KINGSTON – Minister of Water and Housing, Hon Dr. Horace Chang, says his Ministry and the National Works Agency (NWA) are looking at the possibility of keeping the Bog Walk Gorge open, during the laying of pipelines by the National Water Commission (NWC) later this month.
“Work has to go on, the pipeline will be laid. If we can avoid closing the gorge we will avoid closing it, but if it has to be closed we have to minimise the number of days,” he said.
He was speaking with JIS News Tuesday March 22 following a forum at the Girl Guides Association’s headquarters, Waterloo Road, Kingston, as part of activities for World Water Day 2011.
The NWC says it has become necessary to close the gorge for about two months, from the end of March, to undertake urgent pipe laying work to significantly improve water supply to several areas, including St. Catherine, Kingston and St. Andrew. Concerns for the safety of the motoring public and road crews during the works prompted the decision to close the heavily used roadway.
The project falls under the US$210 million Jamaica Water Supply Improvement Project (JWSIP), which involves replacement of the old Rio Cobre asbestos cement pipeline used to bring water from Bog Walk into the Kingston Metropolitan Area (KMA).
Dr. Chang told JIS News that a number of options are being considered, to reduce the inconvenience to users of the gorge, while the pipes are being laid. He noted that since work under the water supply improvement project started over a year ago, there has been an increase in the use of the roadway, and this has to be taken into consideration.
He stated that Worthy Park Estate transports almost 30 trailer loads of citrus products through the gorge weekly, and there is a significant amount of cane passing through, as well.
“So, certainly, for the time of harvesting, we have to look at whether we can delay the closing until after that, if any closure at all,” Dr. Chang said.
The Minister explained that the discussions are progressing well, and pledged to keep the public abreast of the developments.
He said that major users of the gorge will be brought on board, to be aware of what is happening and, if there is to be a closure, it will be done with a new notice and appropriate work to the alternative routes to ensure that commercial transportation continues.
“If at all we can avoid it (being closed), we are going to avoid it altogether,” the minister assured.
The JWSP is expected to bring an additional 20 million gallons of water to residents in Kingston and St. Andrew, St. Catherine and other areas. It will also reduce system losses and improve the operating efficiencies of the NWC.
The theme for this year’s World Water Day celebration is, ‘Water for Cities: Responding to the Urban Challenge’, which highlights the impact of rapid urban population growth on freshwater supplies.
Each year on March 22, Jamaicans join others around the world in observing World Water Day, to highlight the importance of freshwater and advocate the sustainable management of freshwater resources.
By ALECIA SMITH, JIS Reporter