Trucked water for some drought-hit St Ann communities this week
STEWART...we have had some rainfall in the last couple of days but that has not changed the drought situation in any significant way

Residents of some of the St Ann communities worst affected by the present drought should start getting some relief this week.

Chairman of the St Ann Municipal Corporation Sydney Stewart told the Jamaica Observer that if all goes as planned, residents should start receiving trucked water in days.

"We are expecting that we will be in a position to truck water [on an] ongoing [basis] to these divisions. We have had some rainfall in the last couple of days but that [has] not changed the drought situation in any significant way," said Stewart during a recent media briefing.

Approximately $4 million has been allocated to the St Ann Municipal Corporation to assist residents who are facing the drought, and Stewart said each councillor in the municipality will be allocated approximately $50,000 monthly to purchase the well-needed commodity.

Residents of Nine Miles in St Ann collect water supplied by Discovery Bauxite Company to help to alleviate the severe drought conditions being experienced in the parish.

"We have decided to truck a minimum of three loads per division, [and] the distribution will take place based on needs because some of these areas will get priority since they are most in need," said Stewart as he noted that the current drought is extreme.

According to Stewart, areas in the divisions of Calderwood, Claremont, Bensonton and Gibraltar are mostly affected by the drought, and the aim is to continuously truck water even after the $4-million allocation is depleted.

"The Ministry of Local Government will also fall in with an allocation to assist us, as they always done, through what is called a special water distribution programme," said Stewart

In recent weeks farmers, especially in Murray Mountain and the adjoining communities in St Ann, have been lamenting the lack of water and the effect it has had on their crops.

Gary Martin, having heard that water will be trucked into his community, told the Jamaica Observer that he is hoping to get even a few containers to irrigate his cabbage farm.

"Me a tell you seh mi happy fi hear seh dem a plan to give us some water because mi cabbage bed need [every] little bit it can get right now," said Martin.

Some other farmers in the area were also joyful when they were told of the plan to truck water to them.

The drought now facing the country was a major focus of Prime Minister Andrew Holness in his recent contribution to the 2023/24 Budget Debate.

Holness noted that Jamaica experienced reduced rainfall from as early as October last year and that it has worsened since.

He pointed out that in November 2022 the island saw 62 per cent of our 30-year average rainfall. This declined to 47 per cent in December 2022 and 32 per cent in January 2023.

"Against this backdrop, the Drought Management Committee proactively convened in December and briefed the Cabinet in January of the worsening situation," said Holness.

"The condition has persisted and an initial allocation of $150 million has been made, of which $30 million is for the Ministry of Local Government to assist municipal authorities, $20 million for the purchase of household water tanks, and the remaining $100 million to enable MPs [Members of Parliament] to respond to requests for trucking of water.

"Though the impact is being experienced nationally, the parishes of Clarendon, St Thomas, Portland, St Mary, and Westmoreland have been most affected. I am pleased to report that the process has started and the primary areas of focus are the worst-affected communities in rural constituencies, which have been allocated an initial $1 million as an emergency response," added Holness.

He told Parliament that the drought is having a devastating impact on farmers and that the National Irrigation Commission (NIC) is coordinating that response.

"Throughout the fiscal yearthe NIC has invested approximately $90 million on drought mitigation efforts and has allocated a further $110 million to mobilise emergency support to our farmers," declared Holness as he noted that the initial expenditure represents the initial emergency response of the Government coming to the end of this fiscal year.

"If the need for a stronger response arises it will be dealt with in the new fiscal year. The Cabinet will review the reports of the Drought Management Committee and will soon determine if conservation orders should be issued. Until then, I am repeating my pleadings with citizens to conserve their use of this precious commodity. Fix leaks, report leaks, reduce washing cars and watering lawns, and do not leave the faucet running," said Holness.

BY AKERA DAVIS Observer writer

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