MEMBER of Parliament for Kingston Eastern and Port Royal Phillip Paulwell is chastising the Government for reneging on a promise to carry out flood mitigation works in the Harbour Heights community, under the South Coast Highway project, in the wake of another round of devastation from flood rains.
“The Government has failed to deliver on the promises that I have consistently been able to extract out of them for the last three years from the highest level — the prime minister right down to the minister involved with construction — the latest [promise] being during this year's budget exercise.
“I got a commitment from the minister, who had beside him a representative from the National Works Agency, that they had approved $85 million which would have been attached to the project China Harbour is doing on the southern coast and that the work would start immediately after the budget,” Paulwell told the Jamaica Observer last week. “Not one red cent has been spent to date, and this is after promises made last year and the year before.”
The Kingston Eastern MP said the plight of the community which straddles the constituency of Member of Parliament and wife of the prime minister, Juliet Holness continues to be ignored.
“I visited the community a few months ago and I invited the parish manager from the National Works Agency, and it was clear from that visit that we were still in a dire situation in the event of any rainfall or flooding in the community. So the Government is fully aware. The most recent visit, they have that on record and still nothing is being done,” Paulwell lamented.
“MP Juliet Holness and myself share the responsibility as Members of Parliament... but yet still we see an enormous amount of resources being pumped into other areas of East Rural; and they deserve it — we are not begrudging them — but nothing has been done for the people of Harbour Heights. And it is a terrible shame because these are people who built up their houses, and the problem that currently exists came out of the solution that the Government was trying to find, which made the matter worse,” he added.
Paulwell said even though the Atlantic hurricane season, which officially began in June, is advanced, he is of the opinion that “remedial work can start to prevent loss of life and property”.
“Every time the rain sets up the people are in fear, trepidation as to what is likely to happen,” he told the Observer
In the meantime, the Harbour Heights Citizens' Association, in a last-ditch attempt to get some kind of fix last week, served a petition on the Office of the Prime Minister calling for a solution to the issue.
Homeowners in the area have, since the start of this year, issued impassioned pleas for the authorities to correct engineering blunders which, they say, have endangered their community over the past years, worsening when torrential rains linked to two tropical storms between October and November last year wreaked havoc in the area and other sections of the island.
According to the residents and their MP, work done under a 2012 landslide mitigation project — through a US$2.37-million grant from the Japanese Social Development Fund — fell short of its intended scope, resulting in the current dilemma that has left a dozen homes nestled between Caribbean Cement Company on one end and Harbour View on the other exposed to a gaping chasm which has swallowed retaining walls and backyards. That mitigation project should have included plotting — with the aid of global positioning system technology and local 'lay-of-the-land' knowledge — outlining and erecting a series of drains, gutters, channels; and rainwater-harvesting strategies that would act as natural hazard-intervention techniques. That, however, was not done, they claim.
Following the passage of Tropical Storm Grace, which drenched the island with torrential rains last Monday evening into Tuesday, one resident shared footage with the Observer of the devastation. The individual, who earlier this year expended just under $1 million to construct a retaining wall, said floodwaters had made short work of the protective measure, leaving the property again exposed.
“All my plants are gone; the entire fence root up. Almost a million dollars gone down the drain, almost a million dollars! This is it,” the householder lamented.