Chik-V relapse! - Communities return to garbage pile-ups and mosquito breeding sites months after $multimillion clean-up
Five months after the island embarked on a multimillion-dollar national health clean-up exercise at the height of the chikungunya epidemic, several of the areas targeted are now back in the same state, if not worse, covered with mounds of garbage and bushes.
The clean-up programme, which was led by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller in her South West St Andrew constituency, was an effort to remove garbage and clean gullies which were prime breeding spots for mosquitoes spreading the chik-V.
Almost $200 million dollars was allocated to members of parliament and parish councils across the island to implement the programme.
However, when a Sunday Gleaner news team visited the Payne Land community off Spanish Road in the prime minister's constituency, there was no indication that the money spent had brought a significant change, as the gully that was cleaned with the assistance of Simpson Miller and the minister of health was once again filled with raw sewage, garbage and mosquitoes.
"You can't get rid of this," said one resident, as our news team queried the source of the raw sewage which ran along Spanish Town Road into the gully.
"Waste water run from the houses in the lane because the people don't have no proper sewage run-off, so it just run on the road; this a pure disease," said the resident.
In another section of the community, residents told our news team that the area is choking in garbage.
"Sometimes we see all some car just drive up and throw garbage over the open land, and because of that, the place full up a hog and mosquito. And when we tell people not to throw dem garbage over there, nobody listens," charged one resident.
In nearby west Kingston, a gully that leads from the Tivoli Gardens community to Marcus Garvey Drive seems to have become a dumping ground as it was overflowing with garbage. This despite a clean-up programme led by the Jamaica Defence Force last October, which saw more than 300 tons of solid waste removed from the gully.
In the St Catherine community of Old Braeton, where the Portmore Municipal Council had focused most of its clean-up efforts, community members raised concern that enough was not being done to eradicate the mosquito nuisance in the community.
"Over the open land still have a barrage a plastic bottles even though the garbage truck come round more regular. But it come like the mosquito dem turn up more, because from the time them do the cleaning over here nobody come spray the place again," said Allan Douglas, a resident of the community.
Douglas said that while the chik-V epidemic had subsided in his community the mosquito scourge had not.
"We know say a Portmore this and mosquito plenty but is the first from me live over here me a see so much mosquito, and it seem like because chik-V gone the authorities no really a pree over here again," charged Douglas.
However, acting mayor of Portmore, Leon Thomas, denied that the council had suspended mosquito fogging since the departure of chik-V from the community.
"What happens is that there are seasons when there is a mosquito upsurge in Portmore, and while persons think we should be spraying mosquitoes every day, we can't do that. We have to spray in a cyclical schedule. But we have been in discussions with the Ministry of Health and they should be giving me the schedule ... when all the communities will be fogged," said Thomas.
He argued that the vector clean-up initiated last October is still in motion.
"We still continue to clean drains and there are some parts in Greater Portmore that we intend to enter soon to remove old appliances. We still continue the process because, despite the fact that the chik-V has abated, we don't want any other disease to take its place," said Thomas.
However, town clerk at the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation (KSAC), Robert Hill, told our news team that there is no more money to continue the clean-up exercise in the Corporate Area as the allocated funds had been fully utilised.
"The allocation of the $5 million that was made to the KSAC was used to conduct clean-up and training in all critical communities. Drains in west and central Kingston, along with Southside, were all cleaned. So while we continue to do public education to encourage persons to dispose of their garbage in a responsible way, that vector clean-up project has ended," said Hill.
He admitted that the condition of the gully at Industrial Terrace is appalling.
"I sent technical officers to view the gully a few weeks ago, and the pictures I saw, I was aghast, because it was thoroughly cleaned less than six months ago and, right now, it's like it was never touched.
"It's very frustrating because we don't know what else to do to get residents to be more responsible with garbage disposal, because even if we say we are going to levy a charge against those who throw garbage in the gully, we don't know who we would levy it against, because we can't put police on the ground and we can't lock up an entire community," said Hill.