Somewhere between the Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation (KSAC) and the National Works Agency lies responsibility for clearing the corporate area’s gullies. Quite frankly, I do not care who is charged with the work. I just want them to do it, and do it fast. They are more than an eyesore; they are a source of health and hygiene problems. The stench…the stench. The rats and other vermin. Why does the city have to have these as constant features? Because government at all levels has failed? The proximate cause, as with many things in Jamaica, is likely to be ‘lack of funds’. That’s what I have read in a series of articles stretching over the past 15 years.
When heavy rains come, of course, we get excessive flooding in Kingston. I suspect that, like the recent floods in rural areas like St. Mary, we’ll hear a lot of foot shuffling as the finger of blame searches for a target. In the city, we get the additional bonus of seeing lots of debris floating down the streets, as it searches for the quickest route to the sea. Yes, it will go there and cause another environmental problem. But, let’s leave the salubrity of the harbour out of it, for the moment.
KSAC has been pursuing other ‘issues’ with great vigour in recent times, notably, clearing the sidewalks of illegal vendors or vendors operating in undesignated areas. However, I have clearly missed the similarly vigorous campaign to clear gullies. I wonder if the vision that KSAC has is for these to be the basis of a bizarre perverse form of tourism–based on environmental degradation. ‘Brand Jamaica’ has many features, not all of them sweet-smelling and beautiful, but all part of the lasting image people have of this country. But, maybe, we have a new form of eco-tourism waiting to blossom. I wonder how many visitors from the USA, Canada, Great Britain or Germany would pay top dollar to take a tour of ‘the gullies of Kingston’.
Of course, the truly entrepreneurial people would see the enormous potential in this new venture. We could have tours of garbage dumps, official and unofficial. But, all of that is for the future. For now, I would like to think that the stink that should have been caused by the stink that has been caused by the gullies will be addressed. I do not love the visual art that is their array of food boxes, plastic bags, used diapers; rotting fruit and vegetables, tree cuttings, old fridges and washing machines, car parts and a few persons who have not figured out better accommodation. The goats have given up on trying to cope with the flow of rubbish being piled into the gullies. That tells you something.
When Royal visitors come to Kingston next month, I hope that they are taken on a tour of some of these sights of the city. Prince Edward would be thrilled. What? He wont be taken anywhere near them? But, but…Why? They’re part of us. Don’t soft soap the prince. Let him see all that we have to offer.