Beyond the road cleaning exercise in SVG

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(Searchlight) The biannual community clean-up, organized by the state agency Roads, Bridges and General Services Authority (BRAGSA), is taking place with emphasis on cleaning drains and roadsides both along the highways as well as in communities. The exercise is conducted in August and in December each year and provides many persons who are either unemployed or grossly underemployed with a welcome respite. In both instances, the timing ensures that those who are so employed, who incidentally are among those most in need, get some form of income to enable them to cope with expenses incurred at these times of the year. The August break at least helps those parents to meet some of the back-to-school expenses for the upcoming new school year. Though small, it at least provides a few drops in the ocean and those involved in the exercise on a regular basis have been clamouring for its extension beyond the 10-day period for which it usually lasts. Incidentally, it is not just the temporary workers who benefit, for the funds expended represent a welcome injection into the economy especially in these hard times. Merchants and retailers in particular look forward to such state-run programmes since it provides them with needed revenue as well. The other aspect of the programme is the very nature of it. The August clean-up takes place during the hurricane season, somewhat late, one could say, given that the season begins officially in June. It therefore takes on added importance since the cleaning of drains, more often woefully clogged, is an essential part of our hurricane preparedness. In this regard, the disaster preparedness agency, NEMO and community organisations ought to be playing some role. Any observer of the clean-up programme, while commending the effort, can’t but come to the conclusion that there is need for greater professionalism within it. This is to be expected given the seasonal nature of it and the old stereotypes about road work and cleaning drains. But the exercise is more, much more than simply trimming roadsides and disposing of the material. With the increased consciousness about environmental cleanliness, health concerns and the like, as well as awareness of the threat of the hurricane season, greater supervision is needed of the work being done. Very often the slopes bordering open drains are completely cleared on vegetation. All it takes is one good shower to bring the drain back to square one. It would do no harm and a whole world of good to have the supervisors and inspectors better trained and the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) can certainly assist in this. We take too much for granted when it comes to matters of this sort, but are quick to condemn the moment things go wrong. Finally, where is the connection between these twice-a-year exercises and continuous monitoring of the environment that we have spent precious funds to clean? Are there plans to ensure that BRAGSA personnel monitor the state of the drains? This would certainly assist greatly in the control of mosquitoes and other insects and contribute to the health of the nation.

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