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Whitley McLean | Rain, flood and neglect

Jamaica Gleaner / Rain, flood and neglect

The recent torrential rain and consequential flooding of people’s homes and dislocation of Jamaicans’ lives are as perennial as the sun shines. We know that rain will come and flooding will ensue, yet we are often caught unprepared every year.

The Government, both Labourites and Comrades, and their engineers, hydraulics experts, and other design experts, must share in some of the blame.

Engineers and other experts sit in their beautiful and most comfortable air-conditioned offices and come up with elaborate designs for our roads, gullies and water channels without involving the local residents. Some of the time they get it right, but most times they get it absolutely wrong, and the cycle continues, and our brothers and sisters suffer – mostly the most vulnerable in the countryside.

Community folk say that the authorities don’t listen to them when they are constructing roads and water channels. Their wise advice has been ignored on numerous occasions. Why? Because they are not trained, aren’t engineers, and, therefore, are ignorant. Results? Devastation, death, suffering and dislocation.

I remember when I was working at a school in north west St Catherine. We, the community members, lobbied the Government for the reconstruction of the Juan de Bolas road from Pond Hill to Pennington and we were successful. The experts came and did their study and survey of the road.

LOCAL EXPERIENCE When they reached a certain part of the road, an 80-year-old man told the experts that that part of the road is very difficult to manage and advised them to dig it up and put sand, and then place stones and pebbles, and then marl. They ignored him and went on with their engineers’ design and paved the road. It was beautifully done and they left. A couple months later, the entire area sank and they returned. The old man who was born and grew up in the same area, said, “I told you, but you didn’t listen.” They did it the old man’s way and the road is very solid up until this day. Never you rule out local experience, knowledge and input in these projects.

Similar stories are being told every so often on local news programmes and on talk shows. Since the construction of both highways, North-South and East-West, there have been reports of flooding in certain communities where there weren’t any such events before.

We will have re-examined our drains and water channels, too. With the proliferation of construction of highways and the numerous housing schemes and other projects, we need to upgrade our systems. We must modernise our drainage systems and educate our entire population on the human cost of life and property and man hours lost. Look at the students who could not get to their respective schools to sit their CSEC examinations.

Looking at the number of plastic bags and bottles, Styrofoam cups and plates, forks and knives and diapers floating in gullies and channels towards the sea is both disgusting and distasteful. No wonder our drains, culverts and water channels are blocked and the water has no place to go but the streets. Our reefs are being destroyed, and so many of the fish are killed by these plastic containers. Unless we reform garbage disposal, the flooding of our streets and homes will continue. God helps us to learn from history, and if we don’t, we are bound to repeat it.

Let’s all work together, engineers, hydraulics experts, scientists, Government, Opposition, private sector, community people, man in green shirt, man in orange shirt, and man in other-colour shirt, the dull and ignorant, on projects and programmes, not in isolation, but as a coordinated whole for the mutual benefit of this land.

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