Sun | Apr 5, 2020

Tired of bath pans - Guy’s Hill folk demand that water woes be addressed

Published:Tuesday | February 25, 2020 | 12:23 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer

Residents of several communities in and around Guy’s Hill, St Catherine, have been living without consistent piped water for decades, relying almost exclusively on rainfall and nearby streams to grow their crops and conduct household chores.

It is a vexed issue for the residents of Benbow, Ragsville and Bonnett, who are appealing for St Catherine North Eastern Member of Parliament Leslie Campbell to intervene and lobby for change on their behalf.

Over in Benbow, a group of three men were spotted busily laying pipes leading into one yard. They said it was being prepared to distribute water – whenever in the future that time comes.

In that community, water trickles through the pipes once per week, they say, leaving the residents’ farms parched and almost totally reliant on the rain.

“It is a serious matter; we have to be depending on the rainfall and even that nowadays is becoming scarce,” said Glen Douse, who said irrigation was a decades-long problem.

“Some people still have to bathe outside in bath pans. How is that right in 2020 Jamaica, where dem say is prosperity time?” said Douse, taking a jab at the Government’s 2016 election slogan.

Car wash owner, ‘Prentice’, said he spends close to $13,000 to fill two large Rhino tanks used in his business, pointing out that he has to offset earnings from the car wash just to get by.

“Sometimes I have to buy water three times per week depending on how many cars are here to get washed. It pays the bills and pays the staff, and although sometimes I don’t get anything, I am OK. I am doing other things to live by,” he said.

Further down the road, Michelle Jackson sat among several community members at the entrance of a bar in Ragsville, where she was waiting on a taxi to take 27 five-gallon jugs filled with water from the only source available.

“You should have come here from early this morning to see the amount of people waiting to catch a little water,” she said.

In addition, they mentioned that several other communities are also without water and have blamed MP Campbell for their plight.

“I am never political, but one would expect that something like this would grab the attention of the political representatives for the area; well, not Mr Campbell,” said Jackson.

“All of these you see now filled will be empty in three days’ time because we cook, wash, bathe, flush toilet, and drink water. So what are we to do?” she asked.

Meanwhile, Michelle Buchanan-Simms, principal of the Bonnett Primary and Infant School, located about two miles away, admitted that she is at her wits’ end in trying to serve the needs of 96 students and five teachers.

She revealed that the school has been doing without piped water for about one year.

“We have a challenge with the harvesting of water because around the districts, rain may fall, but when it comes on to this district itself, rainfall is a premium,” Buchanan-Simms said.

She said, however, that the situation is tempered by the fact that Ministry of Education pays for water that is trucked to the school. However, Buchanan-Simms said that the school would benefit if a dysfunctional pump was replaced.