River defence was built as form of protection – Ames
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January 3, 2014
River defence was built as form of protection – Ames

Nothing was done to change the course of the river which runs between the village of Buccament and the Buccament Bay Resort.{{more}}

This declaration was made by David Ames, chairman of Harlequin Resorts, during an interview with SEARCHLIGHT on Monday.

When the Buccament river overflowed its banks last week, that was not the first time it had done so. At least twice before, on August 1, 2011 and on October 2, 2011, the river overflowed its banks and flooded homes in the village.

In an article published in SEARCHLIGHT on October 7, 2011, one resident of the village claimed that the flooding happened because the resort had built a river defence on their side, and this structure directs the water into the village when levels rise.

“They put a bank up on their side, and when the water hit the wall, it coming straight into the village; so every time it rains heavily this is what we can expect,” Renwick Quashie told SEARCHLIGHT in October 2011, as he called on the resort to rectify the situation.

According to Quashie, promises had been made by officials of the resort to have the problem rectified within three weeks of the first flooding incident, which took place on August 1, 2011.

“We have been complaining and they have been telling us to wait, but nothing is being done,” he told SEARCHLIGHT in 2011.

“Yes, it’s nature, but it could have been avoided; they have actually changed the course of nature,” Quashie said.

However, in an interview on Monday, in the wake of flashfloods on Christmas Eve, which washed persons out to sea and again flooded the village, Ames stated that the river defence was built as a form of protection for the multi-million dollar resort, and that the relevant authorities approved the construction.

The chairman further stated that it would have been extremely costly to construct a defence on the other bank of the river, as well.

“When we were opening here in 2010…we walked up there with the government people and it was talked about the other side as well.

“We were showing them, we had engineering people from Canada, I think who designed it and we informed the government about what was happening, so they knew about the other side.

“I couldn’t afford because it would have cost me like a million dollars to do the other side as well, so what I did, what we had to do for the protection of this resort, is build our defence, but just to make it very clear, we never changed anything.

If you look, these villas were already built before I built the defence. The design of the resort, I designed it myself. I designed it in 2006, but we never put the defence in until 2010. So the actual resort was already built and then we put the defence in,” Ames told SEARCHLIGHT.

Additionally, Ames highlighted that the defence was not built any higher than the bank was before.

The water came over our defence

General Manager of Buccament Bay Resort, Michael Ibrahim noted that during the flash floods that took place on Christmas Eve, water from the river came over the river defence and caused damage to the resort.

Ibrahim also opined that the defence is not the issue, as damage also took place further upstream, in the Cane Grove area.

“I’m not an engineer, I cannot tell you yes or no. All I can tell you is that the water did not just come from the river. I can take you to a place right now that is totally damaged. It’s not about here. These defences have never hurt anyone before,” he said.

During a tour of the resort, Ibrahim pointed out areas that suffered significant damage as a result of the river rising above the defence. The damage included broken down fencing and flooding of a football pitch that lies several feet away from the river.

In October 2011, Town Planner Anthony Bowman told SEARCHLIGHT that the Buccament Bay Resort had been asked to do an Environmental Impact Assessment and an Environment Audit “to look at what they have done and the impact so far on the environment.”

At that time, Bowman said then that these reports had not yet been submitted by the resort. SEARCHLIGHT tried yesterday, to ascertain if these reports had since been submitted, but we were unable to do so. The physical planning department referred us to the ministry of housing, who suggested we speak with the Housing and Land Development Corporation (HLDC). An official at the HLDC told us they do not deal with those matters and suggested we speak with someone at the ministry of housing.

Good relationship with the community

The general manager at the resort however said that he has a very good relationship with villagers in Buccament and that the resort will be engaging in helping to clean up the village, which is still significantly dirty, following the flash floods last week.

He also mentioned other projects that have been carried out by the resort in an effort to make the surroundings better for both the villagers and persons at the resort.

“There was a time that we built…. You could not drive your car where that road goes into the sea. We went and we built it. They had a grill, a metal grill…It’s not like patting ourselves on the shoulder. I’m sure we have our shortcomings also and we probably don’t do enough, but there’s a lot of things we do and I consider myself a part of this community ,” he said.