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Constant Spring Market: A case for public education

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Admittedly , we shed a tear or two for the vendors of Constant Spring Market, St Andrew, especially for the last of the hold-outs who watched in total misery as their shops were demolished Sunday.

We believe that, like us, the demolition crews of the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSAMC) were not happy to witness the end of the decades-old market to make way for the expansion of the Constant Spring Road corridor, as part of the Government's infrastructure development programme.

But we are also firmly convinced that the area was needed to widen the carrying capacity of the 4.2 km corridor from 1,600 vehicles per hour (vph) to 3,400 vph, and for traffic signal controls at the major intersections to provide for an orderly and efficient means of traffic management.

As the National Works Agency explained, the improvements are meant to reduce traffic congestion and travel time along the corridor with the added bonus of a reduction in fuel consumption by vehicles, improvement in public transportation time, and in drainage and safety in inclement weather.

This is a case where modernisation has caught up with population growth, lack of visionary town planning, the wayward expansion of the area, and the need for better roadways, less chaotic traffic management, and new amenities.

The uprooting and forced relocation of people who live and work in areas being improved is largely inevitable. And we are going to see a lot more of this as the push for modernisation intensifies in line with our new realities, as it should.

But, as we listened to the painful cry of the Constant Spring Market vendors, we feel great empathy, not because anything evil was being done to them, but because of the clear lack of understanding among them that such improvements must come and that no one should expect to remain in one place forever.

Some of the market vendors expected that, after compensating them for their relocation, the Government should also find places for them to re-establish their business. It is likely that they are just ignorant about the process, plus the fact that they have seen this happen in the past with squatters.

The market vendors are not alone in this situation. We see this almost everywhere that people have to be uprooted in the name of progress. It therefore can't be asking too much that public education become an integral part of the development process.

We are not talking about the flimsy, last-minute effort that passes for public education, which is too often little more than an attempt to facilitate connected public relations entities or individuals to 'eat a food'.

There is also the possibility that there are individuals, including lawyers, who are willing to collect the people's money and go to court, instead of helping them to understand the new realities and the futility of their action to stop the progress.

In the case of the Constant Spring Market vendors, there was a long-running impasse between them, the KSAMC, and other business operators, who succeeded in having court-issued injunctions blocking the demolition on two different occasions before they were lifted.

Would that we could see the light.