Neglected and disappointed.
That is how residents of the rural community of White Hill, St Andrew say they feel after years of crying out for improved road conditions and running water. They say, they have not been able to get any favourable response from authorities to date.
In fact, the residents, who expressed surprise that Minister of Transport and Works Dr William Duguid was carrying out road works in his own constituency, said they cannot recall the last time they heard from him about plans for the roads in their area.
It was back in November 2014, when a huge chunk of the main road leading into the White Hill community collapsed under pressure from water due to heavy rainfall.
Despite several promises from the then Freundel Stuart administration that funds would be earmarked for the restoration of the roadways complete with engineering studies, no progress has been made.
Prime Minister Mia Mottley and other representatives of the Barbados Labour Party while in Opposition, often highlighted the plight of the residents and since coming to office two years ago promised that help was on the way for the residents of White Hill.
However, those who live in the area told Barbados TODAY they were yet to see any tangible movement except for the construction of gabions along a section of the roadway.
The residents complained that their plight has been compounded by constant water outages.
Spokeswoman in the community Carlitha Andrews said she believed it was time Dr Duguid and Minister of Energy and Water Resources Wilfred Abrahams meet with the residents of the community.
“Mr Duguid needs to come out and speak to the people. He is not doing right by us. He is not doing what he promised. You don’t even see him in the district. All you see him doing is highways. What happen to the country people? He needs to come out and speak to the people,” said Andrews.
“Wilfred Abrahams too, you see him in St Joseph and different places but up to now you don’t see him in White Hill,” she added.
“For the longest while the people in White Hill need a townhall meeting with the Minister of Transport and Works and the Minister of Water Resources. We would like a meeting because we have problems. We need answers. We need to speak with hem,” she lamented.
Andrews said residents were beginning to feel “neglected, forgotten and disappointed”.
“The way that we are living is not right. Someone needs to come out and say something because right now we don’t know what is going on. We need some answers. I think we deserve that much,” insisted Andrews.
“It has been in the pipeline since 2014 and this is now 2020. That is six years. I personally thought things would have been better.
Andrews said based on her conversation with residents, the majority of them were willing to be relocated.
In relation to the water woes, Andrews said it was a “big problem”, pointing out that residents were still getting a monthly bill despite not having water in their taps for days.
“We have the coronavirus and they are telling you to wash your hands but there is no water to wash your hands. If we have an outbreak the people in St Andrew and St John and even St Lucy, all of us would probably be dead. It is not right,” she said.
“You still have to pay a monthly bill . . . we are not getting any water. For the month of June the persons in White Hill had water twice and there is a community tank and you have to be begging for days to get it filled. For the last week or two they have been filling the tank regularly because it was highlighted,” she said.
“Every month a bill is still coming out and even coming out to more than if you are getting water. It is not right. I think there should be some legal repercussion on our behalf because we have been going through this for too long – St John, St Andrew, St Joseph and parts of St Thomas – we have been going through this for too long. It is time it comes to end,” cried Andrews.
Last year, Prime Minister Mia Mottley said she would be seeking help from the Chinese government to see how best to address the land shifting issues affecting the wider Scotland District area, of which White Hill is a part.
When asked about the issue on Wednesday, Dr Duguid gave the assurance that help was on the way but opted not to go into details.
“We have a programme for White Hill, and we will be coming to the public with that very shortly. Needless to say, there is a programme not only for White Hill but for the whole Scotland District and that will be made public very shortly,” said Duguid.
One elderly resident told Barbados TODAY all she wanted was to be moved from the area before the conditions worsen.
She complained that a decision was made not to move residents because “a few” said they wanted to stay.
“A lot of people here would love to move . . . they never come and ask me nothing,” she said.
Describing the situation as “ridiculous”, another resident Oswald Jemmott told Barbados TODAY the track that the residents currently use to get in the community from one end was treacherous and he feared it would worsen with the rainy season.
Pointing to the continued deterioration of the other entrance to the community that is currently being used by vehicles, Jemmott said “If it breaks down I don’t know what is going to happen to us here.”
Explaining that ambulances have a hard time getting to the sick, Jemmott said he was surprised government continued to do work on other major roadways while White Hill was being ignored.
“They are along the highway – along Green Hill, Rendezvous – but yet to start the road here in White Hill that is supposed to be first priority. You can give in for the COVID-19 situation, but something needs to be done for the roads,” he said.
Jemmott said the lack of water was frustrating, adding that residents were often left without the service to their taps for extended periods.
Insisting that something needed to be done to ease the worries of residents, Jemmott said they have been very patient, making themselves as comfortable as possible and trying not to complain.
“But we are still under a lot of strain,” he said.
The White Hill resident said he believed it would be cheaper for a road to be built in the community than moving the residents to a new location given the costs associated with infrastructure and building.
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