Water woes in Denham Town, Rema and Arnett

WATER lock-offs have been causing severe inconvenience for residents in some of the toughest, poverty-stricken communities in Kingston, including Denham Town and Arnett Gardens.

The affected residents say they have been forced to purchase water every week and that whatever amount they buy cannot suffice due to the varied usage of the commodity by their large households. Some complained to the Jamaica Observer of having little or no money to keep up with the purchase of water from trucks.

Some residents complained that water is so scarce that they are not able to have proper showers and to do washing.

In Denham Town, one resident said that the water problem has persisted for months, pointing to a young woman with a one-year-old child who does not have enough water to take care of the little one. The problem, she said, stretches across most of Denham Town.

Another female resident of Denham Town complained that only some people get water whenever the water truck comes into the community, forcing some to find other ways of sourcing the commodity, including paying people to source for them.

“I have to pay people to fill my five-gallon bottles. I don’t work. I have two drums and it was only two times I got water that I understand was sent by the Member of Parliament. After the two times, they said that only ‘agents’ will get water. When the truck comes nowadays, it only goes to special people yard. You have to have money to pay for people to go and catch water for you. They charge $100 to fill each five-gallon container and I have eight of them. Every week we have to buy water and sometimes I have to use cups of water to bathe,” the frustrated woman said.

A frustrated male resident was livid as he noted that only “special people” get water from the truck.

“Stop play politics with water. We are all Jamaicans. Sometimes they give one and two people on a building and then they move on and give somewhere else. If a water truck comes, it is supposed to give everybody water before they go to the next block. A truck was here on Monday and it only filled all the tanks for the clinic on Wellington Street because the clinic did not have water for days. I feel this is sabotage. This is the land of wood and water and we have so much water crisis. We have too many rivers to not have water. They should build a catchment. We have water problems since I was a boy, and it is worse now,” the man told the Observer.

His spouse said that with the lack of water the kitchen is very untidy and gives her no drive to cook for her family.

“It seems like water is not life for us,” she lamented.

But despite the water shortage, the Observer spotted one man power-washing his car. According to him, he also has to buy water.

“It is very difficult. Water gone everywhere and it is so difficult for everybody. For me, water gone five months now, so I have to fill my tanks. It costs $6,000 to full my two tanks. Each of these hold 100 gallons. Who can’t afford it get knock,” the man said.

The challenges were the same for residents in the community of Wilton Gardens, popularly referred to as Rema, which is very close to Denham Town.

According to Jennifer, a resident of the area, many children cannot go to school because they have no clean clothes and have to carry water. Shortly after she said that the Observer witnessed a group of children pushing a cart that was fully loaded with drums and pans that were filled with water.

“Many months now we don’t have any water. A pure cart and drum we have to roll out to go and look water. We have to find a low pipe somewhere and put on a tap so we can get water from it. We have to be struggling to carry water. People ride bicycles with containers to go and look water. It’s been a long time we don’t have any water. Children and everybody have to be carrying water,” Jennifer said.

Another Rema resident, Deneille Blair, claimed that she has got sick because of having to lift heavy containers with water on a regular basis.

“Me all drop down because the bottles are heavy. I have to lift them from way down the road come all the way up here. We feel they can give us water because we are ghetto people and we can’t afford it. If a even two days for the week, they can give it to us. Our situation is sad,” Blair said.

A man in a green and black sweatshirt held up an orange-coloured drum, threatening to vote for the Opposition People’s National Party (PNP) in the next general election instead of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) because of the water situation. Orange is the colour that represents the PNP, while green represents the JLP.

“A pure dirty clothes everybody have upstairs. When the water truck comes, if you as a poor man don’t have any money, you won’t get any, not even a little bucket of water. You have to have at least $700 to fill a drum.

In neighbouring Arnett Gardens, one woman was seen filling bottles with water from a low pipe outdoors.

The woman said that she has suffered numerous injuries, including to her back, as a result of constantly having to carry heavy containers of water to the top of the multi-storey building on which she lives.

Other residents of Arnett Gardens said their lives are a “living hell” without water.

The Observer made numerous calls to the top brass of the National Water Commission (NWC) for comment, but the calls went unanswered. Calls to NWC communications personnel also went unanswered.

An Observer source very close to Minister Matthew Samuda, who has responsibility for water and the environment, said that next week Wednesday, at a post-Cabinet press briefing, Samuda will give an update on the current water situation.