Paving Our Parks

 Commentary: Paving Our Parks

Originally published in AZP News/Azlan Mohammed on August 12, 2022.

The sun rises over the Queen’s Park Savannah.

A WALK-through Port of Spain, Newtown, and Woodbrook can take you to several beautiful green spaces which we call parks and squares. These are all in danger of disappearing to be replaced by paved areas and buildings.

 Two examples to support this statement are the fact that approximately three acres of the Queens Park Savannah are now paved and a building is being constructed on Adam Smith Square on Carlos Street.

Our forefathers understood the importance of green spaces. Many of us have childhood memories of playing in Tamarind Square on the way to and from school or playing in Adam Smith Square or liming at horse racing in the Queens Park Savannah.  These are just three examples of the number of green spaces which must be preserved for future generations to enjoy.

Trinidad Express story (September 9, 1999, by the late Terry Joseph) quoted former minister of works in the United National Congress (UNC) Government Carlos John admitting that he decided on his own and without government consultation to pave three acres of the Savannah. This was done in preparation for the Independence Day parade so that the members of the army would not have to march in mud.

The minister boldly advised that because of the urgency of the job, it was not put out for tender but did not share the cost of the job with the public at the time.

Former environmentalist and National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) government minister Eden Shand staged a one-man protest and was almost buried with gravel.

 Olga J Mavrogordato in an article writes: “The Savannah is listed as one of the biggest parks in the Western Hemisphere and also by the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest roundabout in the world.”

In 60 short years, citizens have allowed the gradual encroachment on the lungs of Port of Spain. Now the Government has trained its construction guns on Adam Smith Square and we don’t know which other green spaces. Barbados has Garrison Savannah, London has Hyde Park, New York has Central Park. We must ensure that our parks and green spaces are preserved.

If we do nothing it will be a matter of time before the plans for the savannah are reclaimed from the shelf.  Here’s what was planned for the savannah as revealed by former minister of culture Joan Yuille-Williams: “a below the ground level facility, with only the entrance and exits visible from the streets, it will have a seating capacity for up to 18,000 persons and will house a museum, offices, training rooms, studios, Carnival offices, event management rooms, security booths and parking spaces for 3,500 vehicles. A ten-tiered retractable roof will provide for all weather conditions to protect patrons.

“Construction will be done by the state-owned Urban Development Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago (Udecott) and carried out on a 24/7 shift, once labour is available so that the facility could be completed by 2008.”

This is an interesting concept but if we cannot manage surface flooding, how are we going to manage potential underground flooding?

The American writer and novelist Sai Zhenzhu or Pearl S Buck is credited with the statement: “When good people in any country cease their vigilance and struggle, then evil men prevail.”

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