PORUS, Manchester – A Manchester councillor has suggested that engineers consult with residents of Redberry and surrounding areas who have complained that construction of the May Pen to Williamsfield leg of Highway 2000 will cause their communities to be flooded when it rains heavily.
Councillor for the Mandeville Division Jones Oliphant (People's National Party) said the consultation could help to mitigate issues such as flooding caused by road construction.
“It would appear as if what the layman says is not recorded, so the engineers will come up with their plan, but many times we need to check with the layman. The man on the ground. The man who is farming in the area. His knowledge and his experience combined with the engineering experience can eliminate and problem,” said Oliphant.
Residents say the construction of the US$188-million May Pen to Williamsfield continues to wreak havoc on their lives. The residents recently voiced their concerns of flooding during a validation session of the Community Disaster Risks Management (CDRM) plans held at the Manchester Municipal Corporation in Mandeville.
Earlier this year the residents had disrupted the highway construction in protest over dust and noise nuisances.
Stephen Edwards, managing director at National Road Operating and Constructing Company Limited (NROCC), which is responsible for overseeing the design, construction and maintenance of Jamaica's highways, is insisting that there are no flooding concerns in Redberry due to the highway construction.
“There is a construction drainage plan that is being actively managed to ensure that there is little to no impact during construction,” he told the Jamaica Observer by e-mail last week.
The project — which will reduce travel time between Kingston, Mandeville and other points west — was originally scheduled for completion in October 2022, but has been extended to January 2023.
Oliphant recalled the 1977 Content flood, which he said resulted from the construction of the Pen Hill main road.
“I am not opposed to development, but whenever we have highways being built we have flooding taking place and those of us who are little older can remember when Pen Hill [road between Williamsfield and Walderston] and what took place at Kirkvine in Content when all of that area was flooded and it went down to Porus as there was also flooded,” he said.
“Now with this highway that is going on, it is going to be worse. Down there [Porus] is going to be flooded,” he added.
In the meantime, Councillor for the Porus Division Claudia Morant Baker (Jamaica Labour Party) said blasting that was done during the highway construction has affected springs in St Toolies and adjoining communities.
“Whenever there is blasting there is always a new spring [coming] up. The springs not only exist in St Toolies. There are some in the Watermouth area and that area is prone to flooding, which is a cause for concern as well. What we have been looking at as a municipality and the proposal was made to clean all the soakaways throughout the parish of Manchester and I know Porus has the most,” she said.
Michael Wong, a resident of Porus claimed that the reconstruction of the community road in Redberry to accommodate the highway will cause severe flooding in the area.
“The [way] that they built it is affecting everybody. By the time the highway finish, nobody can come through Redberry, because the road is much deeper [now]. This road is about eight feet [lower], so by the time you level that it is going to be a natural catchment. We are going to be marooned in Redberry,” he said.
“They are putting the road eight feet down. Some bright people,” he added.
Another resident, Walford Godison said he has already lost some of his livestock due to flooding caused by the highway construction.
“My bigger problem right now is the highway. The highway damage me 100 per cent. Every water that wash off the highway goes into my farm. There is going to be more disaster there because the road is higher than people's houses,” he said.
“If rain fall one day straight I don't have any animal alive, every one drown. The last rain in October, I had to race to [retrieve] mi donkey and mi cow. It wouldn't normally happen, but since the highway everything come down a my gully,” he added.