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$50-m tab to replace stolen metal items

‘IRONCLAD’ PROJECT

BY BRIAN BONITTO Associate Editor — Auto and Entertainment bonittob@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, February 28, 2014    

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ONE year after the resumption of the scrap metal trade, the state-owned National Works Agency (NWA) is embarking on a million-dollar project to replace manhole covers and gratings across the island.

"That programme is estimated to cost $50 million. We do not have a budget per se. We had to identify [the affected] areas and then approach the Road Maintenance Fund for funding," said Stephen Shaw, manager of communication and customer services at NWA, an affiliate of the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing.

He said there was, however, a reduction in the acts of vandalism to its NWA's infrastructure.

"We are experiencing a marked reduction in the theft of our materials," said

He said in the past, the agency had been seriously plagued by vandals believed to be involved in the scrap metal trade. This resulted in the disappearance of aluminium bridge rails, manhole covers, metal signs and gratings across several parishes.

Shaw said the parishes of St Catherine, Clarendon, and the Corporate Area were the worst affected. Evidence of the vandalism remains with the missing inner rails of the bridge on the Washington Boulevard, close to Patrick City.

Shaw said he was unable to confirm whether any arrests had been made in connection with the thefts, but he was made aware of the recovery of some bridge parts.

"But I don't know what transpired from that situation," he told Auto.

He said the act of removing items from roadways could result in deadly consequences.

"The removal of these vital components of the infrastructure compromises the safety of all road users and should not be condoned by members of the communities. Scrap metal traders too must ensure that they play their part by not supporting those who seek to destroy that which we have built," Shaw said.

With the scrap metal industry earning a reported $100 million in 2009, a lucrative black market sprang up. The trade was subsequently banned in July 2011 after several commercial interests and private residences became targets for the bandits.

Telecoms provider LIME lost more than $120 million worth of cables; fixtures valued at $36 million went missing from the National Water Commission (NWC), while scrap metal thieves pillaged agricultural equipment to the tune of $5 million from the Colbeck irrigation pumping station.

Not even the dead were spared, as scrap metal collectors robbed graves in the May Pen Cemetery, in Kingston, of ferrous items.

Currently, the year-old regulations governing the operation of the scrap metal industry stipulate that all exporters must post a $7 million bond, while export metal from one of three Government-approved sites and all participants in the trade have to be in possession of a licence or permit from the Trade Board.

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