Rain shows our infrastructure needs urgent upgrade

Monday, April 24, 2017    

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The extensive damage done to sections of eastern and southern parishes by rain over the past few days has not given us confidence that Jamaica is properly prepared for the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season which begins in just over five weeks’ time.

Severe flooding, damage to roads and huge landslides have left many Jamaicans inconvenienced and will add further burden to the budget. How the Administration deals with the recovery work will give us a better indication of its ability to respond. However, we must confess that yesterday’s statement by Prime Minister Andrew Holness that the flooding can largely be attributed to the country’s lack of capacity to deal with these extraordinary weather events has renewed our frustration with the authorities.

This newspaper, as well as other media, have, over many years, utilised a lot of space and airtime pointing out the very fact that the prime minister highlighted yesterday.

We have, in these columns, pointed out the danger of poor infrastructure, especially for the fact that Jamaica is prone to hurricanes annually, as well as the onset of global warming.

At best, all that has been done by successive administrations is drain-cleaning, particularly just before the start of each hurricane season, with the responsible minister seeking to milk all the publicity he/she can out of the effort.

What has been missing over the years has been a serious approach to forward planning, looking at the capacity of the infrastructure to withstand nature’s hazards and ensuring that communities are built to minimise risk from natural disasters.

Yesterday, the prime minister said the Government will now take a closer look at the management and approval process for developments in the country.

We share Mr Holness’s observations that there are capacity as well as developmental issues in the management of the country’s infrastructure; that Jamaica’s development has not kept pace with its ability to deal with run-off, solid waste management and other environmental issues; and, crucially, that “past administrations have not managed the development process effectively to ensure that the increased capacity of the drainage systems matches the level of physical development”.

Based on the age of the infrastructure, we have no doubt that corrective work to give the country adequate protection will prove expensive. But it needs to be done, and done quickly, because the longer we neglect it is the more it will cost.

We should not take comfort in meteorologists’ forecast of a less than active hurricane season this year. For, as everyone knows, all it takes is just one powerful storm to set us back and, frankly, with the advent of climate change, no one can forecast with surety how the season will turn out.





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