LAST Sunday just about the time hundreds or thousands of patrons here would have been getting ready to attend Wet Fete, my spine shivered as I watched a TV news item about a disaster of unknown proportions at another Wet Fete in another part of our global village.
Each time I watched different reports by the world TV news leaders, I couldn’t but melt inside as I watched young people running and screaming through flames of fire at a water park in Taipei, capital of Taiwan.
That Taiwan Wet Fete was no different to any other. Like here, it used huge volumes of available water to allow teenagers splash themselves, just for fun – and for profit. Pure water there, like here, was coloured, just for the fun of it. Imaginative themes and staged sequences were in full swing, as over a thousand mainly teenagers went ‘wet and wild’ in the enclosed Taipei water park.
Tragedy struck, however, when the coloured powder sold to patrons to splash on each other during that Wet Fete exploded into flames, engulfing hundreds. Patrons yelled and screamed frantically as they ran through flames towards the nearest exits. In the end over 500 – half the estimated total – suffered burns ranging from severe to minimal. All were hospitalized and some were almost roasted in what was supposed to be a water party. Fortunately (up to twelve hours later), no one had died.
That fiery hot Wet Fete was declared the worst disaster in the history of modern Taipei. An immediate investigation was launched into who was responsible and what caused the powder to explode into fire. The Taipei Mayor shut down the water park. Taiwan President Ma Ying-jieu visited the scene and assured the investigation would be thorough.
I tried hard not to associate the Taipei Wet Fete with the one that should have happened here that same day. If it had taken place, I would only have hoped it would not have featured a repeat of last year’s (or any other previous) accidents involving electrocutions.
I’ve had my say all of last week as to why I think it was absolutely absurd for anyone to have planned any kind of Wet Fete here in the middle of a drought.
The whole idea of importing a shipload of water from Dominica to waste at a water party while the nation is in the middle of a water-related emergency and selling the rest to WASCO and local hotels after the Wet Fete is simply ludicrous.
WASCO hasn’t said it doesn’t have water. It’s simply said we need to conserve and save water in this period when the island is facing its worst drought. WASCO’s tanks aren’t empty, they’re just not filling-up fast enough to ensure we can afford to waste water for washing cars, watering lawns – and yes, for senseless and insensitive partying. Not while thousands of families have no or very limited access to water. Or, when water is being rationed around the country…
It’s good business for the Wet Fete organizers to buy water from WASCO to waste when available, but even that betrays ignorance of or insensitivity to the fact that water is becoming more scarce worldwide and people are being urged to save water even more now, than before.
We simply cannot continue to behave like we’re not part of this world. We have to understand that 947 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa and Asia are without access to water, while another nine million are without water in developed countries.
We need to know and understand why more than 840,000 people – more than the entire OECS population – die every year from a water-related disease. (In other words, 2,300 people die every day because they don’t have access to clean water.
About 750 million people around the world don’t have access to clean water, which works out to one in every nine people on earth.
Women and children spend 140 million hours collecting fresh water every day.
And the amount of safe water available in the world can drop by 40% in the next 15 years if we don’t stop wasting water – like at any Wet Fete, whether here or in Taiwan.
We need to learn more about water and how precious it is elsewhere. The Arab countries in the Middle East have to use a lot of oil money to buy water or to desalinate sea water to drink. But millions upon millions in many African, Asian, Latin American and other developing or underdeveloped countries – today, now as you read this article – either have no water or access only to dirty water. Diarrhoea and other water-borne diseases are killing children at birth and parents are dying young elsewhere.
In one section of Pakistan last week, over one thousand mainly elderly persons died from heat stroke because they had no access to water. And in Southern Europe not too long ago, hundreds of elderly persons also died in France and other countries due to an unusual heatwave occasioned by limate change.
I’ve never been to a Wet Fete — here or anywhere — and doubt I ever will. Apart from having learned all my life that ‘electricity and water don’t mix’, my conscience probably won’t allow me to freely waste water while millions are dying for not having a drop. Besides, more hotels around the world these days are being encouraged to use rain water for pools instead of fresh drinking water – and Coconut Bay in Vieux Fort is already doing that, I understand.
Of course, I can’t convince those who have attended the last eight Wet Fetes here that anything I’ve said here is enough to whet their appetites towards a better understanding of why we should stop wasting water and start changing how we use it.
All I’ll say – for now – is that given what went down in Taiwan on Sunday and what has happened at Wet Fete here before, those responsible for planning mass events (and those responsible for ensuring security and emergency measures at all mass events) will be so guided as to take even stronger safety steps to ensure public safety. (That would go as well for recently advertised plans to establish a permanent water park here soon.)
We cannot continue to bury our heads in the sand while the world’s water supply continues to dwindle — and through our own fault. Sanitation and sewage concerns should take a higher place on our list of national concerns. There are still too many people here — and elsewhere — without access to a reliable supply of water and flushing toilets.
And too many of us take for granted the fact that there’s water in our pipes every time we open the tap.
Meanwhile, here’s what I hope will be a sobering fact: There are more people in the world with a mobile phone than with access to a toilet!