Wed | Aug 16, 2017

Hell at Hellshire

Published:Tuesday | February 23, 2016 | 2:00 AM
This July 15, 2015 photo clearly shows signs of the erroding beach at Hellshire. It’s time to take action against beach erosion, writes Patria-Kaye Aarons.

I'm not diving knee-deep into the election pool this week. Except to say that whoever wins come Thursday, I would like you to have some focus placed on environmental issues. Saving our beaches and recycling isn't just mumbo-jumbo for the tree-hugging fanatics. No beach, no tourism, no money, big problem. More garbage, more mosquitoes, more ZIKV (and whatever else those tiny vampires bring).

And whoever loses, I would like you to perpetually put some serious fire under the winners' tails and ensure that our sea doesn't swallow up our sand, and that some forward planning goes into garbage management.

I don't recall seeing any of the two major political parties demonstrating a real appreciation for environmental issues in their published manifestos. What happens next to my beloved Hellshire is one issue on which I would have loved to make a decision on who gets my vote.

Sunday-morning fried fish and festival from Aunt May's in Hellshire is a cure-all for everything. No matter how stressful my week was, there's something about the meal and the view that comes with it that embody the 'No Problem' Jamaica we often advertise.

I often cool down the pepper from the escoveitch sauce with a water coconut from 'Jelly Man', a vendor who is usually stationed on the sand just behind Aunt May. On my last visit, to my shock, Jelly Man wasn't there. Not because he didn't want to be there, but because no longer is there any sand for him on which to set up shop.

Also missing from the regular scenery were the men giving massages on the beach and the horses that give rides to children up and down the sand. None were present.

HAPPENING FAST

I saw it coming. We have all heard the stories about Jamaica's beach erosion, but I don't know that we take it as seriously as we should. You know the deterioration is happening fast when you can see the erosion with your naked eye. In the space of three months, I saw an entire section of beach completely disappear. And it isn't slowing down. It was horror-movie scary to me; to see land slip away literally before my eyes.

For more than five years, I've been extremely concerned. I've asked Aunt May and other vendors on the beach what's the position and, every time I enquire, the best they can tell me is: "We've had meetings, but nothing nuh happen yet."

Well, something has happened. While we were talking and meeting and strategising and planning, the beach is disappearing. Daily.

Why are we so fatalistic? Why are we so reactive?

Saving Hellshire is about giving Jelly Man and the masseuses and horse owners back their jobs. The shops are in danger as well. The vendors have put in crude, temporary solutions to slow the erosion, but they won't hold up. These fishing families stand to lose more than anyone else. Who are they lobbying? How often are they pestering NEPA for results? There's an entire Ministry of Climate Change. Who are they holding accountable for finding a fix?

Apparently, J$176m was needed to save Hellshire beach, and this was known from 2011. Is that fix still an option now that the erosion is this far gone? Is there a plan to move the shops? If so, when? And when will the vendors be told about it?

Is there anything we can do to save other beaches from becoming Hellshire? Are we delaying on decisions for those too?

Somebody needs to say something! Do something! Make us feel like you understand the severity and we aren't just sitting around waiting for the devil and the deep blue sea to eat up another Jamaican treasure. It's time to take action.

- Patria-Kaye Aarons is a television presenter and confectioner. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and findpatria@yahoo.com, or tweet @findpatria.