Rio Cobre: A source of myths, heartaches and opportunities
For many persons who have established their residences in the Bog Walk Gorge, the economic viability of the Rio Cobre was the main pull factor.
The Bog Walk Gorge, formed by the Rio Cobre cutting a deep channel into the surrounding rocks, and now flowing through the centre, has become a raging torrent over the years that drives fear into the minds of many Jamaicans, especially those crossing the historic Flat Bridge.
Apart from fishing, which has become unreliable because of incidents of pollutants being released into the river killing the fish, some residents are able to sell fruits and other produce reaped from lands near the gorge.
Peter Slew, 45, who sells fruits and drinks from a stall near Flat Bridge, said survival has become extremely difficult for the people who depend on the gorge for a living.
"You nuh see we nah sell shrimp again? Dem kill off the fish in the river so we can't even ketch the kind of crayfish we use to ketch, and even if could catch the amount we use to catch, we can't sell it because all the rich people dem now drive on the highway," Slew told THE STAR .
"Since the highway open, everything slow down fi we, and wid the river polluted, nuttin nah gwan fi we. It get real hard," he continued.
The highway of which Slew speaks is the North-South leg of Highway 2000. The 66-kilometre highway that stretches from Caymanas in St Catherine to Mammee Bay in St Ann, allows persons to bypass the gorge and Mount Rosser. It was opened in 2016.
Anthony McLaughlin, a fisherman and diver, said he can no longer depend on the Rio Cobre for a living because of the frequent fish kills. He has turned to other jobs to supplement his income.
"Everything slow down in the gorge. We get knock every side we turn. First time mi could a school mi pickney them from fishing but that couldn't happen now," he said.
McLaughlin also laments the missed opportunity of residents in the gorge to capitalise on one of nature's intriguing wonders - the P*m P*m rock.
"You see that P*m P*m rock round deh so, we should be able to make money off it," he said, adding that there was a time when tourists would stop to photograph it and the Penis rocks. The latter rock went downstream years ago after being washed away on one of the many occasions when the Rio Cobre was in spate.
Despite the challenges faced by persons in the gorge, persons who depend on the much-feared thoroughfare for a living say that more should be done to compensate rescue workers in the area. Divers in the gorge have long pressed the Government to establish a fund to pay them when they plunge into the murky waters of the Rio Cobre to save drowning or crash victims.
"They could put us on a shift system and pay us," said Samuel Dixon, who has been involved in many rescues in his 40-odd years diving in the Rio Cobre.
"Right now we nuh get nothin fi we service, dem come and promise we some money de other day and dem nuh come back," he added.
Dixon is convinced that many of the deadly accidents in the gorge are influenced by supernatural forces with a lust for blood.
"Some divers see the mermaid, there are spirits in a de river and when they want to move, seven blood haffi shed. But is only people wey nuh come from bout yah drown in a de river, we nuh have no fear," Dixon told THE STAR .