DRAPERS, Portland – It would not have been surprising to see a kitchen sink in all the debris strewn on the roads of several communities in eastern Portland on Monday morning as angry residents blocked access to vent their frustration about being without piped water for months.
The sink would have fit right in with the bags of garbage, old appliances, trees, zinc and everything else on the thoroughfare.
In some places, debris placed on the road was set ablaze. Police and soldiers responded and sporadically tried to clear roadblocks throughout the day.
Among the protesting voices, there was at least one voice of dissent. As she gingerly made her way through the roadblock, an irate student of Fair Prospect High School posited that she would simply stop attending school if she had to endure obstacles in her path.
“You know they [are] fixing the road and you all blocking the road,” she lamented. “I don’t know if I am going to get a next chance to sit back my exam.”
Residents of Drapers took to the streets early in the morning, blocking the road from neighbouring Clear Spring all the way through to San San and Zion Hill. The blocking of Zion Hill was a strategic move as it was being used to gain access to Port Antonio through Nonsuch. The Zion Hill road was partially cleared by the police but later in the day protestors felled trees to once again cut off the route.
The protest came a week after residents of Fairy Hill and Boston protested the lack of water and the effect that dust from ongoing road work is having on their communities.
“I have been out of water for months and I have to purchase water for $40,000 and $45,000 and still pay water [bills],” one resident who opted not to provide a name told the Jamaica Observer.
“This is unbearable and it is not politics. The pipes that were by the road have been removed. Children are affected who have external exams and have to be going to other centres to get their examination done,” the angry resident added.
One protester recommended the installation of wells at Nonsuch, and the running of pipes to get the water to communities that have been without the commodity for far too long.
“The reservoir up at Drapers [is] dry. From I was a boy they have been getting water from there and now hundreds of people getting water from that source. The [National] Water Commission (NWC) needs to spend some money to get the product to the people. This is the worst I have seen a roadblock and the people are serious; enough is enough,” he said.
Andrew “Mark” Burke, who is from Drapers but lives in the United States, described the situation as “atrocious, horrible, oppressive”.
“This is a prominent area of Portland. All kind of tourists come here; they make movies here as millions and billions of dollars pass through here and the local people can’t get water for x amount of time. [They] can’t get good road so they get frustrated so that they have to throw things in the road and people can’t get to go to work. It’s horrible; it’s atrocious, it’s disgraceful,” he said.
Burke appealed to elected officials to engage the residents and find workable solutions.
“My appeal to Government and the powers that be [is] get off your high horse, come down to where the people are; have some little compassion, find some real solutions for real problems. Sit with the people, don’t sit in your high building and high house and give intellectual discussions,” he added.
Calls for the dust nuisance to be addressed punctuated cries for water.
“The dust from the road has affected our play area and it cannot be used by the children,” a teacher at Drapers Basic School complained.
“The water situation in the area is bad but water is trucked to us when we ask and they fill the tank. But we could not open on Friday as we were asking for water from Wednesday [but] we did not get any,” the educator added.