'The worst drought ever'
Negril hotels, residents reeling
WALLACE… can you imagine if you have guests in your hotel and you have no water

NEGRIL, Hanover — One of Negril's leading hoteliers, Richard Wallace, is bracing for the worst if the drought now affecting the country continues for much longer.

"We are concerned that if the drought conditions persist, the water supply would be reduced and we will end up without water," Wallace told the Jamaica Observer.

"Can you imagine if you have guests in your hotel and you have no water? It is a nightmare situation. Toilets cannot flush, people cannot bathe and you would have to refund. It would be a really bad situation and embarrassing, too, for the country," added Wallace, who owns and operates the Boardwalk Village in Negril.

According to Wallace, even though there has been rain in recent days, he is hoping that the drought conditions will not persist. He is also calling on the Government to fulfil its promise to expand the water supply of the Roaring River Treatment Plant in Westmoreland into Negril.

Negril currently gets its supply from the Logwood Treatment Plant located in Hanover Western, a system which is sometimes prone to drought conditions.

In February, National Water Commission (NWC) Hanover and Westmoreland Water Production Manager Nicholas Campbell told a monthly meeting of the Hanover Municipal Corporation that production at the Logwood Treatment Plant had been reduced by 20 per cent.

"We are hoping that the Government will do something about the water supply before it gets to a crisis situation because whether drought or no drought, the additional [hotel] rooms that are coming into Negril are going to create a water crisis. So, the situation is very precarious," asserted Wallace, who is also the immediate past president of the Negril Chamber of Commerce.

In Hanover Western, more than a dozen communities are being severely affected by the drought.

"In my division, I don't know what to call it. It is more than impacted. The entire stretch of Haughton Court, Kingsvale, Friendship, Spring Mountain, Pell River, Cauldwell, Grange, Kendal, Cacoon, Upper and Lower Rock Spring are impacted," said Mayor of Lucea Sheridan Samuels (People's National Party, Cauldwell Division).

The mayor said the corporation is looking at an estimated $3 million to provide assistance to people worst impacted by the drought between March and April.

The corporation is expected to receive $1 million from the local government ministry, but it believes this will be insufficient to deal with the needs of the people. As a result, the corporation has requested more money from the ministry.

"This is the worst drought situation that I have ever seen. The drought is so much on us that the grass is brown instead of green," stated Samuels.

He said schools and health centres are of concern and the corporation is prepared to assist, should assistance be requested.

Samuels added that the NWC has given the assurance that water will be trucked to affected areas that it serves.

In the meantime, Member of Parliament for Hanover Western Tamika Davis said she has received a few calls from farmers and has noted that the drought has worsened the water problem that is usually faced by several residents in the constituency.

Davis said water is being trucked to areas worst affected by the drought as she pointed to money provided by the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development through the municipal corporation to ensure that this is done.

Despite recent rainfall, however, Davis noted: "We are not out of the woods yet but certainly it would have been better than two months ago."

In Hanover Eastern, Bessie Baker, Success and Thompson Hill are among some of the communities worst affected by the drought.

MP for the constituency Dave Brown told the Observer that these areas are fed by community catchment tanks which have been severely impacted.

According to Brown, with the trucking of water from the municipal corporation and recent rainfall, "things are not that bad now. The requests [for water from residents] are not as much as they were a few weeks ago."

Jamaica Agriculture Society (JAS) Hanover Parish Manager Cameil Scott said a number of farmers are severely impacted. She noted that the plight of farmers has been exacerbated by bush fires.

BY ANTHONY LEWIS Observer writer editorial@jamaicaobserver.com

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