COMPLAINTS of searing heat and effects of the prolonged drought are now daily features of life in Jamaica. Unfortunately, based on a report presented in Parliament by Prime Minister Andrew Holness last week, there is no let-up in sight for the immediate future.
We can't say we're surprised, for we have been witnessing the devastating effects of climate change globally, and small island developing states, such as Jamaica, have been most vulnerable.
"We are really in a crisis," Mr Holness said, adding that Jamaicans now need to internalise the fact that we are living in a period when the impact of global warming is staring us straight in the face, and that we will "probably be the last generation who can do anything about it".
That task, we have repeatedly argued, is not ours alone, as the major industrialised nations have larger carbon footprints across the world and, as such, have a duty to do more to slow, or better force a halt to this threat to human existence.
But even as we join other nations in pressing developed countries to act more responsibly, our Government should be careful to avoid inaction in relation to measures it has announced to ease the effects of the drought on the population.
Last week, Mr Holness appealed to Jamaicans to conserve water and make investments in harvesting and storage facilities for the commodity.
He noted that an analysis of the data comparing rainfall accumulated during the October to February periods of 2022-2023 reveals that the current dry period has been cumulatively drier than any similar period in recorded meteorological history.
We recall that in his budget presentation in April the prime minister said that initial conservation steps had been taken at National Water Commission (NWC) and National Irrigation Commission facilities, and that water was being trucked to communities through the NWC and the municipal authorities.
An initial allocation of $150 million, he said, had been made, of which $30 million is for the Ministry of Local Government to assist municipal authorities, $20 million is for the purchase of household water tanks, and the remaining $100 million will enable parliamentarians to respond to requests for the trucking of water.
Mr Holness also said that the Government will make available 10,000 polyethylene water tanks, better known as black tanks, to needs-assessed households across Jamaica, starting with a focus on the areas most affected by the drought.
That is a commendable programme. At the same time, we are encouraged by his revelation that the Government will table a Ministry Paper with guidelines for rainwater harvesting, which, he said, will support town planning efforts as the country eventually moves to make the practice mandatory.
That is a strategy we have repeatedly advocated as we are convinced that rainwater harvesting is critical to Jamaica's water management. In that regard, and given the country's current experience, we urge legislators to give full attention to putting in place the regulations that allow for enforcement of mandatory rainwater harvesting capacity in buildings.
That, we believe, would contribute significantly to the simple conservation measures that the NWC has said can save up to 30 per cent of water used in a household.
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