Fri | Sep 17, 2021

Land of fire and drought

Published:Saturday | July 19, 2014 | 12:00 AM


For the last few weeks, the news has been punctuated by instances of bush fires getting out of control, National Water Commission (NWC) taking drastic action to prevent illegal water connections, and weather reports of this being the hottest summer in history.

Jamaica is experiencing one of its worst droughts in years. However, I still drive on the roads and see broken water mains washing the asphalt with precious potable water and hear advertisements for water parties. Where is the NWC in this equation?

Many farmers have lost houses and crops to fire, but they still feel the slash-and-burn method is the most effective way to control overgrowth and clear land. The Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB) has knowledge of bush fires occurring in the same place each year. Where is the public education on fire hazards and how to control fires to avoid major damage?

We all know that the JFB has limited resources and their not being able to work effectively affects everyone. The farm fires in St Elizabeth have resulted in increased prices and scarcity of onions, scallion, thyme, bell peppers, tomatoes and other local produce. Bearing in mind that Jamaica has no agro-processing plant to store vegetables in the time of glut, this results in imports in times of want.


As for the NWC, all activities that require large amounts of water that are non-essential should be of concern. The Mona Dam is running dry but is filled with silt and in need of repairs. The silt can be sold to gardeners and farmers as topsoil, because that's what it is. This drought is the perfect time to do repairs to the dam.

Also, there needs to be an active plan to harvest rainwater effectively islandwide. It can be done, as areas like St Ann, St Mary and Manchester have been living off tank water for years.

Broken water pipes need to be fixed in hours or days, not weeks or months. Without water, we are crippled.

We cannot continue to bury our heads in the sand. We need to take actions to alleviate the effects of such harsh circumstances.