Many Virgin Islanders and residents are suggesting that the devastating flood that affected the Territory was compounded by unsafe hillside excavations among other serious issues. This point of view was endorsed by Junior Minister for Tourism, Hon. Archibald Christian as he suggested that legislative intervention might be required to prevent future setbacks of this nature.
Hon. Christian during an interview with The Island Sun newspaper said that he walked around the Territory following the violent storm on 7 and 8 August, and noted some of the destructions caused by the deluge. “From what I saw, based on some of the locations that I went to, it is obvious that some of the practices have to be changed. It may mean that we might have to tighten our legislations to ensure that proper practices are enforced,” Hon. Christian said.
As it relates to hillside excavations, which is being referred to as one of the main cause of some of the issues the Territory experienced over that last week, the Legislator opined that a better approach towards such developments might be needed: “We have to pay attention to the way we are excavating our roads up in the hillside, how we are constructing residential homes, how we are cutting foundations, and so on.”
“We may have to consult with professionals in terms of engineers, and so on to have a better idea of how we should be building in the hills. I know for years we have done well in the hills, but the level of development that is taking place now in our hillsides begs us to reconsider, and reevaluate the whole concept of how we are developing up in the hillsides,” he disclosed.
The Junior Minister further pointed out that the matter comes down to regulations as there are areas that can be better monitored: “I was on the Planning Authority Board for five years, so I know a bit about what the legislation currently says in respect to building, planning and so on; and there are some areas that we need to tighten up to ensure that people do the right things.”
“One of the challenges that I know that the Building Authority has is that there are not sufficient inspectors to go out to ensure that once you have approval for building a structure you comply with whatever was approved. Somebody might get approval to do a two story apartment building, but they end up building a three story apartment building and structurally things may change in terms of the slope and so on,” the Junior Minister explained.
Hon. Christian mentioned that the matter has reached a point where the legislation will have to be amended to implement the necessary change: “I believe that we may need to go back and make some amendments to the current legislation to make provisions for enforcement, for fines, and further aspects to ensure that people do the right thing.”
The Legislator further noted that the subject of planning falls within the Premier’s purview and he opined that the discussion would be entertained, “I think we have had some discussion along those lines already– as you would know planning comes under the Premier’s Office, and so we will be having some discussions on that. I am hopeful that before the end of the next cycle of elections that we could have those [legislative upgrades and changes]in place,” Hon. Christian added.