Wescot-Williams reacts to heavy rainfall: “Comprehensive drainage plan must become national priority”

POSTED: 11/19/14 9:21 AM

St. Maarten – “Many people in St. Maarten are still reeling from the devastation suffered due to the torrential weather system that battered our island on November 7 and 8. The  individual and collective losses are greater than many can imagine and the cost to infrastructure comes at a time when the country can ill-afford this,” caretaker Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams wrote in an email to this newspaper.

“It is therefore understandable that people are calling on government for assistance and that yet others point fingers in all directions. The weather reporting has also been much criticized.
My heart goes out to the many persons who lost possessions during the torrential rains. And even though those are only material things, many are still pondering how to replace lost or damaged goods.”
However, Wescot-Williams, continued, “as a country we must admit that this will not be the last time. Weather patterns are changing, the effects of climate change are noticeable also or maybe more so, on our island. More than ever in the past from my recollection, even our vegetated hillsides have seen some considerable  mud slides during the recent rainstorm. In my view, government must revisit and urgently so, the drainage plan for our island.”
Wescot-Williams stated that several initiatives are already underway. “I can mention the risk reduction project for the area of Belle Plaine that is being pursued as a joint project for St. Maarten and St. Martin. I have also taken note of the announced action by the Ministry of Vromi; but again, only a comprehensive drainage plan will somewhat mitigate the flooding that will result from any heavy rain fall.”
The outgoing prime minister said that it is no longer good enough to look out only for so-called flood-prone areas. “The last storm has shown how prolonged rainfall affects everyone in one way or another. Homes in areas never before affected, were flooded. We must be thankful that no loss of life was suffered, but it is not sufficient just to recognize this.”

Following the recent rainstorm, Wescot-Williams stated, “I decided to approach the offices of the United Nations that assist countries with this type of planning and expertise. The last rainstorm has shown that this matter must become one of national priority. It would be unrealistic to expect that such a plan could be executed in one shot and so a plan of approach must provide a basis for the execution.”

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