Water Security In 5 Years

 

Yallahs River (PHOTO COURTESY OF NEPA)

 

WATER supply for the 660,000-plus people in the Kingston Metropolitan Area, served in part by Hope River in St Andrew and Yallahs River in St Thomas, should improve incrementally over the next five years.

 

The two rivers provide 42 per cent of the water for the region, but not unlike several of the country’s 26 watersheds, they are in a state of severe degradation and if left unchecked, could result in more severe water restrictions than were experienced during last year’s long dry spell.

 

In a move to remedy the situation, Government, with support from the Inter-American Bank and the Global Environment Facility on Monday launched the Integrated Management of the Yallahs and Hope River Watershed Management Areas project which is expected to improve the amount and quality of the water supply in both watersheds.

 

Speaking at the launch, project coordinator Nelsa English-Johnson summed up the current situation: “As we seek to provide food and housing, our habitats have become threatened by deforestation and degradation and this has decreased the productivity of our soil due to, in some instances, improper agricultural practices and when you have degradation of the land, degradation of the water resources is going to follow.”

 

Referencing data collected under the project preparation phase, environment minister Robert Pickersgill said soil erosion, waste water disposal and the use of chemicals in hillside coffee farming were among the major causes of the domino effect of ills.

 

He said approximately 49 per cent of the combined watersheds is prone to landslides and 65 per cent is subject to soil erosion, which threatens lives, farmer’s livelihoods and leads to high sediment loads in catchment basins.

 

“The conclusion is that these environmental problems are induced by economic, social and institutional factors…I am sure you will agree that the Hope and Yallahs River Watershed Management Area is in need of urgent intervention towards restoration,” said Pickersgill.

 

The area has a high level of biodiversity and is well known for producing the internationally acclaimed Blue Mountain Coffee brand.

 

In addition to water security, farming output should improve under the watershed project.

“This project is about teaching farmers how to continue to do their farming but in a way that will do less harm to the environment,” English-Johnson said, using lay man’s terms to describe the project.

 

“There are three things that we must achieve by the end of this five-year period. We must reduce the deforestation rate in the watershed, we must increase carbon sequestration and we must also reduce water turbidity,” she added.

 

The project coordinator explained that this will be achieved through i) creating institutional strengthening and capacity building for integrating biodiversity into watershed management, and ii) creating economic and financial incentives to support biodiversity and integrated water resource management.

 

“The final component, which is perhaps the most important if you had to rank them, is the one that will be felt most on the ground by community persons, is implementing sustainable livelihoods, agriculture and forestry in watershed communities,” she said.

 

Under those broad areas, project objectives include reclaiming 400 hectares of deforested lands, planting 1,136 hectares of sustainable crops, training farmers in animal husbandry and better land husbandry, training people to operate eco-tourism attractions, increasing the flow into the Mona Reservoir, and of course, drafting relevant policy.

 

“The level of inter-agency coordination that will be required under this operation is phenomenal, but we are confident that the team will deliver,” said IDB country representative Therese Turner-Jones.

 

“This is a five-year project, which means it’s going to take time before we feel the benefits of it. I think it is important to stress that at the beginning,” she said.

 

The watershed project is financed by the IDB/Global Environment Facility and the Government of Jamaica at close to US$13 million.

 

Source: Jamaica Observer

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