intention of this article is not to "diss" our capital city - no way!
Rather, the intention is to raise the level of national consciousness about
some disturbing aspects about our once-upon-a-time great city that produced
Greats like Derek Walcott, Arthur Lewis and Dunstan Omer.
is located in what is referred to as a "flood gut" and largely on
reclaimed land. It is home to the seat of government and the head offices of
many foreign and local businesses. Like many of the world’s metropolitan
centres, the design of the city is modelled on a grid pattern. Castries has a
world-class sheltered harbour which receives large cruise ships, transshipment
cargo vessels and ferry boats. It is also blessed with top quality, world class
duty free shopping facilities in Point Seraphine and La Place Carenage.
the end of the 17th century, Castries became a major coaling station because
she was the only port in the Caribbean capable of accommodating the Royal Navy.
has some breath-taking landmarks, too!
The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Derek Walcott Square, the
City Library, the Government House, and Morne Fortune’s Fort Charlotte are glowing
all of the above, there appears to be a growing consensus that Castries city is
in a state of degeneration; its socio-economic geometry may no longer be a
relatively good barometer to gauge St. Lucian standards and values. In fact, it
may no longer be a true microcosm of the St. Lucia psyche for many reasons; they
include, firstly, a runaway crime rate; secondly, a rapidly growing perception
that it may well be the “homicide” capital of St. Lucia and arguably, the entire
East Caribbean at large. In fact, there is a view that Castries may well have
now become “The Little Kingston” of the Eastern Caribbean where “bad boys”,
guns, crimes are fast becoming a way of life for the many gangs that dominate
when we thought Castries had reached a crescendo of negativity, the showers of
blessing - which we were longing for - came and stripped the city even more
naked than it ever was – exposing another ugly aspect of its buttocks for all
the years, we have known and spoken ad
nauseam about the city’s saturation with a perennial rat population problem.
But the heavy showers revealed an even more stunning nasty urban discovery: a
cesspool of cockroaches and other bugs and pests, including centipedes emerging
out of the underground network of drains, manholes, crevices, cracks and
soakaways that apparently provided a safe haven for those nasty invasive creatures
to procreate in unprecedented numbers. If we add the invasion of mosquitoes,
stray dogs, vagrants and the ever growing population of criminals to the
equation, then we get a pretty good picture of the extent of decadence facing a
city which has been rebuilt many times following major fires in 1796 and 1813,
question is: does Castries need to be rebuilt again and whose responsibility is
it? Is it central government, the private sector or the Castries Constituency
Council who own the city?
Castries city is not alone in its woes; Vieux Fort town has its own fair share
of problems too; the Bacadere is a major health and environmental hazard; only
that, it's not so much a biological threat from an unwanted invasion of species
(as is the case for Castries) as it is a threat arising from the recklessness
of human beings who dispose their plethora of waste into the Bacadere Main Drain
7 years or so ago, a CDB technical mission ranked the BMD as a major health and
environmental hazard and advised the BNTF to commission an EIA and subsequently
to designed a project proposal to tackle the problem with urgency; however,
reports suggest that the project was checkmated by the last gov't and it got
lost somewhere in the 'merger' of BNTF and PRF into SSDF.
BNTF had undertaken an infrastructure sub-project in Bruce Ville which gave the
community a much needed facelift; but that was only a small pebble in a pool of
problems. Today, Bruce Ville continues to have its unique psychosocial and
socio-economic challenges; and although its garrison-type behaviour has
diminished significantly, it remains an area that we may wish to advise
visitors who may have a propensity to explore, to tread carefully, especially
in spite of the cases cited above, Vieux Fort has major advantages over the Capital
City! Among other things, it has the “spatial latitude” to expand; indeed, because
of that luxury, the commercial centre of the town is gradually shifting towards
the periphery of Beanefield where the townscape is far more attractive,
receptive and comfortable whilst the Old Town seems to be approaching an
irreversibly moribund state.
the epicentre of the town irreversibly tends northward, one feels that it will
in the long term attract significant business and industrial activity which could
put it in direct competition with Castries for capital city. Already, Vieux
Fort is the home of the Hewanorra International Airport and also a budding
seaport which puts it in contention. Once the Bar de l’Isle barrier is broken
and the appropriate horizontal and vertical road alignments are completed, VF
should be just a stone throw away from the north.
town – the original capital of St. Lucia – is not without its own issues too;
but it seemed to have done fairly well, both in terms of its development
paradigm and the management of its limited usable space. The recent townscape
improvements have given Soufriere a new look; and although considerable
restoration work is still needed to complete the new Soufriere configuration,
St. Lucia's "third town" may well, in the medium to long term, become
a good experiment in integrated urban development worthy of replication. The development
configuration along the Waterfront and Bridge Street is a stunning example.
the recently unfortunate incident involving the contingent group of tourists
from the Celebrity cruise ship, Soufriere maintains a major safety and security
advantage. She is generally a user-friendly destination where visitors can walk
the streets at all hours of the night in relative safety but there’s still work
to be done!
have often referenced Singapore (which is the same size with St. Lucia) as a
possible model for us; but that may well be an impossible dream. Our geographic
configuration is a major constraint; secondly, we may well have passed the
critical point of no return.
We may have the semblance of an intellectual superstructure. We can contend
that our Nobel laureate are just the “tip of the berg”; but can we convert the “intellectual superstructure”
to “development infrastructure” which is the main yardstick by which “progress” is
measured. Singapore tried the experiment and it was a resounding success; so
far in St. Lucia, we have not got beyond the “hypothesis stage” – we are still
probably need an intellectual bang start again!
Will the "national vision strategy" help
give us that bang start and help us find our orientation again or will it help
us find a new orientation - an orientation for better aesthetics, for a deeper
sense of pride and patriotism, for greater productivity, for a more profound commitment
to better entrepreneurship, for a better sense of civic and social
responsibility, for less crime and criminality?
until we find that orientation, we will continue to be subject to the plague of
rats, of coach roaches, of crimes and criminality.