Columns

Kingston: A stagnant cesspool

BY Carolyn A E Graham, PhD

Monday, September 09, 2019

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I wonder if when the politicians are flying into the Norman Manley International Airport (NMIA) they take a really good look at the country from above?

Recently I flew into Jamaica through that port, having not done so for five years. What I saw from the sky was heartbreaking. My first thought was that of a stagnant cesspool.

Kingston presents a stark contrast to the mountains and lush green forests of the rural areas we passed over. I wonder how long that will last in light of current concerns with the apparent insistence of the politicians on both sides to bring death by mining to the Cockpit Country.

“I saw my land in the morning; and, oh, but she was fair,” wrote M G Smith, who went on to invite us to “Build now while time is burning; Forward before it's too late. This was a call to nation-building, good governance, and progress for all. I doubt it was of the kind that benefited only a few and robbed the country of its soul.

Coming into Kingston there is an orangish, rust-like blob on the sea with a similar tail — Sargassum. Close to land these blobs are more in number and larger in size. From the sky it looks like an alien invasion; something out of a horror movie.

The sea looks dead.

Sargassum is beneficial in the natural order of things, but is also detrimental as an invasive species and can be harmful to human health. These waters are no longer the deep blue/green that I am accustomed to. While I am not casting blame here, I am yet to see any strategy to address this issue. Perhaps it exists, but these are national concerns that politicians shy away from as there are no political points to be gained.

What has happened to “Jamaica, land of beauty, we promise faithfully...”?

Kingston and Portmore appear like an infection; a diseased scar, a huge festering sore that needs immediate attention. The air quality is bad. I could see the haze; a blanket of dust and grime hovering over the city. The land is bare, green is hard to find among the concrete structures dominating the landscape.

I read a letter of the editor on Friday, August 30, 2019 that got it right in questioning our commitment to planting trees. The writer raised some important points and questioned whether this is posturing or their sustainability will also be considered. One critical issue raised was the inclusion of green elements in building and development plans. This should be easily accomplished through legislation and enforcement.

Contracts and permits should be granted only if there are plans for green spaces. Progress and development are more than quickly throwing up concrete structures to the detriment of the environment and, by extension, our health. In undertaking a national tree-planting project we should be conscious of its importance to our survival. It should not be just a “follow-fashion” exercise.

A similar argument could be made for the banning of plastics. While this is laudable, it seems irrational against our willingness to destroy the Cockpit Country. Such actions demonstrate a lack of vision and that we are only paying lip service to environmental concerns.

The 'concrete jungle' we are constructing no doubt contributes to the stifling, dessert-like atmosphere in Kingston. Will we wait until this is more of a crisis than it already is?

What has happened to us being the “land of wood and water”?

Development requires a holistic strategy; that is a mark of good governance instead of the politics that is being played with our survival. Taking a haphazard, piecemeal approach to posture on the international stage is not good governance; it is not leadership.

I believe we have enough knowledge and expertise to begin to seriously address our environmental issues; what we lack is the political will, the vision, and care for certain sections of our society.

Let us honour this land we have been given, respect and take care of it, or we will regret it sooner than later.

carolynaeg@gmail.com


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