the Choiseul Fishermen, the acronym NICE
ain’t too "nice" as it relates to the state of affairs at their pond. They’ve
ascribed an almost diametrically opposed meaning (Not Interested in the Choiseul Environment) to the original one (National Initiative for Creating
Employment). The fishermen also subscribe
to the opinion that the periodic “dredging” which happens at pond from time to
time may be equivalent to “sand mining” and therefore may be illegal!
may not be known for its creativity and imagination; it may be too small, too
hidden, too backward and too rustic to be credited with those intellectual endowments,
even ironically when its parliamentary rep is the Minister for Creative
Industries and the island’s PM is a native born. But the creative outputs
(handicraft, pottery, storytelling, music etc) – not to mention other sublime
intellectual achievements - are ubiquitous throughout the length and breadth of
the constituency and give credence to our creative endowments.
that creativity was on full display on the big national screen during a
historic fishermen’s strike in the village; let me hasten to add that it wasn’t
the strike, despite its historicity, that was creative; it was the messages that
were portrayed. For example the caricature of NICE to mean “Not Interested in Choiseul Environment” and
the equation of the dredging of the pond to acts of sand mining! Indeed, those
caricatures run deep!.
heard the Parliamentary Rep broaching the idea of potential strike action the
night before it occurred; but I never realized efforts in that direction were
so advanced, so organized and so well thought-out! Even HTS and DBS were on the
fishermen’s message was clear and simple: “open up the pond, so we can bring
our crafts in for reasons of safety and security”. They complained that the lack of access
to the pond had brought their distress to saturation point.
they believed that their “fibre glass” crafts were unnecessarily exposed to the
vagaries of the environment. Secondly, they complained that they had suffered costly
damage to the bottom of their vessels. Thirdly, they claimed that the infected and
stagnant pond water posed a monumental health and environmental hazard.
Fourthly, they were enraged about the ownership and management of the equipment
procured on their behalf to dredge the pond. The excavator was parked in the
yard of the constituency office while tons of silt inexorably built up in the
Choiseul Fishermen contend that they have been victims of "conspiracy" and political
football under both parliamentary representatives with both “honorable gentlemen”
showing little regard and respect for their dignity.
President claimed that the Fisheries Cooperative secured a grass roots grant of
US$100 000 from the Japanese for the purchase of an excavator and truck. He
further claimed that the grant was approved in November 2010 but was never
disbursed to the Fishermen’s Cooperative but instead to the Constituency Council.
the bad situation with the pond seems to have got to its worst point ever; the growth
of silt has been taking place at an overwhelming rate and the experts seem to
be helpless. The silt has extended outwards (between 60 – 80 ft from the mouth
of the pond), creating a new virtual "seabed" extension. Indeed, that seabed extension has now become a
platform that the fishermen use to dock their vessels.
big issue is: What have the authorities done about the siltation? Amidst claims
that the dredging is cost-prohibitive, they have apparently not done much! In an
early attempt, they added an extension running parallel to the entrance hoping
that it would regulate the dynamics contributing to the siltation and bring relief;
but it wasn’t a wise engineering intervention and only made a bad situation
have also tried more cost-effective measures like “battering arrangements” with
equipment operators by outsourcing the dredging in exchange for the dredged
sand as payment.
totally agree that the exercise is cost-prohibitive and it will continue to be,
as long as we have not got it right. The ultimate solution is long-term and equally
costly. It would entail re-engineering and redesigning from the ground up,
factoring in the coastal dynamics as major factor. We perhaps need to re-engage
the Japanese and to commission them to work with our coastal engineers. This
time we can only hope that due diligence will be observed in the re-engineering
and re-design phases. We probably will have to look at the models for Vieux
Fort, Soufriere and Dennery which are free from those problems and learn
lessons from them.
the time is right for the PM’s intervention – both physically and financially.
The PM should pay a visit to the fishermen because I’m of the belief that the current
parliamentary rep – just like his erstwhile counterpart - may have “burned his
cake” with them. The PM needs to talk to the fishermen live and direct!
Secondly, the PM may need to give consideration to an extra-budgetary allocation
to bring both temporary and long term relief to the fisherman. It is something
he has done before and he has done it very well; and he can and should do it
again to calm the stormy waters which potentially threaten to burst the wall of
the fisheries pond.
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