Columns

When we lack confidence

Michael BURKE

Thursday, July 10, 2014    

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One of the effects of neo-colonialism in general and neo-slavery in particular is a lack of confidence that is holding us back. And although there is a general lack of confidence, those who suffer the most from this problem are the first to think that those who indeed have confidence are totally insane.

Nevertheless, this lack of confidence is an islandwide epidemic that needs to be addressed quickly. We are in the middle of a very bad drought. We have had bad droughts before, and during those times just about everyone had a very creative solution. The problem is that as soon as the rains come, everyone forgets about solving the problem until the next drought.

Likewise, we only speak about what went wrong to cause flooding when the floods come, but during droughts very few people speak about cleaning the blocked gullies.

There was a time when Kingston Harbour would turn red after heavy rain. National Hero Norman Manley mentioned it in one of his speeches in the House of Representatives in the early 1950s. This goes to show that soil erosion caused by digging trees out from the roots has been with us for a long time.

The only reason that the harbour does not change colour today is because it is so polluted that it does not show.

In 1983, a pipeline was constructed between the Yallahs River in Western St Thomas and Mona dam in St Andrew. Things went well until some coffee experts from abroad came here and deforested a part of the Blue Mountains. They had the mistaken belief that coffee could not be planted unless trees had been cut down.

At that time, the river had less water, a factor that affected the level in the Mona dam. Further, the cutting down of the trees scorched the earth, which meant that the water in the aquifer dried up even more quickly than before.

Look at what Jamaica goes through when our Government tries to sell our products abroad. The buyer demands a certain amount of product, way in excess of what we can produce. They then tell our Government that our people know nothing about how to produce the product and that they will not buy from us unless their experts come here and show us how.

However, the Government of the day should have insisted that no matter what sort of expert advice they thought they came with, they were not to cut down any trees. If, after being told that they decided to pack up and leave, then so be it.

Initially, the pipeline between the Yallahs River and the Mona dam had no need for a pump. However, it appears that a lot of foreign experts had come to Jamaica and said that the only way that water could reach the Mona dam from the Yallahs River was by a pump.

Today, the water is pumped because it is not sufficient to build up the level of pressure that is needed to move it from almost sea level (after the water has come down the mountains from Mavis Bank and Cambridge Hill) up to the Mona dam through the hills. We can thank the so-called foreign coffee experts for this.

In the 1980s, the late Michael Manley said the Yallahs pipeline was one of the best things that had been achieved by the Jamaica Labour Party Government led by Edward Seaga. It was a group of Jamaican experts who suggested a system of built-up pressure from gravity-fed water.

Speaking at a monthly forum organised by the People's National Party at the then Oceana Hotel in downtown Kingston, Manley chided the Government for not congratulating the group of Jamaican engineers who said it was possible to get water from the Yallahs River to the Mona dam without a pump. Have those engineers ever been recognised? Did any of them ever get national honours?

I recall a discussion with Van Hitchener (one of Jamaica's best physics teachers) in 1987. He said that all that was needed was for the pipes to be placed right around Jamaica and then from north to south. The pressure alone would carry the water over the hills. Please understand that there is no real water shortage in Jamaica. What we have is a lack of access to water by some people during times of drought.

What is needed today is for all Jamaicans to volunteer to lay pipes around and across Jamaica. No matter what the profession, everyone should give a day or two a week to doing this. We should also be serious about getting each Jamaican to plant a tree, particularly those that grow quickly. That way we would get water to our farmers and cool down the country from the shade provided by the trees.

It seems that only Manley could get our people to volunteer to do manual work as many Jamaicans still do on National Labour Day (May 23). Can we find someone else who can motivate people in this way? It is certainly needed now. Can the messenger-shooters get someone to motivate people, since they do not like those who come with powerful messages?

The oil crisis started in 1973. And from that time onwards we have been hearing about all sorts of alternativee energy. I daresay the only one that has been done by JPS is windmill energy, although people have privately installed solar systems at their homes and businesses. And every time the big oil dealers lowered their prices we dropped our hands.

Today, the availability of oil for fuel is somewhat less than before because of a number of international factors, 9/11 and its aftermath being the major one.

We moved in circles in dealing with crime and violence. One response was the Gun Court that was established in the 1970s. But we should have addressed the whole matter of family life as a major programme. It is this lack of confidence in ourselves that has caused us not to go forward with the speed that we should have. It is as if our nation is a car engine with dull spark plugs.

ekrubm765 @yahoo.com

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