McNeil Land residents nervous about rainy seasonThursday, June 24, 2021
BY ANTHONY LEWIS
MCNEIL LAND, Westmoreland - Hurricane researchers have predicted an above-average 2021 season for storms and hurricanes which could dump several feet of water, threatening the lives, livelihood and property of residents in many flood-prone communities across the island, including several in the constituency of Westmoreland Western.
There are currently heightened fears that the communities of Egypt Gardens, Grant Bush, McNeil Land and Broughton could be affected by flooding if urgent attention is not given to several drains and rivers in those districts in the constituency.
Ian Myles, councillor for the Little London Division, disclosed that no meaningful work to mitigate flooding has been done in the area over the past two years.
He argued that while he is currently trying his best to undertake remedial work in the communities by cleaning the exit of rivers, help is needed from the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development.
“We are here in the community [McNeil Land] now looking at what can be done to ease the burden of the residents in case we have a heavy downpour or persistent rainfall for a period of time. So, as usual, we are calling on the minister, Desmond McKenzie, to ensure that we get some money so that we can do some meaningful work so that the citizens in McNeil Land, whenever it rains, they can be safe,” said Myles.
McNeil Land resident Christopher Cooke, who has been living in the community located between Little London and Llandilo for over 50 years, currently rears chickens and other birds to eke out a living for himself and family.
He told the Jamaica Observer West that during periods of heavy rainfall he has to remove the birds from their coops due to flood waters.
While Cooke's wooden house is located on a higher level to the front of the property in comparison to the coops at the back of the yard, water reaching approximately four feet high has resulted in the flooding of his house in the past.
“It [flood waters] came in on me more than one time already; that's why I lift it [house] so high. And as high as it may be, it comes in. So, mi still have to think about going a little higher but this [house] now can't take the breeze, so it doesn't make sense mi go higher. If mi a go build a solid structure now, then mi have fi go higher,” Cooke explained.
He disclosed that whenever the Little Bridge River overflows its banks his house would normally be partly under water for up to five days before the water begins to recede.
“Sometimes when it [flood waters] come mi haffi tie up mi bed inna the ceilling,” stated Cooke, adding that “Mi no really fraid a di water enuh. Mi fraid a di breeze more but at the same time, it [water] still bothers mi.”
He stressed that frequent cleaning of the river would minimise the flooding.
Beverly Reid, another resident, said at times a section of the roadway called Marl Hole would be flooded, reaching as high as eight feet during heavy rainfall.
The last flooding, she said, occurred in June 2020.
“So, whenever we have floods I can't come to the main [road]; I have to go through the cane piece [a distance of about a mile and a half] and go around on the [housing] scheme to go to the main road so that I can go to work. But if they clean the main drains and so on the flood won't affect us over here. But whenever it doesn't clean, that's the time that the water comes over,” Reid expressed.
“They have some drains…so if they clean those drains the water would follow the drain and go to the river. But, most times them come, them just clean the front of the drain and the back don't clean because right now it's damaging my property up there. They clean the front [but] the back leave [unattended], so the water is taking over my part of the property. And mi raise cows and goats so it is affecting me a lot,” Reid added.
Councillor Myles said there is “no total fix” or corrective measures to the problems in McNeil Land, which is said to be below sea level and is surrounded by rivers and swamps.
“It is really a difficult one. The residents are living here. It's a community, and you know one might say that it is an area that, probably, they would not recommend for habitation of this sort. But, they're here and what can you say to the residents who have invested huge sums, millions into their houses?” asked councillor Myles.
A little over a mile outside of Little London square is the community of Broughton, which is also prone to flooding.
Area residents claim the flooding is caused by the overflowing of Margaret River during heavy rainfall due to poor maintenance. They claim in the past, they would normally do the cleaning themselves without pay.
The Margaret River, which is said to be in dire need of cleaning, has also been blamed for the flooding of sections of Grant Bush.
Myles believes that the issue can be partly addressed by removing a small round culvert from underneath a section of the roadway in the area, replacing it with a box culvert that can handle larger volumes of water.
An estimate was done by the Local Government Ministry five years ago, he said, which indicates that such a project would cost five million dollars.
Councillor Myles said the project, which was later approved by the ministry is yet to be implemented.
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