28 years without

IT has been 28 years since residents in Hampshire, St Catherine, harboured thoughts of having water flow through their pipes.

Consistent cries for change have gone unanswered by those they have elected to represent them in Parliament.

Still, they continue to bawl for the basic commodity.

“From ’92 the [main] pipe bury under the ground deh and wi nuh get a drop a water inna wi pipe dem. If mi fi show you where mi haffi go fi water is over a mile and a half from here. From them come lay that pipe seh wi a get water, that was it. Till today day we nuh get any,” Oswald Johnson told the Jamaica Observer during a recent visit to the community.

He said a decades-old water tank that was set up in the rural community to ease their pain was removed in 2016, adding to their distress.

That was reportedly done by parish council representatives, leaving residents stunned and without a formal explanation.

It is said that politics was at play.

According to residents in the farming community, located in the St Catherine North Eastern constituency, the tank was moved to a People’s National Party stronghold, leaving them to fend for themselves.

Although Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie condemned the removal of the tank, it was not returned.

It reportedly served approximately 3,000 residents.

They would get their fill from the tank, but now, they are forced to depend on trucked water, buy water from private truckers, or travel to distant springs to fill containers.

“Right now wi all haffi a war with the water truck man them fi get all a drum a water. Yuh haffi a beg them fi come in advance before yuh water inna yuh tank, or yuh drum finish. Everybody want water, so a war when them come, but such is life. Wi used to it; from mi born wi a carry water so till mi stop and haffi buy because mi tired. A so the system set,” a woman, who did not wish to be identified, expressed.

A smaller tank which remains in the area was empty when the Observer checked it.

The frustrated residents insisted that the water storage equipment is hardly filled.

“Right now mi a think fi lead out one army fi block the road enuh. Because wi haffi get water,” Vincent West threatened. “This thing ya haffi change, man. Wi have water below wi and wi have water pon top of wi (streams) and wi still naah get none. A nuh fool fool people live roun’ ya so, man. Sensible people live roun’ ya so to, man.”

At the same time, West chided his neighbours, arguing that they refuse to vote for a change of leadership in the constituency.

As West puts it, the majority of residents have steadily voted for one political party in recent years, despite experiencing little change in their circumstances.

Statistics from the Electoral Office of Jamaica show that the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) has won four of the last six elections in the constituency.

“Them people ya just grow up come see them parents a Labourite so them just seh me a Labourite too. Them just have that thought. Them (JLP) always stronger roun’ yah so mi nuh know and them (residents) naah get nothing and them naah fight fi nothing either. We pon the next side always a try fight fi things but them always a win we because mi nuh know what them settle for. And the whole a we a feel it… We haffi a go mile and a half fi water? No man. Them representatives ya nuh care because if majority a the people nuh care, wah it make sense?” West argued.

“Them prefer buy water or fix up them tank. Them nuh care and a $4,000 fi full up them tank. The truck man dem weh dem send fi full up the small tank come when them feel like. Look from when nuh water nuh up deh and yuh talk to the councillor him seh him soon send water and all now,” he added.

Tonya Spence confirmed that the issue of “running water” has been a longstanding one in the community.

She told the Observer that from as early as she can remember, her family has had to fetch water from springs in the area.

“From I was a child growing up I had to be carrying water. For the [coronavirus] pandemic I have been getting water from the tank; not on a very regular basis but that’s where we been getting a little. Right now none has been there but as I said, it’s very rarely we get water there, but I get a little since COVID-19.

“Sometimes they truck water and some people buy because, as you can see, they have tanks and drums. The trucking of water, we nuh really have that pon a regular basis though. So you get it at the stream or you buy. It is hard for us to get water up here,” she stated.

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