Necessity the mother of invention

Necessity the mother of invention

Government strives to deal with chronic water problems

South/Central Bureau

Monday, May 13, 2019

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BELLEFIELD, Manchester — Councillor Mario Mitchell (People's National Party, Bellefield Division) told how his phone “nuh stop ring” when there is drought, as constituents demand water.

Like so many others across rural Jamaica, the communities of mountainous Bellefield in central Manchester are without piped water from the National Water Commission.

Residents largely rely on rainwater stored in tanks and drums. When tanks and containers go empty in extended dry periods, water crises exist.

On such occasions, people turn to expensively trucked water from well fields at Porus, close to Manchester's eastern border with Clarendon.

The problem, as explained by Mitchell, is that the Manchester Municipal Corporation — which seeks to take responsibility for much of that trucked water — currently owns just one water truck.

“A parish council with 15 divisions and just one truck,” said Mitchell.

That means Bellefield communities may get trucked water twice monthly and sometimes three — and that, only because of Bellefield's relative proximity to Porus.

“Some councillors tell me they get (trucked water) just once (per month),” Mitchell said.

Hence, the gratitude of the councillor and scores of people who turned up at a recent ribbon-cutting at the opening ceremony for a water shop close to the square of the small town of Bellefield.

As explained by Minister of Local Government Desmond McKenzie, the water shop incorporates the storage of a daily supply of 20,000 gallons of water in large plastic drums to be distributed free of cost, in a managed manner.

It's projected that 10,000 people in Bellefield, Banana Ground, Blue Mountain, Bombay, Virginia, Top Bellefield, Davyton, and Coffee Grove in the constituency of Manchester Central will benefit in the short to medium term.

The water shop, which is on leased private land, cost $9.5 million to set up.

Mitchell — who was praised by McKenzie for his activist role in getting the project done — said the facility was situated close to the Bellefield square because it was the most central for people who will need to transport water to their homes.

“This is not what we want, but this is what we can do for now,” said McKenzie.

And while pledging that there would be no giving up of the ambition of getting piped water to homes in his division because “it is the right of the people”, Mitchell welcomed the “medium, short-term” water shop measure.

The facility at Bellefield follows similar projects at Marlie Hill, southern Manchester, in 2018 and Pennants, Clarendon, in 2017.

McKenzie said the Government was moving to implement other water shops in St Elizabeth and elsewhere.

“We are building a number of these in areas of the country with a severe shortage of water. We have at least three now under construction in... St Elizabeth and we are hoping by the end of this calendar year we will have installed water shops in almost all of the critical parishes across Jamaica...” the minister said.

He emphasised that the projects were not being funded by “new money” but that the Ministry of Local Government was “using resources that are there, in the best way we think these resources can be used to benefit the people who deserve the service...”

McKenzie pledged to give serious consideration to a suggestion made by Member of Parliament for Manchester Central Peter Bunting, for water now serving the nearby mothballed Windalco/Kirkvine bauxite/alumina plant to be also used to serve the water shop, thereby saving the cost of having to truck water to the facility.

Bunting noted that while Kirkvine has been closed for a decade, water from a dedicated well at Porus was being pumped to the plant to support maintenance operations.

“If we redeploy that water infrastructure to supply these communities it would be transformational,” said Bunting, who noted that the prospects of the Kirkvine alumina plant reopening “are not good”.

The MP revealed that a “spur” from the water line to Kirkvine “comes up to the (nearby) Bellefield High School”.

Said Bunting: “If we could extend that to this facility here (water shop), then it would save the cost of trucking water and it would make it a lot more efficient to keep this facility stocked with water at all times. It would save the taxpayers' money and allow us to use some of that savings to benefit other communities in the parish... There is no compelling reason why it can't be done...”

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