The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT - By Peter Josie

The topic may well be re­garded as ap­pro­pri­ate for an ‘end-of-times’ ser­mon, in light of the se­vere hur­ri­canes that re­cently vis­ited the Caribbean and the US, claim­ing lives. How many here are suf­fi­ciently gifted and trained to de­liver such a sub­ject, I won­dered. Alas, to be on your guard, pre­par­ing, is merely a lay­man’s heart­felt de­sire to en­cour­age the earthly pow­ers and their ci­ti­zens to pur­sue ev­ery ef­fort at strength­en­ing their homes, and se­cur­ing ad­di­tional wa­ter stor­age to se­cure them­selves against fu­ture At­lantic/Caribbean Hur­ri­canes.

The At­lantic hurricane sea­son is far from over ac­cord­ing to weather ex­perts and sci­en­tists. The fe­roc­ity of Hur­ri­canes Irma and Maria (two cat­e­gory 5 mon­ster hur­ri­canes of 2017) in the Caribbean and the US, and the de­struc­tion caused by them, may lead some peo­ple to as­sume that these two had con­sumed all the warm wa­ter and wind en­ergy over the Caribbean Sea this year. But don’t be fooled! The of­fi­cial hurricane sea­son has yet to come to an of­fi­cial end­ing. Re­mem­ber the brat that spoiled Jounen Kwéyòl a few years ago? Re­mem­ber the Christ­mas trough?

Whether or not Saint Lu­cia suf­fers any of the de­struc­tion we saw in other Caribbean is­lands and in Florida and Texas, it’s worth re­mem­ber­ing that there will be an­other hurricane sea­son next year, and the year af­ter, and so on. In­deed, the re­gion’s geog­ra­phy in re­la­tion to Africa seems to con­demn it to these an­nual weather events that are pre­dicted to be­come more and more se­vere with global warm­ing. And since we can­not change our geog­ra­phy or stem the tide of global warm­ing, we are left to con­tem­plate and to act upon the de­fen­sive mea­sures we must take to pro­tect our­selves from hur­ri­canes. We can act now! It bears re­peat­ing that hur­ri­canes are likely to visit more fre­quently with in­creas­ing wind speeds and will in­evitably wreak more de­struc­tion.

There is one more piece of math­e­mat­i­cal/sci­en­tific re­al­ity with which one needs to reckon. The law of av­er­ages will soon catch up with those like Saint Lu­cia that have re­cently been spared the rav­ages of these mon­ster hur­ri­canes. (Pray that it’s not too early for such a state­ment.) God is good and there is ev­i­dence that He an­swers prayers. Still, God would not wish the Caribbean re­gion to think that He had cho­sen sweet Sainte Lu­cie as his favourite rock. Sooner or later this is­land is likely to be hit by a se­vere storm. This is not a wish, heaven for­bid. It is a visit we are pow­er­less to avoid. The re­spon­si­bil­ity there­fore de­volves on the gov­ern­ment and other elected and se­lected of­fi­cials to agree on a plan to en­sure more se­cure hous­ing plus more pri­vate wa­ter stor­age fa­cil­i­ties on-is­land. Build­ing more solid hous­ing units with steel and con­crete, in­clud­ing roofs/ ceil­ings, makes sense.

A na­tional com­pe­ti­tion to de­sign af­ford­able hous­ing, in­clud­ing the use of empty 40 ft. con­tain­ers or parts thereof that would with­stand hur­ri­canes, should be a na­tional pri­or­ity. But that is just the be­gin­ning. The en­tire coun­try needs to be mo­bi­lized – this will be the sub­ject of a sep­a­rate ar­ti­cle.

No one can deny the ur­gent need for strong, sim­ple, af­ford­able hous­ing, es­pe­cially for lower in­come groups. There is need for a more rig­or­ous build­ing code. The gov­ern­ment and the banks should not leave to the whims of crooked builders and dis­hon­est quan­tity sur­vey­ors the most ex­pen­sive project many ci­ti­zens will un­der­take in their life­time – the build­ing of a home. Some peo­ple are adept at mak­ing short cuts, plac­ing the home owner in jeop­ardy. This is nei­ther fair nor just. The sit­u­a­tion is driven by in­creas­ing greed. Some quan­tity sur­vey­ors and builders seem anx­ious to join po­lit­i­cal par­ties, seek­ing gov­ern­ment work and pro­tec­tion.

In the new dis­pen­sa­tion, gov­ern­ment and politi­cians can­not be de­pended upon to do every­thing. It is there­fore sug­gested that at least five per­sons be named to judge an af­ford­able (low cost) hous­ing de­sign for the is­land that can with­stand the strong­est hur­ri­canes. It is also sug­gested that the fol­low­ing three per­sons form the core of judges for this com­pe­ti­tion, with the gov­ern­ment and the op­po­si­tion each adding one more per­son: John Peters, Calvin Ge­orge and Des­mond Fostin – all en­gi­neers and builders.

The cer­ti­fied de­signs should be ap­proved by par­lia­ment. The gov­ern­ment should make avail­able at least two sep­a­rate sites in the north and south of the is­land to build and show­case these new ‘hurricane proof’ houses. Prospec­tive buy­ers, lenders and in­vestors should be en­cour­aged to view and com­ment on these houses. It goes with­out say­ing that all new build­ings ought to be as earth­quake proof as pos­si­ble, es­pe­cially multi-sto­ried struc­tures.

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