JIS News

The Ministry of Water and Housing, in consultation with the Office of the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, has identified funds to begin additional trucking of water to areas in rural Jamaica that are currently suffering from the drought, and regarded as in critical need.
Dr. Horace Chang, Minister of Water and Housing, made this disclosure in a statement to the House of Representatives on February 19.
He informed that the trucking of water by the Rapid Response Unit would begin in the week of February 25, and would include the use of private contractors, “as we do not have enough elements of the rapid response fleet active.”
Areas experiencing severe drought include southern Trelawny, southern St. Ann, the northern section of Westmoreland, St. Elizabeth, Manchester, St. Thomas and the central region of St. Catherine.The Minister also informed the Lower House that there are currently 31 operable trucks being used by the Rapid Response Unit.
“We are currently in discussion to try and provide short term repairs to a number of the trucks to bring our fleet up to 45. It is not likely that we can get beyond that number before the dry season is concluded,” Dr. Chang said.
He pointed out that when the fleet was first acquired in May 2000, there were 100 units, and of that number six were involved in major accidents, while 25 suffered serious transmission failure, and only three could be repaired.
“The trucks are being affected by a number of after delivery service issues. These include widescale transmission failure, leaking tankers, poor paint work, which has led to the rusting of the tankers, rendering them useless; loosening of the tankers, and water pump failure caused by the use of inappropriate construction material,” Dr. Chang noted.
“This problem is further compounded by a long turn around time for repairs which varies between six and eight weeks. The end result is that the trucks have a very lengthy down time,” he added.
The implication of this, he said, is that the unit is severely limited in its ability to provide a reliable service, and currently the unit is unable to satisfy the day to day demands of its regular customers. “By extension, it will not be able to meet the additional demand occasioned by the drought being experienced in a number of parishes,” the Minister said.
He informed that the unit would require retooling of its fleet to address the needs, “and this can only be achieved through the acquisition of additional trucks.””As we address the current and anticipated demand, it is projected that 20 new trucks will be acquired in the period 2008/09 and therefore next season we will not have the same problem,” Dr. Chang said.
The Rapid Response Unit was created in 1999 to provide immediate relief from prevailing water supply problems. In addition, in the event of national disaster or severe drought, water can be provided to preserve life.

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