Wickedness – Portmore A Health Disaster – Pack Up Or?????

With due respect to the experts who have given us their clear and precise report.  DO NOT LIVE IN PORTMORE, MOVE OUT OF PORTMORE OR……..respiratory illness is going to kill you as our hospitals are not prepared and are unable to cope with the projected magnitude.  I do not know about you, but I encounter at least 3 out of 10 persons who have some form of respiratory challenge.  Whether it be sinusitis, asthma, constant clearing our throat and coughing, they do suffer.  There are times when their suffering appear worst.  Do they live in Portmore?   Based on my personal experience, they do not all live in Portmore.  However, I am acutely aware of the pollution, downright nastiness that is ever present on the Streets of the corporate area where businesses, communal and residential living are closely intertwined.

We have no enforcement of laws in my view, too bloody lax and so what should be managed is left to be managed by itself, resulting in chaos.  Chaos which will have a price tag, as human lives are at stake.  In addition to crime being our beast, our failing health due to circumstances beyond our control has stopped creeping but is now finally upon us.  Portmore did not arrive at this destination overnight.  The little that I know is that many of the homes were built with poor ventilation.  Severe heat in homes have been experienced for decades, mosquitoes were the unwanted children of that community.  Children living in that region for decades would have developed respiratory challenges simply due to habitation and are now adults.    Cycle continues with their offspring.  That is separate and apart from what we now have as outlined in this report below.

Every striking thing people in this country scrape up in a corner an bun.  I wonder at times if this is some kind of obeah belief.  So there it is you have fire burning for 2 pieces of rubbish on the roadside, businesses doing their fair share, hustlers hustling their trade, the flare up of Riverton dump when somebody tongue gets drawn it would appear.  Now the experts say flee Portmore or risk tragedy where there will be no aide.  What is the population of Portmore can anyone say?  I am going to guess, 200,000.  Where they must pack up and go to?  Who exactly are you blaming for this crisis?  Who is governing who, and who is enforcing the laws?   If it is the laws are toothless, then who is to blame?  Who or what contributes to the environment and pollution?  Portmore today, tomorrow, where next?   Money, money, money!!!!!!   Any extra money the citizens of this country are looking forward to get or reap, recognise it will all be spent in combatting these serious respiratory illnesses that are affecting not only those living in Portmore, but also persons who work on an average 40-50 hrs per week in Portmore and the surrounding areas.

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Residents of the sprawling community of Portmore, St Catherine, are breathing in some of the worst-quality air across Jamaica as unregulated garbage dumps, illegal burning and other activities foul their environment.

Consultant physician and pulmonologist at the University Hospital of the West Indies, Dr Althea Aquart-Stewart, is advising persons who suffer from respiratory problems to avoid living in Portmore, if possible.

“I can tell you that there are a number of people who come from that area with exacerbation of their medical problems,” said Aquart-Stewart, who is an associate lecturer in the Department of Medicine at the University of the West Indies, Mona campus.

“Given the dusty environment of Portmore, the household burning of garbage as well, and the heat, asthmatics go through hell. Can you imagine more so for the little children?”

Aquart-Stewart, immediate past president of the Association of Consultant Physicians of Jamaica, added that persons may need to avoid living in Portmore “because the level of exposure they have to deal with leads to frequent hospital visits and private doctor visits in order to relieve the symptoms”.

In the meantime, Peter Knight, head of the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), last week confirmed that Jamaica’s air quality is bad and deteriorating fast, with the Corporate Area and Portmore being worst affected.

According to Knight, based on data from the numerous air quality monitoring sites across the island, there is a pollution crisis that threatens to worsen.

“We have an air quality situation that is deteriorating more and more. The air quality in the Corporate Area is more and more compromised from industry, illegal burning and motor vehicle emissions,” said Knight.

For persons affected by asthma or other respiratory illnesses, Portmore is not the ideal place for them to live, as higher-than-average composition of coarse dust particles, solid or semi-solid, (PM10) are being released into the atmosphere.

Knight noted that the annual average recording of PM10 at the Portmore station in St Catherine is higher than the rest of Jamaica.

“The station is also impacted by dust emission from unvegetated open lots, and when people traverse them, vehicles drive on them or the wind picks up, it picks up all of this dirt and it brings it and swings it around through the communities.

“There is also cane field burning, and there is also a mineral processing facility on the Dyke Road. So all of these activities contribute to what we are seeing,” said Knight.

NEPA is also concerned about the Spanish Town Road corridor from Six Miles to Three Miles, where illegal dumps are being operated and illicit burning taking place.

“There is a livelihood issue, as persons along that corridor burn tyres to get the metal and other things, which is a lucrative activity,” said Knight.

“We know of these activities, but it is a difficult terrain. Industries have raised these matters with us about the impact it has on their staff and on productivity.

“Added to the burning and the motor vehicle emission there is also the problem of illicit burning around the city. Everywhere you go everyone is burning; people sweep up a few leaves and they have to burn it. Another issue is people trying to get rid of waste, which could be a response to the solid waste take-up,” added Knight.

He noted that while the level of PM10 in the air is of serious concern, said fine particles in the air, PM2.5, are even more dangerous as they tend to penetrate the lungs and cause serious problems.

There are currently two stations to measure PM2.5 on the island, but none is in Portmore as there is not enough money to set up these facilities on a wide scale.

In fact, NEPA is now measuring only for air pollutants, as there is not enough money to test for numerous other contaminants.

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