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Lack of water contributing to poverty — Baugh

BY BALFORD HENRY Observer senior reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, July 04, 2014    

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THE consistent lack of water across the island, and particularly in West Central St Catherine, is contributing to increased poverty in the area, says member of the Parliament Dr Kenneth Baugh.

Pointing to meteorological reports indicating a "dramatic fall-off" in rainfall in Jamaica over the past two years, Baugh said that it is apparent that the effect of climate change — the condition scientists say is characterised by more severe weather conditions than ever before — is already a reality.

"Although conclusions cannot be drawn from only two years, it is apparent to many of us who have been around for a long time that Jamaica, in general, is becoming far hotter and drier, with dry river beds and the cycles of drought becoming more frequent and of longer duration," he told the House of Representatives in his sectoral debate presentation on Tuesday.

He said that in his constituency, which is largely dependent on agriculture, including poultry rearing, and where the population is increasing, water supply was fast becoming a diminishing resource.

"Indeed, the effect of climate change is now a reality. In the hills of St Catherine, the lack of water supply is a major factor that contributes to poverty, with the resultant misery, inconvenience and frustration," Baugh said.

"These conditions, combined with poor roads, inaccessible lands and a dearth of financial capital, materials and equipment, guarantee poverty," the MP continued.

He added: "No effort should be spared to correct these infrastructural deficiencies, especially water supply for domestic use, as well as for agricultural use, to boost the agricultural economy of this and similar communities in rural Jamaica."

Baugh noted that Minister of Water, Housing, Environment and Climate Change Robert Pickersgill recently visited the constituency to commission a rainwater harvesting project in the Giblatore/Springvale area, which is notorious for scarcity of water.

He explained that the project arose when a community action group learned that the cost of activating a distant well and building a tank at high elevation was prohibitive, and the cost recovery was unlikely from a population of 5,000.

The project, he conceded, has so far alleviated some of the problems in spite of the fact that it has not rained to any worthwhile degree since the beginning of the year, and trucking of water was still necessary.

The water harvesting project notwithstanding, the Opposition MP said while he was grateful to the water ministry for the emergency provision to continue trucking water to the hard-hit communities, he was disappointed that extensive work started by the JLP administration to bring water, for the first time, into Kitson Town and its environs, had come to a "dead halt" for want of a few minor connections.

"Kitson Town is the centre of commerce and social activity for this constituency. This project would bring relief to thousands of people in adjoining communities, but despite my numerous requests, nothing has been done," he lamented.

He said, however, that he was heartened by the announcement by the minister and the prime minister, that a contract to carry out repairs and strengthen the Gold Mine River system would be going to tender soon, with work slated to commence in a matter of weeks.

He said the project would benefit the populous area of Brown's Hall, as well as neighbouring districts such as Woodhall, the hometown of Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller.

Baugh said he was also heartened by the announcement that the Watermount River Dam had been enlarged, and that pumps to strengthen the capacity and reach for the communities of Watermount, Back Pasture and Cudjoe's Hill would be procured.

"I am encouraged by the news that the communities will, at last, receive attention through the expansion and entombment of the Duxes Spring, and that by making a few connections to pipes already laid, along with reactivation of a large 3/4 million-gallon storage tank, water will be brought to these communities that have been deprived of this vital commodity for so many long years," said Baugh.

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