Aleppo in perpetual water limbo
Aleppo is a linear settlement in southeast St Mary. To get there from Highgate in the said parish, you have to go through Richmond and turn off the main road between Richmond and Cuffy Gully. The road is narrow and winding, very rough at some points, and there are sections on which there is no asphalt.
It is, however, generally a quiet place, far from the madding crowd. The air is fresh and rarified, and its bucolic scenes are very easy on your eyes. It seems like a place where you could live, that is, if you really do not mind getting water in your pipe only on Tuesdays, for a few hours. That has been the case for many years, and it appears that it will be so for many more to come.
On a recent tour of the area, The Gleaner saw first-hand the acute water crisis that residents have been experiencing in a region in which two ‘rivers’ meet. The ‘bridges’ that traverse them and the ‘fords’ are high, narrow and rail-less. The one that runs through the square is stagnant and lime green from the proliferation of algae.
The water in the bigger one is low and barely moves. At one point, water seeps from the ground into a tiny ‘pool’ from which water is removed with a makeshift scoop. To get there, people have to climb down a reasonably steep incline. The place is a ‘bathroom’ and a ‘laundry’ where the water level is much higher in the rainy season.
Another source of water is a little concrete ‘catchment’ into which water from the ground seeps and collects. The untreated water is obtained from the structure through a pipe which is bunged when not in use. The Gleaner also saw a truck selling water from big plastic containers. At two points, the much-needed commodity was seeping through the embedded pipeline and collecting in potholes.
And, no doubt the residents are upset with their political representatives for their failure to alleviate the situation. The terms that they used to describe them are not publishable, which speaks volumes about their chagrin and frustration. Vincent Jahalal, businessman and former political activist, was born and bred in the said district. He did not mince words in his description of the scant regard that is given to the water problem in the region. His shop is located in the square.
In a 2017 Gleaner story headlined, ‘Aleppo – The place time has forgotten’, Jahalal bemoaned the unacceptable state of the roads in the area, but nothing has changed since then in terms of improvement. In fact, they have got worse. A few yards from his shop is a rough patch that runs across the road near a hairpin bend. It has been there for quite a while, and is a serious vehicular traffic hazard.
When The Gleaner contacted Member of Parliament Norman Dunn, on January 24, he said he was overseas and would be in touch upon his return. Efforts to get in touch with Levan Freeman, the councillor for the area, did not bear fruit. Jahalal is particularly upset with Dunn, with whom he said he was a political associate, but is now estranged from. He stores water in plastic tanks, but most people in the region cannot afford to.
Pastor Ja’Vaughn Taylor of Central Gospel Chapel is also at his wits’ end. He buys water from a truck for his home and the church. He told The Gleaner, “Aleppo is known for its water crisis. Community members and I made numerous reports to the NWC but, yet still, water only comes on a Tuesday in the pipeline. Some, maybe, are fortunate to get, while others hope to get …. There are many possible ways to get a proper water system in place to better serve the people of the community.”
Until one of such ways is established, Aleppo will continue to be existing in a water limbo, or Pastor Taylor might want to seek divine intervention.