Karen Sudu, Gleaner Writer
FOR RESIDENTS of O'Meally district in St Catherine life has been far from a bed of rose.
In fact, they feel that their community has been neglected and want Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller to give special consideration to their plight.
"We nuh have nothing fe celebrate. Nobody nuh memba wi. The road bad and wi no have no water," an elderly male resident remarked.
For years, the rustic farming community has been plagued with massive landslides, resulting in graves being dislodged and loss of produce for farmers like 48-year-old Danny Wellington.
"Sometimes mi banana dem spoil because we can't get nuh transport because the road bad," he lamented, as he waited on a taxi to take his produce to the Bog Walk market.
Taxi operators like Sheldon Grant have been coming to their aid.
"Is three a wi run up here - me, mi brother and another driver. I do it for the people. Most drivers not coming up here, so is just three of us," explained Grant.
Even so, they are still challenged by lack of transportation and Cathleen Francis, a 49-year-old mother of 12, six of whom are in the normal school system, said the problem would only be alleviated if the roads were rehabilitated.
"The road want fix till it tired. No more taxi nah run up yah unless the road fix," she lamented, as she journeyed from her farm with a bag of breadfruit on her head.
"Mi can't carry the load fi go meet no taxi dung a Corner Road," she added.
Corner Road is the section of the community which has been hardest hit by the landslides and has been worsened by the recent heavy and persistent rains, which pelted the island late last month.
"This landslide started years ago when the Government fixed the road, and the poor construction without proper drainage eroded the soil and caused loss of property, because where that landslide started was a dance hall where a lot of community members use to hang out," Corrine Morgan, who was born in the community but lives elsewhere, told The Gleaner.
CRIES GO UNANSWERED
According to an irate Morgan, though citizens constantly highlighted the erosion of the road and the adjoining property, the St Catherine Parish Council, previous members of parliament (MPs) and current MP Gregory Mair have failed to answer the citizens' cries for help.
"The community constantly asked that the parish council to do something to prevent the water, which runs off the road on to the property and also to prevent further landslides, and to protect the road as well. These requests were ignored," she said.
Morgan added: "Mr Mair told the residents in no uncertain terms that there were more important issues to address than building retaining walls," she said.
LACK OF FUNDS
However, Mair told The Gleaner that lack of funds has prevented any remedial action.
"The challenge is that the wall is so massive, it would cost so much money and money is scarce right now in Government. That's the reality. To build that wall will take over $200 million. I have the design and everything," said Mair.
He indicated that several communities in his constituency were experiencing similar challenges like O'Meally.
"All the breakaways in North East St Catherine are as a result of bad management of storm water and rainwater by the National Works Agency. When they build walls, they guide the water towards one side and they don't have a basin to collect it … and after a few years, it undermines the foundation and the wall collapses," explained Mair.
Moreover, the recent rains have left the people of O'Meally in a state of uneasiness.
"See it deh," one resident said pointing to a vault dislodged from a family plot, which was tied with cable wires to a tree. "And see two more grave up deh so wey soon wash down too."
They told The Gleaner that they were living on the edge, as another heavy shower could result in further erosion, washing the vault down into a nearby river.
"We want the vault to take up so we can rebury the body, because if rain fall again is straight down into the Warm Spring, which leads into Rio Pedro in the Harkers Hall community, it gonna go, and people use the water and that will create a health hazard," Barbara Henry, a relative of the deceased, explained.