Future of Montserrat

1 January 2017

The island of Montserrat is situated upon an underwater volcano created by a destructive plate boundary, with the volcanos peak protruding from the south side of the island by the name of Chances Peak in an area entitled Soufriere Hills (in the Caribbean). For 350 years the volcano had remained dormant; however a few weeks ago, Chances Peak became active again and began to emit dust and ash – warning signs that an eruption was almost imminent.

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On July 20th 1995 (yesterday) the anticipated eruption occurred, producing numerous quandaries for the surviving residents of Montserrat. Montserratians will experience the social impacts of the eruption; these may be the most direct of all the predicaments they encounter and therefore the most challenging to face. Since the volcanos on the island are perceived as unpredictable, the inhabitants are fearful of another eruption.

Though they are presently being transferred to a temporary safe region, it is unknown whether a subsequent eruption would be more severe than the first and raise the figures for the injured or killed (19) unnecessarily. Hence the many who have left the island to reside (maybe permanently) in neighbouring islands, the UK or the USA, however this only applies to the populace that possess sufficient funds to do so. The safe regions are reportedly extremely crowded; consequently, with the low sanitation levels, the spread of disease will accelerate.

Also, farmers are unable to farm due to constricted land and the devastating environmental impacts of the volcano. If the more wealthy (we can assume the more educated) no longer choose to reside in the island, a ‘brain drain’ will transpire, leaving farmers and communities with small businesses that rely on tourism on Montserrat, though if eruptions cease and the volcano becomes dormant again, life for the farmers could improve as over time the soil of the area would be very fertile.

As a result of the ‘brain drain’ there would be an absence of teachers; therefore the children on Montserrat would not be able to learn for a period of time. Moreover, a deficiency of doctors and hospital personnel would leave many people in need of medical help unattended to. Furthermore, persons already residing in the north of the island would have to compromise with the new displaced people; this may cause some feuds over pace etc…

The GDP and GNP of Montserrat are predicted to face dramatic cutbacks due simply to the loss of people on the island, and the lack of income from farmers who do not have access to land they can farm on, or businesses that have been destroyed – which is common as many companies were positioned in Plymouth – a city that was completely covered by ash and soon after finished off by deadly pyroclastic flows. If the GDP and GNP do fall, citizens who have decided to stay will be significantly poorer, and therefore may not be able to pay taxes.

In addition, a vast sum would have to be paid in damages to property and the building of temporary displaced peoples camps. Due to ash clouds, airports would be closed down, and airlines would have to pay massive amounts in lost revenues. Conversely, industries for other forms of transport (such as shipping companies) would benefit, as passengers search for alternatives to flying. The frequency of imports and exports would not decrease massively as a mere 1% of trade in the UK occurs on flights.

Also, (elaborating on the point of aid given by other countries above) since the Montserrat was included in the Federal Colony of British Leeward Islands, the UK may offer some financial support to help improve the islands economy if the damage to it is serious enough. Additionally, the volcano has had colossal impacts on the environment (both positive and negative). Firstly, the ash has suffocated many of the flora and fauna, furthermore, the pyroclastic flow and lahars have killed all life (excluding human) within a 2km radius.

Carbon dioxide emitted from the volcano is predicted by scientists to contribute to the greenhouse effect, sulphur dioxide expected to cause environmental issues as sulphur in the stratosphere is the main cause of acid rain. Nonetheless, as a result of two thirds of the islands population predicted to leave the island) the flora and fauna may flourish as there will be less human activity and settlements, leaving nature to itself without interference from machines, factories, and other forms of pollution.

The land and soil affected by the volcano will also become fertile, which will, in turn, enhance the growth of plants and trees after an amount of time, and allow them to regrow. The slopes of Chances peak after the eruption are reportedly steeper than before, which will promote growth of delicate, and rare plants can grow with the protection of the slope. The volcano is also expected to alter the weather around Montserrat, causing rain, thunder and lighting.

Sea temperatures have reportedly risen, killing some species that rely on specific living conditions, also silting in rivers or lakes has forced boats to stop navigating them as the depth is insufficient. On political terms, and elaborating on the point made above concerning tax and its correspondence with the lack of people on the island, the amount of tax received by the government would decrease too, resulting in a government prone to corruption. Moreover, the government may not be considered fit to run the country by its people, and may be voted out.

The government of Montserrat may be forced to relinquish their independency, and amalgamate with another country to become part of their nation (a plausible example would be Montserrat re-joining Britain). On the topic of short term needs, a few that exist are food and drink, and temporary residency areas. Since the eruption would have most likely demolished many of the populace’s properties, and belongings, they will need an alternative place to stay such as the safe zone which has been arranged in the north of the island and is one third of the islands size, compressing hundreds into a tiny space.

The government would also be burdened with the task of providing sufficient food and drink for the residents as they would have no means of income, or a market area to buy their own. Medical aid has also become necessary, however not as much as expected as (thankfully) most who occupied the most affected areas had been evacuated before the eruption. Long term necessities will help sustain lives devoid of poverty and hunger for the people of Montserrat. An example of a need which will help the populace in the ‘long run’ is loans to restart businesses and companies citizens had lost in the pyroclastic flows or ash.

Furthermore, the government or a country aiding Montserrat could assist by building an early detection system or research facility, to identify when future eruptions may occur, therefore allowing time to prepare. MEDC’s like the USA or the UK might be reviewing plans to assist through the means of creating rehabilitation programmes, or even allowing the people of Montserrat to apply for permanent residency; this would solve the problem or relocating people to live their lives in a safe location.

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