A Solution For Troubled Waters

Image of Bud Slabbaert
Image of Bud Slabbaert
By Cdr. Bud Slabbaert

FILL a glass to the rim with your favourite refreshing drink. Done? Now, put an ice cube in it. What happens? It spills over. There is a refrigerator on our globe that is likely to put a huge ice cube in our water and lots of people may not like the spill that follows. Come to think of it, on Saint Lucia, we may actually like it.

A just published study by scientists of the University of Texas is alerting the world that a huge mass of ice will be intruded by warmer waters through cavities. I admit it is not an ice cube as such but it has the same effect. Large amounts of ice will melt and seawater levels are predicted to rise about 11 feet. Oh, those scientists. Their just a bunch panic makers as always. How would they know anyway? If you have a health problem inside your body, a physician may order a CT scan or an MRI. Electronics can make things visible that are hidden to our eyes. The scientists on Antarctica used Radar Sounding. They discovered an inland trough that was not known before through which warmer waters will flow and cause more ice to melt and faster.

How fast? Oh, then let’s worry about that later! Sure. Remember the phrase “youth has the future” that we all proudly like to use? Well, thank you for thinking of us mom and dad with regard to the rising sea water levels. Will you buy us water wings? I’m not suggesting that you start saving money for life saving rafts or for building an Ark of your own as done by Noah. I’m thinking of five opportunities related to my previous columns.

The Research and Development centre will have something to intensively study, plan and prepare for. The Innovation Incubator conferences now have two separate topics. One on how to develop floating platforms and the other on what to do when sea levels rise. Two or more topics mean twice as many attendees and filling up twice as many hotel beds. Our wharf has to crank out more floating solutions than expected before. Not only will we have sustainable production and tourism development, we’ll have sustainable media exposure big time. Just think in terms of a catch line: “The world has a problem, Saint Lucia has a solution”. The fifth opportunity is that Saint Lucia will indeed become the Science and Technology Hub of the Caribbean.

Panic or illusion making are not wise doings. However, one can neither ignore scientists who have the alarm clock make an annoying buzz, nor the tempting love serenade of the opportunists. So, with a clear mind, one needs to look at what can be done to satisfy both and get the most out of it ourselves. In general, sea rising levels will indeed create a problem from Manhattan NY to Hong Kong. It all depends on how much and how fast. You could build dams as water protection. Fill up low laying areas. Really? What will that do to environment? Where does the money come from? It would take a lot more than the World Bank has available to loan out. You may now understand why I suggested conferences as an Innovation Incubator to be organized on Saint Lucia. There are matters to seriously confer about.

Did it ever occur to you that if the sewer system of a low laying area doesn’t function any more, there is a tremendous problem? Imagine flushing the toilet and ‘things’ don’t flow away. Sewer systems are depending on gravity which means a flow to the lowest point. In many parts of the world it means it goes to the coastline and untreated into ocean or sea. If the level of those water bodies rise like the 11ft suggested in the study, it may stop flowing. Is dumping raw sewage in the coastal areas one of those typical things we shouldn’t worry about until the water levels go up? On the contrary. Do you know how much untreated sewage goes into the ocean daily, every hour or minute worldwide? It would scare you. It may scare you even more if you think of the possible diseases it could cause. I’m not talking about skin irritations of tourists on a beach somewhere.

Next year the Olympic Games will take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Watersport events are part of it. Sunny Brazil, happy people, samba rhythm. How refreshing to watch the watersport events. Maybe not refreshing at all. The local government has to depollute a 146 square mile area because of the troubled city sewer system. Raw untreated sewage went for eighteen years, and still goes right into Guanabara Bay. The Dutch are called to the rescue but environmentalists are not convinced at all the efforts will solve the problem. An independent biologist has even stated that “There are parts of the bay where you are literally inside a latrine.” In December, a drug-resistant “super bacteria” was also discovered in the water around the bay. Many sailors are afraid that the water quality will harm their health. What does have to do with us?

Raw sewage flows to a low point and then? Then it should go into a treatment facility. If there isn’t one, you would say that one should be built right there. What if there isn’t land available, or if the land price is high valued at that location? And even if that issue is taken care of, the treatment plant may be an eyesore. There could be a floating solution by hooking up that lowest point to an offshore plant. Floating platforms, wasn’t that going to be a Saint Lucian industry? There is a need for such treatment plants worldwide. An estimated 6.5 million tons (6.500.000.000 kilo) of litter including raw sewage finds its way into the oceans and seas each year.

“One man’s problems is another man’s opportunity” is one saying, “The right man is the one who seizes the moment” is another. Thinking of sustainable industry and developing floating platforms in Saint Lucia? You may have an option for the taking right there: a clear solution for troubled waters!

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