Letters to the Editor

We must stop living water crisis to water crisis

Friday, May 17, 2019

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Dear Editor,

I have never before, over the years, used the opportunity of writing to the newspapers on any subject. I, however, feel constrained to do so now in contributing to the debate on the crisis we face with water.

Most of the suggestions made so far are important, and we wonder why they only surface when there is a crisis. But let us step back to the beginning.

Rainfall is is the only source, I know, that provides all the water we need. It does not rain every day, but the Good Lord has provided us with natural storage, the underground aquifer, and a large catchment area, the watershed. If properly used and managed they would almost always eliminate the frequently occurring crisis.

The water from both underground and over-ground provide a constant source to the rivers, springs and wells needed for domestic and agricultural purposes. We have spent a lot of time now systemically destroying and not protecting our watersheds. When we get rain we now end up with flooding, as the water is no longer trapped in the watershed for storage underground, but rushes to the sea taking with it valuable top soil and many other things of value.

We note emphasis being put on the Rio Cobre as one source of solving the serious crisis which now exists. I have to traverse the Bog Walk gorge almost daily and have been doing so for over 50 years. I have never seen the water level in the Rio Cobre so consistently low as over the past several years.

The Rio Cobre becomes a confluence of about four rivers in Bog Walk, but consistently two are almost dry. It never used to be like that; there was always a much heavier flow in the river that is now expected to help solve the current crisis in the Kingston Metropolitan Region and Spanish Town. The water is expected to satisfy the fast-growing needs of these areas from a fast-declining source; both agricultural and domestic needs are expected to be met.

I am sure it has not gone unnoticed that the rivers of the north coast fare a little better during the dry season. I would hazard a guess that the Cockpit Country, as the main watershed, has something to do with that. I was therefore more than a little mortified that there seems to have been a temptation for indiscriminate mining in the Cockpit Country, which would have a devastating effect on that important watershed. The corresponding effect is not only on these rivers and springs that have origins on the Cockpit Country, but the important Queen of Spain's Valley storage.

Both environmental and commercial activities are very important, but they must be carefully managed to ensure that the important roles both have to play are recognised.

For some of us who are old enough to remember, the country had the Yallahs Valley Area Land Authority and the Christiana Area Land Authority. Both authorities were set up to encourage extensive use of agricultural lands, while properly use of hillsides was also encouraged to protect against soil erosion. For some reason this concept was abolished along with the many other areas of the integrated inputs. It seemed to have been working. Maybe Agriculture Minister Audley Shaw, whose constituency was a major beneficiary of the land authority, would wish to revisit some of these concepts which, in fairness to him, precedes his tenure.

The management systems required to supervise this vital commodity, water, should not only come to the fore in times of crisis. We are now scrambling with some short term but necessary solutions and failing to focus on the long term until the next crisis.

What about the importance of reforestation? I have heard no mention of that for years.

We can still be the land of wood and water; however, we must adopt the right attitude to managing our resources.

Ambassador Derick Heaven

Bog Walk

St Catherine

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