Water relief for sections of Portland
SAMUDA...that's a major move forward in Portland [even though] it doesn't erase the pain and strain that people would have felt

After weeks of dry pipes several residents in the eastern section of Portland now have water running through their taps once again.

Minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation Matthew Samuda made the disclosure last Friday during an address in the Senate.

He noted that the multi-billion-dollar South Coast Highway Improvement project, which is now under way, had negatively impacted residents of communities from Drapers to Manchioneal in Portland Eastern.

According to Samuda, the main pipeline, which was more than 60 years old, has now been improved with an $800-million upgrade and has been reconnected to supply residents.

"The water now runs through those mains, and we have connected back the laterals that would have come off of that system prior…So that's a major move forward in Portland [even though] it doesn't erase the pain and strain that people would have felt during the period," said Samuda as he also pointed to the recent additional $20 million that has been allocated by the Government for trucking water in Portland.

Residents of some sections of east Portland have staged at least two demonstrations to express their frustration over a lack of water in their pipes.

But Samuda argued that the Government has managed the extreme drought relatively well so far, as he and pointed to a number of measures already implemented to alleviate the suffering on Jamaicans facing the crisis.

These measures include $110 million which has been provided to support farmers through the Ministry of Agriculture, the allocation of $130 million since February for trucking of potable water; and the allocation of more than $20 million to purchase 'black tanks' which are to be given without charge to residents in the worst-affected communities.

"It is important to note that these figures represent additional allocations, not the standard budgeted $440 million from National Water Commission [NWC] for trucking or the usual parish budgets that exist at municipalities. This is additional spend," said Samuda.

He told the Upper House that in addition to these measures, the NWC has undertaken a reduction of water distribution, which is the lock-off process; and alternated distribution where different areas have to be on schedules for different days of the week.

"We've had to distribute water at lower than normal pressures to prolong the available stored value…We have increased significantly in trucking to several areas; we have had to reactivate wells that we had put on rest," said Samuda.

He added that as the Government continues to manage the worst of the drought, it is continuing to implement projects which, when completed, will significantly increase the country's resilience to droughts in the future.

BY ALECIA SMITH Senior staff reporter smitha@jamaicaobserver.com

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