October 7, 2011
Vigilance and Diligence will save Lives and Dollars

Fri, Oct 7. 2011

On the first day of this month, October, St. Vincent and the Grenadines became the first country in the Organisation of eastern Caribbean States (OECS) to implement a National Building Code. The Code, passed by Parliament stipulates minimum acceptable standards used to regulate the design, construction and maintenance of buildings in order to protect the health and safety of users and the general public as a whole.{{more}} Local planning authorities will now have the responsibility to approve all stages of the construction process for projects above a certain size, 2,500 square feet for residences.

Before the passage of the new Code, those same planning authorities had some degree of responsibility though it was not always shouldered. If the Code is to be effective, it will call for the authorities to lift their game significantly, for, over the years, faulty construction has resulted in untold suffering and unnecessary expense on remedial work. There have even been instances of the loss of life.

Several examples come to mind readily. At the beginning of August, SEARCHLIGHT reported on a number of retaining walls collapsing following heavy rains. In this issue, there is a story on Buccament Bay where residents of the village complain of the loss of furniture and equipment as well as backyard produce from floods in the area last Sunday.

That Buccament Bay area has been the centre of controversy for some time now and potential conflict between the owners of the up-market resort and local villagers. The latter blame river defences constructed on the resort side of the river for the damage. They claim that when there is heavy rain, water hits on the wall constructed and is pushed into the village causing damage to property. The Resort operators, in their defence, say that they have been waiting on Planning permission to make the necessary adjustments on the village side to provide the safeguards required. Planning authorities have refuted this.

There are dozens, perhaps hundreds of such situations in our community where proper supervision or enforcement could have averted mistakes which have proved costly to correct, not only for property owners, but for the government as well.

All of this emphasizes the need for vigilance and diligence in carrying out the responsibilities set out in the Code. If this Code is to be effective, it must be enforced, right across the board, not for some, with exemptions for others. Public education and awareness and inculcating a spirit of collective responsibility are among the challenges to be faced. Proper supervision and implementation can redound to the good of all. The Code can help to a great extent in reducing errors, inefficiency and suffering.