Sun | Jun 16, 2019

Garth Rattray | Undeclared disaster areas

Published:Monday | March 18, 2019 | 12:08 AM
Constant Spring Road, St Andrew, under construction.

A natural or man-made ‘disaster’ is, “…a serious disruption, occurring over a relatively short time, of the functioning of a community or a society involving widespread human, material, economic or environmental loss and impacts, which exceeds the ability of the affected community or society to cope using its own resources”.

Plans to carry out necessary, overdue major road and infrastructure work (especially) along the Mandela Highway, Hagley Park Road and Constant Spring Road corridors were hatched years ago. However, implementation has been disorganised, discombobulating, discommodious, destructive, disjointed, disorderly, disruptive and disrespectful of our citizenry in the extreme.

If bombs had exploded and produced serious, widespread water supply problems, significant dust pollution, intermittent power outages, multiple millions in property damage, endangerment of thousands of lives, a death, serious musculoskeletal and respiratory problems, anxiety, depression and public health/hygiene problems, unsecured, deep, gaping and dangerous holes (some across roadway entrances), destruction of traffic and road signs, lost and confused citizens, severe and prolonged destruction of major roadways, extensively snarled traffic, severed communication lines, loss of buildings, businesses, production and livelihood – any properly functioning Government would declare them disaster areas, render/allocate assistance to the suffering citizens and ensure rapid return to normalcy.

But this man-made disaster is sanctioned by the Government, therefore, no assistance is forthcoming. The foreign company was contracted to carry out roadworks and will be allowed to continue in its accustomed vein. The treatment being meted out to Jamaicans is horrendous and the Government’s hands-off attitude is disgraceful and disheartening.Instead of being proactive in properly planning the needed road and infrastructure upgrades, instead of being interactive and listening to the lamentations/concerns/suggestions of the people, and instead of retroactively ameliorating the distress being encountered, the Government is silent and distant.

Occasionally, when the groans of the people grow louder, the Government produces illusionary imagery aimed at a modicum of damage control and pacification. But they are fleeting, not substantive, and certainly not helpful in any way.

UNGRATEFUL OBSTRUCTIONISTS

Natural disaster areas are eligible for relief supplies and financial assistance, but in this man-made disaster, residential communities and business enterprises affected by the extensive ‘Legacy roadworks’ get nothing. Instead, if the affected citizens gripe, some label them sympathisers of the opposition political party and/or ungrateful obstructionists.

They are seen as the eggs that must be sacrificed in order to make omelettes. They are also sometimes seen as the snot that must run from the nose of a society aspiring towards improved roads and infrastructure.

Sadly, the innumerable unwilling martyrs often find themselves defending their right to complain.

The Legacy roadworks could have been carried out far more efficiently and humanely. This would never be allowed in any developed country; their governments would have protected their citizens.

Consideration should have been given to the stakeholders. Concerns about possible drainage problems following the roadwork abound but remain unaddressed. The permanent rerouting of traffic, road signals, road access, traffic signals and various turns should be explained and discussed with the residents/businesses in the affected areas.Whether or not the work zones are officially declared ‘disaster areas’, that’s exactly what they look and feel like.

I hope that the prime minister will take unscheduled tours to observe and to provide moral support so that the affected citizens no longer feel abandoned in favour of politicism and his legacy.

Perhaps if the PM were to see it fit to repeatedly tour his Legacy roadworks in progress, the contractors would make the effort to properly secure the dangerous holes that they have left open, maintain access to homes/businesses, erect badly needed signs directing drivers through unfamiliar detours, request police personnel, exercise care to preserve important structures, and carry out their job compassionately and efficiently.

Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garthrattray@gmail.com.