Monday, June 14, 2010

The Hazards Of Sea-Bathing

Rose Cottage- Villa Beach Complex
Author: Dr. Kenneth John

This week, sea-bathing takes precedence over even our perennial political quarrel. This carnival season, hordes of visitors are sure to come to our shores partly to enjoy the pageantry, partly to take in the country scenes and swim in our waters.

Leaving out the Grenadines which are superb attractions in any language, on mainland S.V.G the most alluring beaches lie in the Indian Bay, Rose Cottage area. This week, I focus on the latter two tourist haunts, and particularly their neglect.

We can take our beauty for granted, for a thousand French men can’t be wrong, much more folk from every quarter of the globe who admit ecstatically or grudgingly that we live in an earthly paradise of which most of us are unaware.

Indeed we must become conscious of our natural gifts and potential. People and government alike seem to pay scant respect and attention to public health, safety and conveniences around the bathing sites.

I live at one point of entry to the beach, but the grassed road was last cut and cleaned in 1989, just before an election. The residents try to maintain this public road as best we could, but the drainage, bush, and garbage often get the better of us.
Government had better pull up its sock and pay attention to this untapped gold-mine, for instance, with improved lighting for safety sake.

We are impossible when it comes to public health. We enjoy stealthily getting rid of our garbage in secret hiding places. It amazes me that this despicable habit is practised in our area where so-called Middle- Class people live. The radicals and “Left-overs” of yesteryear used to call the area “the white coast”.

But down on the glorious Rose Cottage Beach itself, the piles of garbage have to be seen to be believed. The weekends are terrible. Indeed when people leave all their refuse including empty bottles sprayed all over the place, are left behind including memorabilia that tickle the prurient.

The one or two receptacles and public cleaners are grossly inadequate, but increasing their number will not help much. I am ashamed to say this, but basic public education has to be taught somehow, plus pride in one’s country and self which is totally lacking, and apparently difficult to imbibe.

To crown it all, there is more than a suspicion that septic waste probably empties in the sea and could be responsible for the eye and nose infection which occasionally affects swimmers.

Every year, a group of senior citizens from a town in North America holiday in Villa for about a month. They stay at Paradise Inn Beach club, that’s the only time I see the beach spotlessly clean. They happen to be Caucasians and it makes an interesting study to observe these aging people at work, on our beaches.
With the stern economic down-turn, not a few persons have turned to selling drinks and trinkets and rent chairs on the beaches to tourists at upscale market prices.

I serve warning that the competition is too hot for comfort, and one readily anticipates some ugly scene in the near future.
At Rose Cottage, one of these beach-vendors has decided to become residential. He cooks, eats, smartens up, relieves himself, and sleeps right there on the beach. It would appear that he is a deportee from North America who burnt all his bridges in his native St Vincent and finds it difficult to re-integrate.
Amazingly, these types do try to clean up their mess after a fashion, but mattresses in trees, pots and pans on the rocks, smoke and the destruction of our flora are all negatives which do not encourage visitors to our shores to observe the breath-taking sunset!

We are all indebted to a Barbadian Surveyor, Clarence Fitzherbert Richardson who did his utmost best to ensure that there is public access to all beaches, and “bathing right” for all residents secured by open spaces which could easily be turned into relaxation spots.

We must applaud the current Government for its gallant effort at making the beach more accessible to all. But it must do more, after the elections.

Right now, instead of knocking down walls, removing masonry and bits of concrete from the sea, in harking back to the principles of Mr. Richardson, Government is expensively completing a walk-way on the fringes of the sea to accommodate the general sea-bather where they could recover the beach for their people’s use.
For in the Villa area, not only did private businessmen encroach on the beach and “bathing rights” area, but some owners of land near the beach boldly and brazenly extended their private properties sea-wards at the expense of the citizens!
We might as well broaden the issue to touch other areas. The Government must acquire a small piece of land at Indian Bay beach to permit a reasonably sized parking- lot. And it must, repeat “must”, see to the provision of a public road to Sand Bay which unlocks one of the most gorgeous spots in Hairoun, Home of the Blessed.

To come back home to Villa proper, I do recall exchanging a few words with that “pioneer of industry” that constructed that offensive wall. After it was built, it created a hazard and an obstacle.- course for regular bathers including the aging Dr. Vivien Child who had many a fall trying to negotiate her way to God’s sea.

With time, the movie Pirates of the Caribbean constructed a walkway for their own purpose. One of my bathing partners continued its use after expiry date of its shelf- life and ended up with a nasty wound.

To add insult to injury, the present owners of the Aquatic have got into the act. In this day and age, they have been allowed to keep their wharf safe from intruders by cementing broken bottles and glass as silent but effective watchmen. I cut my hand once on holding on to the pier merely to keep my balance as I waded out to sea to begin my swim.

Of course, I only scratch the surface of a bourgeoning problem that demands a sense of restraint, give-and-take, and reality pitted against our self-awareness and dignity as a proud people.
Buccament and the Grenadines, especially Canouan and Mustique, spring to mind as sure challenges and teasers of our maturity and mental frame of mind of an independent nation.

Published: 06/10/2010