Wednesday 16 October, 2019

J$20 billion to be spent to upgrade NWC infrastructure in Kingston

Jamaica will spend J$20 billion (US$160 million) to effect urgent repairs and upgrades to the crumbling National Water Commission (NWC) infrastructure in the Kingston Metropolitan Area (KMA).

Of that amount, US$60 million will be spent under the government’s emergency procurement rule.

That was disclosed by Prime Minister Andrew Holness on Tuesday as he used the parliament to address the water crisis facing the country, in particular residents living in a wide section of the Corporate Area who go days at a time without the essential commodity.

With very little rain in the forecast, and the country now facing up to eight months of a dry season, Holness said the crisis could get worse before it gets better. He said currently, the NWC is only able to make 37 million gallons of its 63 million daily capacity available to the country.

“Major repairs are required immediately for the KSA water supply system. The total expenditure required is estimated at US$160 million…we simply will have to find the money to do it,” the prime minister stressed.

He acknowledged that the major infrastructure works which are now winding down in the Corporate Area have caused some disruptions. But, he noted that it was now government policy to replace old pipelines wherever major road work takes place. He said the transmission mains installed along Hagley Park Road should last more than 60 years.

“The plan for meeting future water needs consists of key components which include major transmission main replacement and upgrade, continuing the non-revenue water reduction project, but more importantly increasing water production through the construction of a 15-million gallon water treatment plant on the Rio Cobre,” Holness said.

That facility, which has been in the making for some time, is being developed through a public-private partnership to the tune of J$7 billion and will improve supply to both the Corporate Area and Portmore. Ground could be broken in the coming weeks or months.

For the rest of the KMA, the bulk of the money (US$60 million) will be spent to install 12 kilometres of varying size pipes from 24 to 36-inches of ductile iron transmission mains from Six Miles, alongside Spanish Town Road to Glenmuir Road, adjacent to Sabina Park.

That work is estimated to last up to 24 months. Communities along the way will benefit from improved service and work as some of the laterals will also be upgraded. The prime minister said that work was not budgeted for but disclosed that the Ministry of Finance will make the funding available to the NWC to be recouped later via the so-called K-factor.

Among the other improvements to be undertaken are:

- Stanton Terrace to Marescaux Road where 2.1 kilometres of 16-inch main will be installed at an estimated cost of US$12 million. The design of this pipeline is already completed.

- King’s House to West King’s House House Road will see the installation of three kilometres of 16-inch transmission main at a cost of US$12 million.

- From the round-a-bout at the Norman Manley International Airport to Port Royal where the old, leaky 7-inch diameter pipe will be upgraded to a 12-inch pipeline spanning 10 kilometres. This will boost supply to Port Royal and facilitate the planned developments there. The estimated cost is US$15 million. The prime minister assured that there will be no need to dig up the road to install this pipeline.

- Seaview in Stony Hill to Jacks Hill, St Andrew to benefit from a 10-inch main at a cost of US$5 million.

- Five kilometres of 24-inch transmission main along Washington Boulevard to improve capacity and flexibility.

Following concerns raised by Opposition Member of Parliament for Eastern St Thomas, Dr Fenton Ferguson, the prime minister assured that there will be transparency in the process as it relates to the emergency works to be undertaken on the Six Miles to Glenmuir Road project. He explained that the NWC will likely engage a contractor with a proven track record of importing and installing pipes.

In the meantime, the prime minister is urging Jamaicans to conserve while the upgrades to the system take place. He revealed that $100 million has been allocated to truck water to the worst affected communities where some 500 black tanks have already been distributed.

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