piece. I do this mainly because there are a number of issues raised in Jomo’s articles that require further discussion. I will refrain from commenting on matters pertaining to who likes or doesn’t like our P.M and related issues since that will carry us nowhere, but would, instead, touch on other issues over which there can be a civilized conversation. {{more}}

Of course I am in accord with the view expressed that ‘the bitterness and discord serves no one.’ I will start where I left off last week with references to the Candy Edward’s programme. I am accused of not using the ‘bully pulpit’ ‘to reign in the rabid or point to the nuances in politics and government policy.’ Well, there is actually method in my madness. I participate in the Saturday morning show because I believe it provides a forum for persons to raise and discuss issues in the society. Following the reading of the letter, I do an analysis and a summary at the end. I am not one for dominating any programme. In fact, once there is a caller on line I make way since that is the opportunity given to the public to make its contribution. I make notes constantly but only respond when time allows me to. I am in agreement, naturally, with the view that ‘those who are accustomed to dominate the airways dread the new day coming. They don’t want the people to be able to give voice to their needs and aspirations.’

He argued too that there is no need to make Candy the sole provocateur. “Many in our midst are equally as provocative and at times much more informed. I hope the good doctor gets my point.” Well the opportunity is available for the other provocateurs to come forward. Candy has indicated his readiness to back away and allow others to use that forum. In his article of February 6, Jomo states that I am so impressed with Candy’s brilliance, that along with Randy I provide him with a national audience. Jomo was peeved with the reference made to him in Candy’s letter on globalization, arguing that Candy was out of his league. I am not sure what this means in the context in which the programme is aired for I was certainly strongly critical of Candy’s views on globalization, and had actually come to the defence of Jomo and others.

Jomo and the Cross Country Road

Jomo’s most intriguing piece is on the Cross Country Road and I would like him to continue the discussion on that issue in an effort to allow ideas to contend. For sometime now I have been asking for public debate on this matter. Jomo sees the Cross Country Road issue as a middle class one that does not ‘resonate with the broad masses of people.’ In an article on December 10, he suggests a context in which the discussion should be constructed: ‘Is the road good for SVG? Will it cause too much harm?” But that is the context in which ‘Friends of the Environment’ are willing to discuss the matter.

Opponents of the Cross Country Road have for a long time been calling for an economic justification for the project. As far as we know no economic feasibility study has been done. But Jomo on July 30 expressed the view that it ‘will open up more of our country to development in agriculture, ecotourism and transportation’. I would welcome hearing more about this. Can Jomo say why with so much unused agricultural land around one has to go into the interior to provide more land? What is the area of agriculture he sees being developed through this means?

Jomo informs us, too, that he has gone high into the mountains in a number of countries including Grenada, Korea, New York and the Czech Republic. In these countries there are roads for miles and ‘the harm to nature is miniscule’. Since few of us have encountered the numerous birds and other creatures in our forests ‘a road will open this wonderful world to more of us’.

Eco-tourism argument interesting

The eco-tourism argument is an interesting one for it befuddles me that we can further this by building a road that will certainly negatively affect the flora and fauna. Indeed he does accept the fact that some wild life would be chased from their natural habitat but leaves it at that. I am assuming that in any kind of ecotourism project one of the key assets would be the St. Vincent Parrot.

The Environmental cataloguing report indicates that the forested hills ‘in the study band’, was home to 70 percent of the parrots.

To equate what was experienced in those countries with the interior of St.Vincent is to carry the argument to a ridiculous level. How many of them have volcanoes in the centre of their island and a mountain range running also from north to south through that very centre? Which of them has terrain as difficult as St. Vincent, bearing in mind, of course, the small land space that is available? He is of the view that there is nothing technically insurmountable in the construction of the road. This, of course, is not the issue. The issue has to do with cost, damage to the environment and the expected economic benefits.

We cannot assume the success of mitigation measures unless we know what is going to be involved. We are told too by the experts that “Any route chosen with a predominant alignment along ridges of the central mountain or on steep slopes flanking such ridges will present major challenges for impact mitigation.” Cost might be a factor that also comes into the equation here. Moreover for a project of that size an economic feasibility study is a must. When do you do these studies? After you have already organized funding for the project? This is crazy.

The experts, and I am referring here to those who did the environmental cataloguing study, indicate that eco- tourism benefits can be achieved by a ‘carefully planned and designed system of trails and scenic look outlooks… The plan should among other things identify areas of outstanding scenic value and visual interests and delineate a system of trails that would provide access to these areas.’

There are other major issues that should be of concern to all of us, but I will list only one here. Again from the Report in question! “Because of its steep topography and the high degree of weathering of the pyroclastics slope instability in the form of landslides and slumps is a major problem in St.Vincent. In fact unstable slopes tend to be the rule rather than the exception.” This they took from the Shawinigan Report on the Cumberland Hydroelectric Project Feasibility Study.

Unfortunately, any kind of debate in the country is hamstrung when one begins to locate participants along the political divide and regard them as merely carrying out party briefs.

This country could in its 26th year of independence do with a wide discussion of issues that are independent of party interests and back room manoeuvring.

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