By Demion McTair. Updated 10:19 a.m., Thursday, April 22, 2021, Atlantic Standard Time (GMT-4).
The Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is considering the internal migratory implications of the current La Soufriere volcanic eruptions on evacuees from the Red Zone.
Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said Thursday on NBC radio “we are already beginning to identify parcels of land”.
He was responding to a question about whether the government is considering opening new lands for red zone evacuees who may opt to settle in the south of the country, as opposed to returning to the north which has been devastated by the volcanic eruptions.
The prime minister said “some would move and some wouldn’t move,” referring to red zone evacuees who have been displaced.
“The bulk of people are going to go back in the Red Zone,” Dr. Gonsalves said, adding “you build your house there, you’re accustomed to it, you like the community, and so on and so forth.” He said that different people will have different things in their heads.
As it relates to those who may want to relocate to areas south of the red zone, Dr. Gonsalves said that considerations about the potential migratory patterns have been discussed publicly, citing an earlier discussion which he had with Professor Richard Robertson about migratory patterns internally after the 1902 and 1979 eruptions.
Several new settlements in the south were created after the La Soufriere eruptions of 1902 and 1979.
After the 1979 eruption, the communities of Roseau, Sharpes, and Glen were built up.
After the 1902 eruption, the communities of Campden Park, Clare Valley, and Rose Bank, among others were built up. In Campden Park, there is an area called Carib Village which got its name from the people who settled there.
The prime minister said relocations will have implications for lands, housing, education, and health delivery.
By way of example, the prime minister referenced the eastern community of Colonaire where there are still State lands, saying that if some people are relocated there, “you are going to need, depending on how many, the primary school will have to be larger. The primary school at the moment has about 100 students because it is a small … the village at the moment in Colonaire is small”.
“If you get lands in Byrea, you’ll have to expand the clinics more,” he said, by way of example.
He also flaunted the idea of high-rise buildings for residential purposes, saying that there will be “new and different ways in which things have to be done because if you don’t have land space on the ground, you have space in the air”.
“So there are all of these questions which we have to find the appropriate answer in the circumstances,” he added.
The prime minister said, however, that “we don’t have a situation as in Montserrat where areas have become a complete wasteland, as professor Robertson said”. We don’t have that situation here. What we have here is a different situation, he said.
Currently, more than 13,000 people have been displaced because of the explosive volcanic eruptions which began on April 9, 2021.
According to the April 21 update from the National Emergency Management Organization – NEMO, more than 6,200 of those displaced are in State shelters.