Wednesday, April 18, 2007

billion dollar bridge

Usually I don't meddle too much directly in Antiguan politics as there are way too many people doing that as it is. This time the story is just too good to ignore. First of all, I have to clearly say that everything I am about to describe has come to me third hand, and so far I am unable to verify if the story is actually true. Whether it is or not doesn’t take away the fact that it's a great story.
Last Saturday we were sitting down for a big breakfast with several people and one of the people said that she had been told by a house guest that a politician was planning on building a bridge from Antigua to Barbuda. "WHAT!!!!!???", I said. I told them that their house guest must have heard wrong because nobody could be so silly to think that it was possible or even viable. It must have been a joke or more likely they must have misheard. She said that the house guest had heard it on the radio and that the politician had also said something about the "fact" that before humans had arrived on the islands, the islands were joined and deer were able to walk freely between the connected land mass. This nearly had me rolling on the floor in hysterics. I checked my watch for the date but April 1st was weeks before. Surely this politician was speaking about the offshore Guiana Island with its deer. The island is so close to the mainland that conceivably a bridge could be built and once upon a time the shallow section on the South West side could have allowed deer to pass between the two. My breakfast buddy agreed that her house guest must have heard wrong and the politician must have been speaking about Guiana and its deer. After all, with all the political debate and fervor surrounding Guiana Island a bridge would be something spoken about. Anyway days later, I find out that not only was there some truth to the story in the Antigua Sun newspaper, but it wasn't a joke either. The article didn't appear to mention anything about the deer and also didn't get into any proper debate about the possibility of the noble plans.
I think the Allan Stanford owned Antigua Sun dropped the ball on this story. There is so much to this story that could be written about that I am just gonna have to attempt to put a few thoughts down myself.
Lets first speak about the deer, but in doing so please let it be known that I have not found out if the politician did actually say anything about them. If not the following is just food for thought that you can chew over if you like. I am about to say something that may come as a big shock to some Antiguan readers. It may be so controversial that if I was not a proud Antiguan, I could be thrown off the island. Here goes: THE DEER ARE NOT INDIGENOUS. The word indigenous means native or originally from. In other words the deer we have in Antigua were not originally from here and were actually imported to the islands very recently in the historical scheme of things. The fallow deer is actually what environmentalists would call an alien species. Furthermore in the general scheme of things environmentally most alien species are regarded as being a negative strain on the local environment. Deer are seen as an extremely dangerous and destructive alien species to the indigenous plant life found on the area which they have either invaded or been brought to. It’s not that difficult to see that deer restrict the growth of plant life and there are hundreds of scientific articles and journals describing this. That’s another story, but the point is these deer were not originally found here and the indigenous people, the Arawak Indians, did not ever see them. The deer were imported long after the Europeans arrived here. A very good site for historical info is Look what they have to say about the deer.

"N A T I O N A L A N I M A L
The European Fallow Deer. (Dama dama dama)
Suitably, two deer are very prominent on our nation’s coat-of-arms. Deer do not live on any other island in the Eastern Caribbean, but they have thrived on Barbuda and Guiana Island (off the north coast of Antigua) for centuries. Deer are not indigenous to Antigua and Barbuda, but then no other mammal appears to be except perhaps a bat or two. It is thought European Fallow Deer were first introduced from Norway into England at the time of James I. It is not known exactly when the lessees of Barbuda, the Codringtons, introduced deer into Barbuda, but there were as many as a thousand head in 1740 and by 1827, they were a “nuisance” for they stripped the vegetation. In 1784, three thousand were reported, whereas a century later, there were only about 300. Deer were introduced onto Guiana Island sometime after 1811, when Bethell Codrington bought it for raising stock.
There has been some confusion as to whether the deer were Fallow or White-tailed, but it has now been ascertained they are Fallow. There are at least two varieties, black and common. At the beginning of this century the hunting license fee was œ1 for 3 deer, and the season was from January to April and from July to October. It is no longer common to see deer in Barbuda. There are quite a number of them on Guiana Island on the north coast of Antigua, which are carefully protected."

Let’s move onto the idea of constructing a bridge to Barbuda.
The worlds most powerful and richest country is considering a similar bridge and plan so that one of its smallest islands can be properly developed and its 8000 people can more easily travel back and forth. That bridge would span a slightly shorter distance of about half a mile. The water is much shallower between the mainland and the island there too but the cost of this bridge seems to be about US $315 million which the USA thinks is too much at the moment. If we consider that construction is always more expensive here and that the water is way deeper and the distance way longer…I can conservatively estimate that the cost of a bridge to Barbuda would be about US $16,380,000,000. Over Sixteen billion us dollars is possible to find these days I guess. The boys from Google each have found that kind of cash pretty quickly, but somehow I think that our little Gov will have a little more difficulty coming up with an idea similar to that of Larry Page and Sergey Brin.
All in all I think this story is filled with fantasy and humor and worth of more discussion. Whatever happens in the future with this bridge...let me just say that I would be the first person in line to drive over. The pic above shows why.