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Highways, Climate Change, UDP, PUP

FeaturesHighways, Climate Change, UDP, PUP

by Colin Hyde

Sometime around 1980, when I was very much a young man, one of my uncles, James V. Hyde, who had traversed Belize from end to end as a surveyor, told me that WHEN they replaced the bridge at Roaring Creek (RC), the first job of the engineers would be to have discussions with the elders who had lived along the banks of the creek for much of their lives. He said engineering skills were necessary to build a bridge, but institutional knowledge about the flooding patterns of the creek was also indispensable.

Just a few years ago, the section of highway between RC and Santa Elena, Cayo (SEC), was upgraded to climate resilient standards. I know that the engineers who designed the new works had discussions with some people who lived along the highway, but I am not aware that they put out an invitation for input from all persons who believed they had information to share.

I have said that some of the money invested in that road should have gone toward building a new highway between Iguana Creek Bridge and RC, and that the new bridge at RC should have been placed at a site a few hundred yards south of the old one. I expect some government leaders had thought of that. Maybe the engineers said there was no better place for the new bridge than the place where it is now.

During the Mitch flood in 1998, the approaches at the old RC Bridge were impassable for at least a couple days. There was a flood just after the new RC Bridge was opened, not as bad as the Mitch flood, and the approach to the bridge on the west side became submerged and was passable only by the big trucks. This government has since raised the approach to the bridge. Someone in RC told me the job cost $9 million. Base calculations show that the government could have built 250 starter homes with that amount of money. In my column, I asked if what I was told was true, and if it was, why the government hadn’t spent less on the all-world approach so some savings could have been derived for some starter homes. The government’s media did not respond, and neither did the opposition media, which comments on everything the government does.

Another thing about the climate resilient highway between RC and SEC: there is no buffer on the south side of the highway that passes through Camalote, but there is a buffer on the north side, with sufficient space for an inner road. I have remarked that the “hundreds” of culverts on the north side of the highway were impractical. An inner road should have been constructed, and the considerable savings put to some other use.

When a section of the Coastal Road was ripped up a couple weeks ago after some heavy rains, the UDP immediately charged that this happened because the government had “saved” some money during the execution of the project. Discussing the recent flooding in the north, the UDP said it happened because the government also made some “savings” off that project.

Salt and a spoon are a must when listening to the UDP and the PUP. Notably, the PUP didn’t blame the UDP for what happened on the Coastal Road. The Chief Engineer cited a number of issues that contributed to what happened. We know that with “Climate Change,” weather phenomena will be more severe. I am yet to hear a full report about what happened to cause the flooding up north. Yes, the UDP claims that it is because of PUP “savings.”

In the world of climate resilience, the highway between RC and SEC was a stroll in the park compared to the Coastal Road. Hmm, when we embarked on the new Coastal Road, I had “advised” the government to make it one-lane, with passing bays like we had on the old Hummingbird and Maskall Roads. A government with any authority could command drivers using the road to be respectful on the narrow road, to minimize accidents. Only a disappointing person would have complained about a narrow paved road where there was a dusty scrub board. At the least, with half a road the cost of the teething pains would have been cut by half.

The backwater from the Sibun will flood the approaches to the Sibun Bridge at times. If that little stretch in Roaring Creek cost $9 million, it would probably cost upwards of $20 million to raise that road to where it is always passable. I am not aware that Belize has the money to spend for such convenience. With our budget, we can’t pay for perfect sailing.

I am very disappointed with hysteria, because it diverts our attention, scatters our energy. It would be best for developing countries if they were dictatorships; oh, if only those didn’t fall victim to human weakness all of the time.

Don’t fold your arms while your brothers shoot each other

US president, Joe Biden announced that Kenyan forces, part of a Multinational Security Support mission, are now in Haiti, to “support the Haitian National Police as they increase their anti-gang operations, build their capacity to maintain public safety, and ensure that humanitarian assistance reaches those in need.” Biden said the US is making the biggest financial contribution to the mission “that will grow to 2,500 multinational personnel, led by Kenya and including Benin, Jamaica, The Bahamas, Belize, Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, Bangladesh, Algeria, Canada, France, Germany, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and Spain.”

Not everyone in Belize is supportive of the peacekeeping mission, partly because there is some danger. A gang leader in Haiti, or was it a freedom fighter, said on hearing of the mission that it would not be welcomed. Another reason given in some quarters for their hesitance for us to step up, is that we would be interfering in the internal affairs of a neighbor.

It’s the reality that the success or failure of any nation impacts others, particularly those in its vicinity. We say that when the US sneezes, we catch a cold. If the US was to fracture, and that nation has some serious internal issues to surmount, it wouldn’t be a sneeze, it would be a cough, and the fallout from that would not be good for us.

Haiti’s internal problems have to be our concern. In a story in The Atlantic, “Bystanders to Genocide”, former US Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Powers, discussed the bystander role of the US as over “a hundred days in 1994 the Hutu government of Rwanda and its extremist allies very nearly succeeded in exterminating the country’s Tutsi minority. Using firearms, machetes, and a variety of garden implements, Hutu militiamen, soldiers, and ordinary citizens murdered some 800,000 Tutsi and politically moderate Hutu. It was the fastest, most efficient killing spree of the twentieth century.”

Powers said some, to explain the US failure, said that the “United States didn’t know what was happening, that it knew but didn’t care, or that regardless of what it knew there was nothing useful to be done.”

We shouldn’t fold our arms while our brothers shoot and kill each other. If Haiti gets no assistance to solve its problems, the people with the biggest guns, not the people’s will, will win. Oh, some people actually believe that if Haiti solves its internal problems by itself, they will get a government that is free from US control. Well, Cuba had to run to the USSR for that, and suffer with 60 years of embargo.

We absolutely don’t want hostilities in Haiti to increase. Small countries need to be more one for all, all for one. Whenever internal differences in any small country in a region become violent, other countries in the region should get involved, to restore order, because internal differences, apart from being humanitarian disasters in the country under siege, become the problem of other countries in the region.

We are all states in this world, and our uniqueness must be prized, preserved. Some things we must face together. The Caribbean must be more assertive about Haiti. The will of the people must be ensured, and for that to happen there must be peace. Of course we don’t want to intervene, and we shouldn’t if they are about resolving their issues peacefully. If they can’t, interested neighbors have to lend a hand.

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