Health concerns raised over illegal settlers
A designated fishing beach at Prospect in Portland is now overrun by informal settlers who have constructed houses on that property on the outskirts of the parish capital, Port Antonio, with neither sanitary conveniences nor piped water.
The informal settlement, which has been allowed to grow since 2001, has raised serious health concerns among business operators along the commercial strip who are fearful that the questionable health practices of the squatters could not only endanger the environment, but also could have serious implications on the future of their businesses.
"The population on that beach has grown from 12 fishermen (fisherfolk) to approximately 120 persons during the last 10 years," said Basil Henry, a bar operator along the Folly strip at Prospect.
He added: "And with no sanitary convenience (toilet), persons just simply do as they please, urinating anywhere and dumping faeces in plastic bags and burying it under the sand. There are also reports of persons defecating in holes along the beach area. And yet with all that is happening, the powers that be continue to turn a blind eye on the situation."
NEEDS IMMEDIATE ATTENTION
Yesterday The Gleaner visited the area, but several fishermen, who admitted that the situation needs immediate attention, as far worse is taking place, were reluctant to go on record.
They pointed out that sexual activities, including prostitution, occur nightly along the beach, which is further compounded by the selling of narcotics.
"They are selling ganja, crack cocaine, and sexual enhancement pills on this beach," said one of the fishermen, who requested anonymity.
"This activity takes place anywhere between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m., and prominent persons are involved in the selling and trafficking of drugs. We are fearful for our lives, and about two months ago a bar tender was murdered at her bar on this property. Everybody knows what is taking place, but people are afraid to talk to the police," he further said.
And while the plight of the fisher-folk appears to be worsening, a commercial concrete building is being built along that fishing beach, which is now nearing completion, under the nose of the Portland Municipal Corporation, formerly the Portland Parish Council- raising serious questions from residents and passersby as to how such a structure was sanctioned by the Corporation.
This is unbelievable - Mayor Thompson
Mayor of Port Antonio Paul Thompson says he is baffled as to how a settlement was allowed to grow at a fishing village in Prospect, Portland, without the municipal corporation intervening in the illegal construction of board houses and commercial buildings at the location.
"This is unbelievable," said Thompson.
"I am shocked and disturbed by this new discovery. First it was the uncollected garbage situation in Port Antonio - resulting in rats overrunning the town, and now people are defecating in scandal bags and depositing it into the sea or burying it under sand. I seem to have inherited a lot of critical and civic breaches on the part of residents, which was allowed to blossom overnight. I will be launching an immediate investigation into the allegations, which if proven to be true, will be addressed swiftly," he added.