GOVERNMENT officials returned from their visit to the Pedro Cays Tuesday, buoyed by the residents' apparent willingness to help solve the problems there.
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Roger Clarke, who led the team to Middle Cay -- of the three islands that make up the Pedro Cays -- said not only had the residents done some cleaning, but they also expressed shame at conditions on the island.
In addition to the absence of running water, residents have had to contend with poor and inadequate toilet facilities that have prompted them to designate an area on the tiny island to pass urine and faeces. At the same time, they have also done battle with an increasing garbage dump, which some among them have said has to be burnt each night to prevent it reaching their doors.
When the team, including Minister of Health Fenton Ferguson and Minister of Local Government and Community Development Noel Arscott got there yesterday, the place, according to Clarke, was as "clean as a whistle".
"What they did [is] they burnt what they could burn and they made their own landfill [and] covered [it] properly. And then they made a pit as a receptacle for whatever [other] garbage. They also separated the garbage and so on," the minister told the Jamaica Observer shortly after returning to the mainland Tuesday morning.
The ministers and other government officials also held a meeting with residents, who Clarke said "admitted the shame on them with what was put in the newspaper and really promised to make a special effort and to be a part of the solution".
The meeting, he said, brought the approximately 100 residents in attendance up to speed on Government's efforts to deal with the issues on the cays, which are nationally and regionally significant as a nesting site for a variety of bird species.
"We told them that we had to regularise the system," he said, adding that that would include limiting the number of people on the cays.
"I think it was a good meeting. They expressed their views and I told them exactly what we were about," Clarke said.
While encouraged by the residents' efforts at cleaning the cays, he said much more will have to be done.
"I was pleased at the effort, but it is really a paper-over situation. That is not sustainable. [For example], we have to find a way to move some of the garbage," he said.
"The problem where they defecate all over the place, we have to move now to put the sanitary conveniences in place and we are working with the Scientific Research Council to see the best method we can use to see some satisfactory design [for] the conditions out there because the water table is very high," Clarke added.
All in all, he said the trip was "well worth it".
Overhead shot cap:
Middle Cay where the Government team visited on Tuesday.
Roger Clarke cap:
CLARKE... I was pleased at the effort