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Sugar industry must recognise need for affordable water - Heaven

Published:Friday | April 1, 2016 | 12:00 AMChristopher Serju

The sugar cane industry needs to wake up to the harsh realities of the impact of climate change and make long-term, sustained plans for the provision of adequate, affordable water if it is to survive.

That is the view of Ambassador Derick Heaven, former executive chairman of the Sugar Industry Authority.

"In Clarendon and St Catherine, where Monymusk (sugar factory) gets is cane, you need an efficient irrigation system. Is there enough water? Yes. Is the water efficiently managed and distributed? Resoundingly, no," said Heaven as he addressed a Gleaner Editors' Forum at the company's North Street, downtown Kingston office on Wednesday.

He said that in addition to inadequate infrastructure to facilitate proper irrigation of cane in the southern plains, poor agricultural practices have led to the destruction of watershed areas.

"Very little attention is being paid to what happens in the watersheds, the reservoir for collecting the water, so that when rain falls, it doesn't go to sea and carry the top soil with it, but it goes into the natural reservoirs that the good Lord has provided, which is the aquifer ... ," Heaven lamented.

"And I don't hear any emphasis to do what was done in the past with the Yallahs Valley Land Authority and the Christiana Land Authority, which was designed to increase production and productivity, but in a manner that protected the watershed."


National priority


Heaven, who has served as chairman for the Council of the International Sugar Organization, pointed out that while the availability of water on an ad hoc basis directly affected the fortunes of cane

farmers in Clarendon and St Catherine, addressing the issues of climate change and water availability should become a national priority.

"I have to drive through the Junction road (in St Mary) often, and when I look upon the hillsides now, nothing is there, and when you look down on the river, nothing is there either," he said.

"So that as far as Clarendon and St Catherine are concerned on the plains, there is a responsibility to make sure (they have water). You can't ask the farmers to deal with that aspect. That has to be a national issue."