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The onset of the rainy season typically spells widespread flooding and myriad headaches.?? This, compounded by the unpredictability of weather patterns attributed to climate change, may pose some challenges to Government’s Drainage Division which is working assiduously to ensure that it is fully prepared.

Armed with a state-of-the-art piece of equipment expected to significantly?? improve its operations, Director of Drainage, Keith Barrow, indicated his Department was gearing up for an active rainy season.

"With climate change, as you know, there are opposing and conflicting ideas of what is going to happen. ???We expect drought, we expect more rain, we expect more frequent rain, we expect heavier rain’ – there are all sorts. Nevertheless, we are preparing for a pretty active rainy season and several major rain event.?? This is what we are projecting and working towards," he underlined.

In giving some insight into the capability of the recently acquired Bds $500,000 vehicle, Mr. Barrow said it comprised a combination vacuum/pump which could siphon water as well as produce a high-velocity steam jet capable of penetrating major debris blockages.

"It’s a pretty heavy piece of equipment, and one that we will have to take very good care of. We’ll use the vacuum characteristics of the truck to pump off water in areas where a lot has collected, and the high-velocity jet to cut away blockages in drains.?? It will improve the efficiency of our operations once we work it properly, and keep it operable. Where perhaps we may have taken six to eight hours to de-water a

particular set of storm water we should cut that in perhaps a quarter," the Drainage head explained.

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??Keith Barrow, Director of the Drainage Division. (FP)

Against this backdrop, Mr. Barrow maintained that the Department was in the process of "getting the vehicle on the road."

"It’s here on the island, it’s in our hands, and we are at the moment trying to get particular staff familiar with its use, so that hopefully we’ll get it operational within a month or so."

Turning attention to the unit’s manpower, Mr. Barrow indicated that while the technical and managerial side tended to be understaffed, they have tried to "make do" with the existing complement, despite making requests.??

"We have made some proposals in terms of what technical and managerial staff we would like to have on board but that, of course, has to be taken within the context of the needs of the entire [Civil] Service. In terms of other personnel – there is a proposal to increase the number of personnel available to us and we will see in the coming months how we can adjust and re-allocate staff," he revealed.

In the meantime, the Drainage spokesman underscored the Department’s appeal for members of the public to take care of their immediate surroundings, whether as individuals, or as part of a community group.

"If persons notice that well-covers or inlets to wells are blocked, they can take a hoe or a tool and clear away the debris to allow the inlets to be clear. They should also put their garbage where it should be put and not in the gutters or water courses.

Moreover, they should be extremely careful about where they are putting their garbage generally," he expounded.

With regard to the Department’s overall performance, Mr. Barrow gave theirs a passing grade despite mixed reviews from some members of the public.

"Of course we have to see ourselves as a public-oriented company and the comments and judgment of the public is what drives us. In that respect we’ve been getting some good feedback from the public. We’ve also been getting the usual amount of licks but I can understand that," he said.

Citing the inability to have wells cleaned and cleared in a timely fashion, as one of the Department’s major bug-bearers, Mr. Barrow pointed out that many persons were unaware that this aspect of the work was sub-contracted and not handled by the Drainage Unit.

"When a well has to be cleaned or a new well has to be dug that is allocated to a sub-contractor registered with us. Sometimes, it becomes a difficulty to get those sub-contractors working and working efficiently. Sometimes, the members of the public call in and say ???you started to clean the well and you a’int done the well’ and then we have to go out. Although we monitor the sub-contractors, some are very reliable, while there are others who are unreliable," he explained.

Indicating that fewer persons are, in fact, cleaning wells, the Director contended: "We do have a challenge in that area and we have to explain that to members of the public sometimes because they get understandably irate when jobs are started and not completed. That is one of the difficulties we have with that particular area," Mr. Barrow admitted, noting that the contract for 2012 – 2014 had already been advertised, with submissions in and currently awaiting analysis.

And so, with the rainy season on our proverbial doorsteps, the Drainage Division is covering all of its bases in an effort to ensure that this one is as uneventful as possible.

carol.gaskin@barbados.gov.bb

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