“Unno si mi dish unno si mi dish. Anybody unno si mi satellite d-d- dish”- Wild Gilbert by Lovindeer 1998.
Portmore has over the years undergone several developments, for which its Developers either forgot or intentionally left out planning for heavy storm water passages or storm drains. Given the hardcore facts and the history of flooding in Portmore, with the recent devastation occurring in 2016 from the effects of Hurricane Mathews which flooded Caymanas Garden Site A, it would be prudent of Portmore Municipal Corporation to take a proactive approach to the issue rather than being reactive.
Flooding can simply be defined as; ‘where water is not desired to be’ therefore constituting a flood, according to the Office of the Disaster Preparedness Emergency Management (ODPEM).
FOUR TYPES OF FLOODING
1. Riverine Flooding- This relates primarily when a river overflow its banks. Portmore is bordered south of the Rio Cobre River which spans approximately 300 square miles. In 2001 The Parish of St. Catherine experienced flooding with the passage of the #13 storm, Hurricane Michelle. According to a report furnished by ODPEM in 2001, communities such as Waterford, Passage Fort, Braeton-Phase 1, Greater Portmore, 6E, 2W, 3W, 2E, Caymanas Garden, Old Braeton, Newland, Bridgeport, Independence City and Westchester all experience flooding.
2. Coastal Flooding- This is said to be whenever the seas over flood the sea walls. Along the stretch of the Hellshire Beach, stakeholders and shareholders has over the years removed the mangroves which serves as a natural barrier from the sea to the land for which reduces the flooding of the surrounding communities and the single corridor that leads to and from the Hellshire communities. In 2013 the Observer quoted former mayor of Portmore George Lee warning the residence to cease the destruction of the mangrove at Dawkins Pond. Mr. Lee warned that the destructive practice could promote further flooding of the communities.
3. Flash Flooding- This is a flood that rises and falls rapidly with little or no advance warning. With Climate Change being the reality of the world’s change in the climate pattern, the rapidity of such an impact could possible greet the citizens of Portmore like a thief in the night. According to the National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) there has been a rise in the sea level by 8 inches, the Greenland and Antartic ice sheet decreased by 150-250 cubic kilometres and the planet has experienced the warmest temperature which has increased by 2.0 degrees Fahrenheit.
4. Urban Flooding- The is driven by urbanization through development and the construction of buildings and houses. Portmore is said to be one of the fastest developing cities in Jamaica where you can find almost all developers biting into the warmth of the sunchine city. However, with all these development taking places for the betterment of Portmore, if the tenets of climate change are not considered, all could be an urban trap and a pitfall for investors.
“It is said that a wise person learns from his mistakes. A wiser one learn from others’ mistakes. But the wisest person of all learns from other’s successes”.
CAUSES OF FLOODING
Portmore is a flat plain, parts of which was reclaimed from the swamp. This geographical feature presents Portmore as the ideal flood prone area. The first developer West Indies Home Contractors Limited (WIHCON) developed passage fort as the first Portmore community and the present canal to remove the waters from the communities, however, with the increase in housing which categories Portmore as the second biggest housing community, the present drainage has proven to be insufficient.
There are several smaller drains or gullies which runs through the communities, of which often are blocked with debris from the over-hanging trees and some solid waste. Because of the dormitory structure of Portmore the houses are often hot which encourages the owners of a few available land space to grow heavily bushed trees to provide some cool air in and round the communities and are hardly ever maintained. These leaves and branches often gets caught in the drain during the summer and remains there to the start of the rainy season June 1- November 30.
Construction and pavements adds to the causes of flooding by hardening the soil which serves to absorb some of the water. Constructions of bridges over soak away that are too low encroaches on the flow of the water, build up a blockage from debris and floods its banks.
The present Solid Waste Collection and Management System has proven to be ineffective and inefficient with one of two truck managing the entire Portmore Community which schedule often lapse. The lapse in schedule means that citizens are forced to find creative and sometime unsafe and unhealthy ways to dispose of the solid waste, some of which are disposed of in the drains, open lands which often gets washed into the drained and burning.
EFFECTS OF FLOODING
We can all agree that whenever there is a puddle, there is an indent in the road which holds the water and with the constant trampling of it, it softens and break. The water then gets under the asphalt and erodes the road surface, leaving what we call in Jamaica “Pot Hole”. The repairs of the road sometimes can take an entire election period to fix and even that depends heavily on which government is in power or whose constituent it is in.
Flooding also caused schools and businesses to close its operation. The closure affect learning and productivity and therefore affect the overall contribution to the growth and prosperity of the economy. In a time when there are sure signs of growth and development, can we afford for our own inabilities or the incompetence of our community leaders, councilors, mayors and member of Parliament impede the future of our investments?
Without much analysis needed, flooding can promote health scares through the flooding of the sewer systems and livestock farms; sending solid waste in the wrong direction, promoting and enhancing diseases through the widespread of germs and bacteria.
When green spaces are flooded and the water is settled, the settled water often breeds mosquito- Portmore’s blood sucking tourists. During 2016 Labour Day, the Government spent millions of tax payers money eradicating mosquito sites and an education campaign to reduce the contraction of Zick V, however, without preventative measures such and flood prevention systems, we are shooting the heath budget with rockets and patching it with gauze.
Given the brief study done about flooding in Portmore, there are some simple and perhaps known recommendations that if considered can create the right environment to promote a healthy life and prosperous future. We consider these recommendation as:
1. Implement proper Solid Waste and Management System for Portmore.
2. Education, training and campaign against improper disposal of garage.
3. Reinforcement of building codes and standards with flooding mitigations.
4. Promote green spaces to aid soil absorption.
5. Cover open drains in and around the community to prevent debris from clogging the drains.
6. Inspect and conduct frequent drain cleaning.
7. Replant mangroves and strengthen legislation in these protective areas.
8. Encourage and promote recycling.
9. Conduct river training exercises to enforce river walls and river retention
If we as Portmore Citizens cannot learn from our own mistake, then certainly wisdom can be classified as a real scarce commodity. Portmore is in no shape or geographical position to w withstand a hurricane, but if the necessary measurements are implemented without bias or prejudices or a classic case of political interference then we can mitigate against great losses both privately and publicly.
Citizens must also take the necessary steps to prevent and reduce flooding by complying with the necessary building codes and standards. Portmore Citizens must act now and must do so responsibly without the influences of local or central government.
As a concerned citizens of Portmore, I implore that we work together harmoniously to achieve what is right, what is healthy, what is safe what is economically and socially beneficial to all members of our Sunshine City and prevent what is sadly inevitable at the given moment…FLOODING.