Tue | Mar 20, 2018

Southaven residents harvesting rainwater amid challenges

Published:Thursday | June 4, 2015 | 12:00 AMPaul H. Williams
A parched farming plot at Southaven, St Thomas. It is not under cultivation because of the drought in the parish.
Paul Watson, president of the Southaven Citizens' Association, stands beside a rainwater harvesting pond as he speaks with Rural Xpress about the challenges the community is facing.

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Southaven is a sprawling seaside housing estate near Yallahs in St Thomas. Its development started in the 1960s, but there are still many empty lots, and a few unfinished houses.

On paper, and in concept, it looks like a place where you would build your dream house - and some people certainly have built theirs there - but for many residents, the dream is fast becoming a horror story.

Since the developer died some years ago, plot owners have been left on their own. The well-laid out streets are in an advanced state of disrepair, and the citizens said they have been going through a water crisis since 2012. In a parish with so many water sources, they have little or no water.

When Rural Xpress visited on Monday, our team spoke with Paul Watson, president of the citizens' association. "The irony of the situation is that they took our water and sent it to Kingston and St Andrew, and we can't get any water, and they want to take more," Watson said incredulously.

He and the other citizens are not prepared to be silent about the matter. "We as residents, we want to go to Parliament, go to the Government to find out what redress we can get," Watson said. They want sufficient water for agriculture and domestic use.


seeking redress


Watson spoke about the inconvenience of having to bathe from a pan, and said if the Government does not intervene in the matter, the citizens will have to find other forms of redress.

"We might have to find some other means of getting redress," he stated. "We don't know what yet, because we are not violent people. We want to do something right because nobody is listening."

The most contentious element of their plight is that most of the National Water Commission (NWC) pipes are disconnected because residents refuse to pay high water bills when the only thing they get from the lines most of the times is air. "We are not willing to pay for what we don't get," Watson declared, "So we call it National Water and Air Commission."

He told Rural Xpress, "We have written letters upon letters to NWC's head office. They promised that they would come and investigate the thing, and every day, you see people coming here to cut off people's water (pipes)."

But the citizens, many of them returning residents, are not giving up hope. They have been embarking on many community development projects, trying to mitigate their situation with their own efforts. One of the projects is a farm plot, which is watered by rain harvested in a huge man-made pond.

It is called the Southaven Environmental Rehabilitation Projects, funded by the Global Environmental Facility Small Grants Programme, implemented by the United Nations Development Programme. Situated on three acres of land, it has been in operation since 2013. They have already reaped a successful crop of sweet peppers and onions.

But the severe drought facing the parish is affecting operations. They cannot plant a second crop because the water level in the pond is very low and they don't want to use treated NWC water - the little that they get. The pond can store 550,000 gallons of run-offs from the road.

The community has the potential for greater development, and many activities are being planned to raise funds. However, the poor road conditions and the water shortage factor are compromising the citizens' efforts. They are now looking forward to the international surfing contest, which takes place by the sea on July 25 and 26. The wind in the area is ideal for surfing.