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Filthy beaches - St James Health Department leads clean-up programme after public complaints

Published:Thursday | July 21, 2016 | 12:00 AMAdrian Frater & Christopher Thomas
Burger King’s management and staff from one of the company’s Western Jamaica outlets successfully took on the task of cleaning up the popular Dump Up Beach in downtown Montego Bay recently.

Instead of serving up the usual fun and frolic, many of the beaches in Montego Bay, St James, are seemingly poised to become 'summer spoilers' this year, based on the increasing number of persons complaining about their filthy state.

"Why are the beaches so filthy?" a visitor to the island was recently overheard asking at a popular Montego Bay public beach.

"In all my many years of coming to Jamaica, I have never seen it like this ... the water is dirty and the sand is not even white again."

The sentiments expressed by the visitor is not uncommon, in recent months, many locals, especially those who use the public beaches, have been complaining about the filthy state of the beaches and in some cases contaminated waste flowing into the water.

While official of the St James Parish Council have been somewhat evasive in answering questions on the issue, the St James Health Department (StJHD) has acknowledged that there is a problem. In fact, Lennox Wallace, the chief public health inspector for the parish, recently told The Gleaner that his department is now making a major effort to clean up the beaches and educate the public on proper waste disposal.



"What contributes sometimes to some of the beaches falling outside of basic public-health requirements is that the North Gully (in Montego Bay) needs regular cleaning and maintenance," said Wallace. "Whatever happens, even up to 10 miles outside of the city, garbage and sewage will run into this drain (North Gully)."

"We have some persons who are employed by the St James Parish Council, who are doing maintenance in the North Gully ... but it is still unacceptable, what we need in there is heavy equipment," said Wallace. "We also need a wholesale cultural change ... what we are seeing is the negative impacts, where persons who do not have any self-value are throwing garbage into the drains."

In addition to the impact of the improper disposal of garbage on the beaches, Wallace said the wanton lack of social responsibility is also creating a rodent problem in the city, which his department is now seeking funds from the Tourism Enhancement Fund to address.

"I have submitted a budget of J$5 million to the Tourism Enhancement Fund to carry out a rodent control programme in the city," said Wallace. "... it is as a consequence of the indiscriminate disposal in the drains, which would have washed down to the same beaches that has caused the rodent infestation."

However, cognisant of the fact that the cleaning up the beaches and the rodent eradication project will not fix the situation, Wallace said his department is also pursuing an educational campaign, which is aimed at getting residents to discard their garbage in a responsible way,

"Through our health education unit, we are going into the communities, the different facilities, and the churches, to spread the word that indiscriminate disposal of refuse causes a plethora of health issues," said Wallace. "We are hopeful that this measure will have the desired impact."

Within recent times, both the St James Parish Council and the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MBCCI) have launched several initiatives to keep Montego Bay clean. However, based on situations such as what is unfolding on the beaches, it would appear that residents are not buying into the ambitious initiatives, which includes the MBCCI's 'My MoBay' campaign.