Wa­ter, wa­ter ev­ery­where

Daily Observer (Jamaica) - - INTERNATIO­NAL - By Balford Henry

WITH eight weeks left be­fore the end of the 2020 At­lantic hur­ri­cane sea­son, mo­torists are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing sev­eral in­con­ve­niences brought on by the in­clement weather ac­tiv­ity.

The Na­tional Works Agency (NWA) sec­ond cy­cle of its is­land­wide drain-clean­ing ac­tiv­i­ties was sched­uled to be­gin at the end of Septem­ber. The first phase com­menced in April to May at a cost of $100 mil­lion.

At the end of Au­gust, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer (CEO) of the NWA, EG Hunter, as­sured the pub­lic then that the sec­ond cy­cle would be­gin in Septem­ber.

“That nor­mally cor­re­sponds with the peak of the hur­ri­cane sea­son, which is some­where around Septem­ber 12 to the mid­dle of Oc­to­ber. So we are for­tu­nate that the drain-clean­ing ac­tiv­i­ties we car­ried out in April-may would have at­ten­u­ated some of the im­pact of the re­cent rains,” he said at the time.

How­ever, Mar­cus Gar­vey Drive in Kingston has be­come the sym­bol of a prob­lem which oc­curs at the end of ev­ery sum­mer, as wa­ter from storm-aided rain­falls both block and break up the main roads, in­clud­ing some very im­por­tant high­ways, leav­ing enor­mous da­m­age to the thor­ough­fare and in­creased costs to flooded build­ings.

Since Au­gust, Mar­cus Gar­vey Drive has been flooded at least twice and, like other sec­tions of the Kingston Metropoli­tan Area (KMA) and ru­ral ar­eas com­mu­ni­ties in St Thomas and Claren­don.

There are lots of com­plaint about the sit­u­a­tion and, since this week, Ja­maica Observer’s weekly Auto magazine sought to get some update on the plans for ad­dress­ing these an­nual events with­out suc­cess.

Mo­torists and busi­ness peo­ple are in­sist­ing that, at least, the $20 bil­lion “Drain Plan” an­nounced by the prime min­is­ter in Septem­ber 2019 should get go­ing as soon as pos­si­ble.

It is a great hope for the thou­sands of mo­torists us­ing the Mar­cus Gar­vey and Con­stant Spring Roads ar­eas, but with the emer­gence of COVID-19 it may re­main just a dream for a while longer.

The PM dis­closed last year that the new drainage sys­tem was ex­pected to cost be­tween US$100 mil­lion and US$150 mil­lion.

“I know that they are do­ing some work to ful­fil that prom­ise, but I can’t give any update on the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion,” said one source at the Min­istry of Eco­nomic Growth and Job Cre­ation where the pro­pos­als for the project orig­i­nated.

Septem­ber 11 this year marked the first an­niver­sary of the an­nounce­ment by the Andrew Hol­ness Ad­min­is­tra­tion’s that ap­prox­i­mately $20 bil­lio would be spent on con­struct­ing a new drainage net­work across Kingston and St Andrew, to put an end to the flood­ing night­mare in ar­eas of the Cor­po­rate Area af­ter heavy rain­fall.

Hol­ness told the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives then, that al­ready a re­quest for pro­pos­als for the de­sign of the drainage sys­tem had been com­pleted.

“Hope­fully, they will go to con­tract­ing within a month and the pe­riod of de­sign will be about six months.

So, hope­fully, we will have that ready in terms of the ma­jor drains that will have to be re­con­structed, or new drains to be put in for Kingston and St Andrew,” he told his col­leagues in the House.

This $20-bil­lion pro­posal was said to have been $5 bil­lion less than a pro­jec­tion given in March last year by the NWA CEO, EG Hunter, for the Tin­son Pen drain up­grade.

“We should be seek­ing to have a new agree­ment [for the Greater In­fra­struc­ture De­vel­op­ment Pro­gramme] soon set­ting out how that will be funded, and

I will bring the House [of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives] up to date be­fore the year is out as to where the fund­ing will come from,” the prime min­is­ter told law­mak­ers.

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