Residents of several communities in eastern Westmoreland have expressed grave concern about the severe cases of coastal erosion.
According to Havelan Hunnigan, chairman of the Jamaica Fishermans Cooperative Union, the landscape in Culloden and Whitehouse and sections of Belmont has changed drastically.
He said the property which houses the New Hope Primary and Junior High School in Whitehouse has been severely affected and needs to be addressed with urgency.
"I went to the New Hope Primary and Junior High School as a boy, and the sea was about 45 feet offshore from where it is today. Now, the sea is almost in the road. This is really serious, and I want something to be done about it, but nobody is really paying attention. We have had personnel from the parish council and NEPA (National Environment and Planning Agency) who have been brought here to look at it, but to date, nothing has been done," Hunnigan told Western Focus.
Principal of the school, Monica Foster, also expressed concern for the safety of her students, adding that it took a lot of effort from her and her staff to prevent the children from going into the sea.
"We have to spend the first month of the new school year to educate them and guide them as to the danger. Crocodiles and the sharks come in also and we have put up big, visible signs along the coastline warning them not to go beyond a certain point," she said.
"I joined the staff September 1, 1990, and I can date back the erosion to Hurricane Gilbert in 1988 when a big piece of the land went out to sea. Lots of grape trees and palm trees lined the shore, and all of those are now gone. As a matter of fact, a monument delineating the property boundary of the school which the Ministry of Land and Environment came out looking for some time ago was also taken by the sea," she said.
Foster said representatives of the Ministry of Education and NEPA visited the school in 2012 to see first-hand what was happening and to craft a suitable plan of action. She added that while she waits for this action plan to come into effect, she is asking for boulders to be placed there to cut the speed of the waves and lessen the impact of further erosion.
When contacted, Councillor of the Whitehouse Division of the Westmoreland Parish Council, Valdence Gifford, said the problem had already been acknowledged by the relevant authorities who had visited the communities in order to make strategic plans to combat the issue.
"The New Hope Primary and Junior High School in Whitehouse is of great concern as other properties close to the school have been severely eroded, and it is just a matter of time before the school is affected. With July being second month of the hurricane season, I am hoping that corrective measures will soon be implemented," said Gifford.