JIS News

Water and Housing Minister, Dr. Horace Chang, has underscored the potential dangers likely to result from the wanton damage and destruction of the country’s watershed areas, by persons engaged in poor farming practices, and construction activities.
Speaking at a Land Surveyors Association of Jamaica (LSAJ) seminar, commemorating the organisation’s 80th anniversary on the theme: “The Contribution of the Surveying Profession to Disaster Risk Management”, at the Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston on Thursday (Oct. 30), Dr. Chang bemoaned the destruction of the country’s watershed areas, particularly in the Blue Mountains, by individuals whom he said “chop down acres of hillside (to) build huge houses.”
“There are a lot of Jamaicans, who do not want to move to the coast, (and) they build these huge infrastructures on the hillsides. There’s nothing wrong with building a certain kind of infrastructure on the hillside. But what they are doing now, is really intolerable,” the Minister stressed, pointing out that this is compounded by “wanton agricultural practices”, to plant coffee in particular.
“Blue Mountain coffee is precious, (and) it’s valuable. But you can’t just chop down the hillside and plant coffee. It has to be done in a manner that protects the terrain. It has to stop, or pretty soon, you are going to have Kingston becoming a mud bank, as the entire Blue Mountain slope moves down there,” he warned.
Dr. Chang pointed out that the illicit activities in the Blue Mountains also have serious implications for the Corporate Area’s water supply.
“The primary water sources for the Corporate Area, come out of the Hope River and the Yallahs River, and if we continue at the rate (at which we are going) now, in terms of destroying the watershed, (then) we’re going to have to close them (water intake infrastructures) down. Every time we have a flood rain, it’s costing us major money to repair the Yallahs well intake, because it either shifts (or is) damaged,” he stated.
Alluding to Prime Minister, Bruce Golding’s instructions for areas adjacent to the Hope River, where individuals have erected homes, to be declared “no-build zones”, in the wake of damage caused by Tropical Storm Gustav in August, Dr. Chang noted that there may be need to implement a similar order in a number of the country’s coastal zones.
“This (no-build zone order) is something that we will have to do.., where streams come into the sea, (and) where people are just building on the riverbank. Of course, it creates all kinds of problems. It is designed to block further construction in the Hope River, and it instructs the local authority to employ the required personnel, in terms of rangers, to manage and ensure (that) there is no new building in this.. zone,” the Minister said, pointing out that it will take some time to relocate residents currently occupying the area.
“We can’t do it overnight,… but we have to begin the process. So those (persons, whose homes) have been destroyed, will be relocated. But, in time, we have to relocate the others,” Dr. Chang added.