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Drains blamed

Minister cites improper drainage for heavy flooding in Kingston

BY RACQUEL PORTER
Observer staff reporter
porterr@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, October 25, 2018

LOCAL Government Minister Desmond McKenzie yesterday blamed improper drainage for Tuesday's flooding of several roads in the Corporate Area that caused traffic gridlock for hours.

Thousands of commuters were also left stranded after approximately two hours of heavy rain turned several of the city's roads into waterways.

Marcus Garvey Drive, downtown Kingston, sections of Michael Manley Boulevard, Vineyard Town, and sections of Lyndhurst Road were among the worst affected by flooding.

Minister McKenzie, who was on a tour of Marcus Garvey Drive yesterday, suggested the the drainage network in the Corporate Area was inadequate to accommodate such a large volume of water.

“… I want to go back to when the Sandy Gully was being built [in the 1960s]. The Government was lambasted then for concentrating on building a gully. Now, thank God that there was a vision to build the gully because if the Sandy Gully didn't exist we would not be here today. The fact is that, over the years the infrastructure, especially our drainage system, has not gotten the real attention that it has now,” said McKenzie.

The Cabinet minister said, however, that as part of major roadworks now taking place in the Corporate Area major drain improvement is also taking place.

“… It's not just building roads and flyovers; [we are] also improving the drainage of the Corporate Area and work is being undertaken wherever there are major roadworks taking place. They are lining those roads with proper drainage systems, as the fact is the drains are undersized, which was the biggest factor that contributed to the flood yesterday,” Minister McKenzie told reporters.

In March 2016 the National Works Agency (NWA) announced that the US$20-million reconstruction of Marcus Garvey Drive corridor would also see improvements in drainage. The project that should have been completed in 12 months was completed in May 2017.

Yesterday, McKenzie argued that: “Because of the closeness of the Tinson Pen Aerodrome to the drain, there were restrictions as to what you can build, in terms of concrete, and that is why Bouygues [construction comapny] had put in was just a 'holding' but we have not had any significant flooding on Marcus Garvey Drive since the flooding we had in 2016, simply because of actual blockage.”

The minister announced yesterday that in another attempt to prevent further flooding on Marcus Garvey Drive, the NWA would be partnering with the Port Authority to build a modern drainage system with the capacity to take water from sections of the Corporate area into the sea.

“There will be a comprehensive upgrading of the drainage system in this section of the Corporate Area… along the similar lines of the Sandy Gully that was constructed,” according to McKenzie.

In the meantime, the minister said Government would be cleaning the drains on a constant basis to prevent further flooding.

Meanwhile, NWA director of technical services Roger Smith said the plan is to improve the Tinson Pen gully, which was built decades ago.

He further explained that the Port Authority had requested that the NWA contemplate realigning the roadway to facilitate development along the corridor.

“… We will, therefore, include the upgrading of the drain. We believe a drain with sufficient capacity will retain all the water that is coming down,” he said, adding that as a result of the current capacity of the drain now, water exits at the western end of Tinson Pen, then makes its way over the runway of the aerodrome, accumulates in a lower spot, then overflows onto Marcus Garvey Drive.

McKenzie, who was unable to say when the work would commence, said the plan had been on the drawing board for sometime now but stressed that it would now be taken to Cabinet with urgency.

Yesterday, workmen were seen repairing a section of the Tinson Pen perimeter fence that was destroyed by flood waters that carried plastic bottles and other debris.

Tinson Pen Aerodrome Acting Operation Officer Shelly McIntosh said it was the first time the airfield had been flooded to that magnitude.