Manchester stakeholders welcome new phase of water project


Manchester stakeholders welcome new phase of water project

Staff reporter

Thursday, January 14, 2021

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MANDEVILLE, Manchester— Residents and other stakeholders in this south-central town are eagerly awaiting an improved water supply, following reports that a new phase of the Greater Mandeville Water Supply Improvement Project has started.

Manchester Central Member of Parliament Rhoda Crawford told the Jamaica Observer that work, which is expected to be completed over the next six months, will result in improved water supply for residents of the Perth Housing Development and adjoining communities in Mandeville.

“This new supply will not just benefit that community [Perth], but the neighbouring communities. The water will be sourced via Gutters in St Elizabeth and will be pumped up into a 250,000-gallon storage tank system,” said Crawford.

The National Water Commission (NWC) advised that the project, which started on Monday, is being done through its contractor, Jamaica Drip Irrigation Limited.

According to the NWC, this phase will involve the construction and installation of ductile iron pipelines from Waltham/Perth Road intersection along the Waltham Road, through Perthland Drive and terminating at the National Housing Trust's (NHT) Perth Development Tank.

While welcoming the project, chairman of the Manchester Development Committee, Anthony Freckleton, said a “holistic” approach is needed for not only Mandeville, but all of Manchester.

“From the perspective of the Manchester Development Committee this problem that we have with water in the parish needs to be looked at in a holistic manner to include the Greater [Mandeville] Water Supply... We are grateful for the announced water project [but[ our Manchester 2030 plan requires a long-term plan for the entire parish,” said Freckleton.

He allgeded that the NWC cannot account for 74 per cent of the water that is supplied from Gutters and Porus.

“They (NWC) have supplied me with a plan of what it would take to dramatically improve the access of potable water to residents of Manchester. They need about 70,000 lengths of pipe to be replaced [due to leaks],” added Freckleton.

Mandeville, and surrounding communities, have struggled with water shortages for decades, with town elders insisting over a period of many years that the problem has hindered growth.

For Crawford, the next phase being done in Perth and adjoining areas is significant.

“It is a very significant development. The water crisis in Manchester Central has been plaguing us for quite a while. I'm 32 [and] from the moment I was born, I have been living in the constituency to now that I am the political representative, we have been struggling with this issue,” said Crawford.

“We know exactly what the issues are. We know which of the communities are not serviced any at all. We know which communities merely need pipelines, but the reality is we don't have a big enough storage system in the constituency, and we are looking at how we can go about acquiring and building larger storage systems,” added Crawford as she disclosed the estimated bill to solve Mandeville's water problem.

“To fully upgrade the overall water system in Mandeville to bring a full solution, it will cost $8 billion. This is phase one of the immediate three phases programme and this phase is $5 billion. If we continue to do it phase by phase, we can solve the problem,” she said.

Some 600 households are expected to benefit from phase one of the project and almost 2,000 more by the end of the third phase.

She disclosed that a proposal is being drafted “to be presented to the minister with responsibility to seek some additional assistance”.

Other communities in Manchester Central are expected to soon have access to potable water.

“…Outside of these projects that NWC is doing, we have been going into some communities that merely need pipelines, for example, Wilben. They started to lay some pipelines about three weeks ago. They are in the final stage now, so residents will be able to get water,” Crawford declared.

“We have also partnered with the Rural Water Supply and we have laid some pipes in Church Street in Knockpatrick, so it is now at the stage for the citizens to get registered with the NWC. We will be doing some more of those smaller projects right across the constituency,” she added.

The Pepper well, down slope at low altitude in St Elizabeth several miles away, is the main source of water for Mandeville, which is more than 2,000 feet above sea level, atop the Manchester Plateau.

Experts say pumping water from Pepper up to Mandeville is difficult and expensive, largely because of the steep slope and distance.

Mayor of Mandeville Donovan Mitchell told the Observer last year that he wanted the utilisation of a well at Porus —originally developed by bauxite/alumina company Windalco for its Kirkvine plant which was closed in 2009— to help deal with Mandeville's water issues.

“The Greater Mandeville supply system was done from in the 1980s and so whatever is being done at this time to alleviate the water problem we have especially in the Perth area, it is very timely that in 2021 we are getting the water,” said Mitchell.

Many households in Manchester and the wider south-central Jamaica have had to rely on rainwater harvesting. The Manchester Municipal Corporation requires that applicants for building approvals submit structural details for a concrete water catchment/storage tank with a minimum capacity of 28,500 litres.

The long-standing issue of water supply has not only affected households, but commerce, with businesses suffering from the inconsistency in the supply of the precious commodity.

Managing director at the Golf View Hotel Peter Campbell told the Observer that there has to be a reliance on rainwater harvesting for many businesses.

“Water is a critical component… The onus cannot be left solely on the Government. People have to see the impact of this commodity on our businesses and think outside the box to make it more accessible for ourselves. If it means individuals have to go the extra mile to build their own catchment to put themselves in a better position to supply their goods and services one will have to do so,” he stressed.

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