TRANSPORT, Works and Housing Minister Dr Omar Davies and the leadership of the National Works Agency (NWA) are coming under fire from a member of Parliament who is upset over the failure of the Government to repair massive road break-aways in three sections of West Rural St Andrew.
The roads, some of which have been reduced to single lane and pedestrian traffic, were damaged more than two years ago by landslides associated with flooding.
However, Paul Buchanan, who has been the member of Parliament for the constituency since December of last year, said that he is shocked by the seeming disregard being meted out to the affected residents, particularly hundreds of students who are preparing to return to school in another two weeks.
"For the past two to three years a situation exists where the children of Mount Ogle, the children of Mount Oreb and the children of Red Hills, Allman Hill and Parks Road are inhibited from attending school, and at the very least attending school regularly because of the breakaways," said Buchanan as he shared his concerns with the Jamaica Observer.
He argued that the children, many of whom are from poor families, will continue to pay higher transportation costs, due to the fact that they will have to take two taxis instead of one to get to and from school.
"My appeal goes out to the NWA leadership and the minister to immediately move to correct this major anomaly in the education of our children, and to prevent a disaster waiting to happen. With any major hurricane or significant rain the break-aways will be irreparable. Lives are at risk and the education of the children is at stake. In fact, the entire social, physical and economic infrastructure of the constituency is being altered," said the parliamentarian, who disclosed that he had brought the matter to the attention of the transport and works minister.
"The minister had assured me in Parliament that funds are in place for those three roads. There was a report issued in Parliament that showed that work was to proceed on the three of them," said the parliamentarian who sits on the Government side of the House of Representatives.
Describing the situation as one of the major shames of the Jamaica Development Infrastructure Programme (JDIP), the MP said that the roads were slated to be repaired under the previous administration's multi-billion-dollar roadworks programme.
However, the work never got underway and months after the new Government assumed office it was disclosed that the entire JDIP would have to be reviewed as there wasn't sufficient funds to complete the designated projects.
While not discounting the Government's fiscal challenges, Buchanan said that it was unacceptable for any government, including the administration of which he is a part, to allow residents, particularly students to be subjected to the distress associated with using the treacherous roadways.
An official of the NWA, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Observer that the entity could not confirm when work will begin on the three roads, as the repairs will require significant funding.