Dust making life hell for people of St ThomasSunday, July 11, 2021
BY ROMARDO LYONS
You could use a finger to carve out shapes and letters on furniture. It's a dust dilemma for residents of Cottage Pen in St Thomas, due to the roadwork along the 27-kilometre corridor between the Morant Bay roundabout and Cedar Valley in the parish.
The road rehabilitation is a part of the Southern Coastal Highway Improvement Project (SCHIP), which is slated to end in March 2022.
While residents expressed their appreciation for what they called the much-needed reconstruction valued at approximately $2.7 billion, they question: why it is taking so long? while complaining that they are slowly being buried in dust.
Norma Hibbert Brown returned to Jamaica in December 2020. Before her gate, a large pile of gravel sits. With the blow of a “strong breeze,” that spells disaster for the returnee. Hibbert Brown told the Jamaica Observer that it is unbearable.
“The dust is terrible. It is terrible and they hardly wet the road. When I wake up in the mornings, the state of my verandah is awful. The dust is there. It makes it inside the house too… no matter how you lock up the place. Even when the door is closed the dust comes in. I can write my name every day on my table in the dust. I have to cover my settee because of the dust. Every day I have to clean. I have to wash down the place,” she lamented.
“I wasn't living here. I came home since December and I didn't know I was coming to this. The dust is just lying on everything. My grandchildren are affected too. It is just terrible.”
Hibbert Brown revealed to the Sunday Observer that she is currently planning a doctor's appointment after experiencing a breathing irregularity. This she credits to the constant inhalation of dust.
“Since recently, I feel something in my chest and I have to go to the doctor to find out why my chest is feeling the way how it is feeling. I feel like I have a breathing problem coming on since this roadwork started. The dust is really terrible especially when the vehicles pass. Depending on how hard they are passing through, the place is like a dust cloud. I don't know who to go to. I wrote a letter but I put it down because I don't know who to go to.”
And it gets worse. The 72-year-old added that the clamour of the tractors every day, paired with the heat, has been “maddening”.
“Oh my God!” she exclaimed. “The noise is horrible. Every day! And sometimes I don't know what they're doing because they will fix a section and it have to dig up back again. It is terrible,” she said.
Up to December 2020, under the SCHIP, it was reported that the Morant Bay to Cedar Valley construction project was 40 per cent completed.
In February, the National Works Agency said major pipe-laying activities were also involved in the reconstruction of the road, which was restricted to night-time hours to minimise disruptions to the movement of vehicular and pedestrian traffic.
Further, 64-year-old Ziggy Empty lives a walk away from Hibbert Brown, and he faces the same plight. Passing by, it appears as though his windows have been painted by a dusty smear.
“When the dust rise up, it come hard. No matter how them (workers) wet it, it still rise up when the sun get hot. Them wet it and then couple minutes later, a dust that again. We caa open window yah suh. More time mi look pon the verandah, mi not even bother sweep it off. A bare dust! All inside a the house, a just bare dust pon the floor,” the farmer related.
“Me affi a sweep and dust down the place all the while. We have to lock up and the place hot. The sun hot up a dem place yah. Yuh see yah suh, as the sun born a right yah suh it deh. The place dry. But wi just affi gwaan live wid di dust fi dem do weh dem a do. It nuh mek nuh sense wi talk… it nah better,” he added, noting that he hasn't had any health implications.
“Mi nuh have nuh sickness, but it woulda rough pon a man weh have sinus. Me did have a brethren weh come here and him nuh stop sneeze. But mi caa lie… mi nuh have that problem.”
Meanwhile, Bryan Russell had to halt his house renovations when the roadwork began.
“Right now mi affi pause. From them begin the work mi affi pause. Mi caa bring in material or nothing. They are using some temporary bridge and dem bridge deh caa carry nothing wid weight like material and dem stuff. So, it's a big setback but mi affi work with it,” he told the Sunday Observer.
And with an incomplete house infrastructure, he is worried about what could happen in the event of a hurricane.
“My main concern is the hurricane season now and the flooding. Right here before my house, we had a walkway. We did have ample amount a land out here. You used to walk here, but recently they demolished the old gully and a try construct something deeper and firmer. But the time schedule kinda a beat wi.”
Also, a deep, pit-like hole has been dug in front of his property. Thus, his vehicle has been static for months, as there is no space for passage.
“Due to the whole works, me caa do nothing at all wid the car. Me caa drive it out. Wi just a beg fi some urgency pon the work. Wi caa seh nothing more than that.”
Likewise, 73-year-old Una Duff has called for more urgency for a faster completion.
“Every day dem a fi wet the road. When yuh look pon wi foot, wi affi a dip it inna water every minute. Every time wi guh out a door wi affi wet wi foot. A bare dust. Bed, window, fridge, sheet, everything full of dust. Because of that, sometimes I don't even dust. Mi dust all three, four day and everything look bad. They need to keep the road wet so the dust nuh come in too much pon wi,” said Duff.