Sun | Sep 23, 2018

Kelly McIntosh | NWC must account for road ravages

Published:Sunday | August 26, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Kelly McIntosh

There is so much road-improvement work happening in Kingston and St Andrew. Yes, I shudder at the thought of school reopening in a few days' time and what alternative routes and bumpy surfaces through literal road-construction zones will mean for commute times.

But I think we all agree that our road networks need upgrading to accommodate life in Kingston in 2018, and so we'll moan and complain, but we'll plan for the inevitable disruption progress brings, all the while glad that finally something is being done.

What I cannot accept, though, is the utter destruction to our road surfaces at the hand of none other than the National Water Commission (NWC). The NWC has been on a mission to reduce the amount of potable water lost during transmission. This US$42.5m non-revenue water (NRW) project is being implemented through funding from the Inter-American Development Bank and is being executed in partnership with the Miya water company from Israel.

Back in March of this year, as reported in The Gleaner, NWC President Mark Barnett had this to say: "The NRW activities are here to improve our system. But it will get worse before it gets better. We're still going to be digging up the roads; there's no way around it. The other thing is with the many road resurfacings that have been carried out, a lot of the valves that are critical to the network have been asphalted over. So, you will see us digging up intersections because that's where most of the valves are located."

All well and good. We get it. But every time the NWC and Miya dig up and fill back, you can bet your bottom dollar that there will be a significant sink in that same spot mere days after the refilling and patching has happened. I see it (and feel it) all over Havendale, Perkins Boulevard, Meadowbrook, Red Hills, Barbican and Mannings Hill Road. Have you ever fallen into one of these basin-like depressions where the valve cover has receded four inches - sometimes more - below the surface of the road?

 

50 per cent reduction

 

In that same March 2018 article in The Gleaner, it was reported that there had been a reduction of non-revenue water of up to 50 per cent in some district metering zones. That is wonderful news. Water availability is going to become even more critical in the coming years in the face of climate change and any and all efforts that see us harvesting, storing, distributing and using with a view to conservation are necessary and good.

Plus, the NWC needs revenues to continue to run efficiently. But this cannot, and should not, happen at the expense of the taxpayers. For you see, every time we pay to rehabilitate a road only to have the NWC's activities mess it up again, the expense to rehabilitate the road a second time (and to rehabilitate our vehicles!) is ours and ours alone. We cannot afford it.

This is not a complex issue. It is an issue of coordination, standards, monitoring and enforcement. These basic tenets of project management should be second nature to an organisation that is fundamentally an engineering company at its core.

Why is this not happening, NWC? Do you not see the need to deliberately coordinate with the National Works Agency? Do you not have defined standards for your rehabilitation work? Is there not a defined process to monitor the final output and effect control when there is deviation from the expected?

The NWC and NWA appear not to be able to get it together to work efficiently and to the benefit of us, the taxpayers.

I call on the Government to throw down the gauntlet and hold these two agencies accountable to ensure that taxpayers, the ones footing all the bills, get value for our money.

- Kelly McIntosh is a procurement manager. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and kkmac218@gmail.com.