Wed | Oct 28, 2020

Daniel Thwaites | The cyaapit is unravelling already?

Published:Sunday | October 18, 2020 | 12:16 AM

A great deal of inconvenience was excused last year on the basis that we would be properly carpeted with magnificent roads in the future. But this last set of rains have revealed that something is terribly wrong. We can’t say the roads are suffering from the coronavirus, so then something else is causing the widespread collapse.

Quite shortly, if the rain continues, only those in expensive SUVs will be able to use what’s left of the former roads. Too often the cyaapit is turning into a carpit.

Maxfield Avenue, newly renovated as a centrepiece of the reputed national cyaapit, has been left in tatters. Washington Boulevard as well. A section of Olympic Way collapsed. Arthur Wint Drive is severely damaged. Marcus Garvey Drive, Chelsea Avenue, and Molynes Road turn into swimming pools for motor cars when there’s a decent rainfall.

Further out in the countryside, notably in St Mary, roads are collapsing. The Gleaner carried an arresting picture of the Georgia main road in St Thomas which is becoming a river. And we’re just scratching the asphalt.

The public is noticing the devastation. Someone sent me a hilarious video comprised of various scenes of road flooding and road collapse from all over Kingston set to the song by Ace of Base – Everytime It Rains:

’Cause every time it rains,

I fall to pieces

So many memories the rain releases

Well, let’s talk about the memories the rain releases, because when it comes to the roads, those memories are often the kind you would rather forget.

WHO IS RESPONSIBLE?

The Gleaner had an eye-opening story on Friday: ‘Major road projects, but no major drainage work – Hunter’. The Hunter is E.G. Hunter, a sensible smaddy, National Works Agency (NWA) executive director. So how does that make any sense?

“The National Works Agency is blaming Jamaica’s decades-old drainage problem for flooding and subsequent damage to roadways across the island after heavy rainfall.”

There’s undoubtedly some truth to it. But wait deh! If it’s not the same NWA who is responsible for the drainage alongside de cyaapit, then who is?

Let’s get to the nub of the matter. If you talk about roads in Jamaica then you have to also talk about politics. Naturally, motorists demand good, or at least decent, roads to drive on. But that’s just the top of the rabbit-hole that one can descend if one is to look into the matter seriously.

I’m told by people who study these things that politicians are anxious to fix lots of roads, but not to fix them too well. For if they are built as sturdily as in the old days, where there was serious work put into the substratum (i.e., the supporting structure of the cyaapit) of the road that is real part of road-building, that creates other problems. For one thing, if you keep the amounts spending constant, you will only be able to fix fewer roads in any given year. That’s because you will be doing the job properly. That is a recipe for political headache.

Plus, if you do that, from whence will the next round of roadwork come? That’s a recipe for more political headache. Work haffi share up! So if there’s money to build 40 miles of roads, it’s better if the money is spent to patch up 120 miles, as there is far more to gain politically. After all, man and man have quarry to dig, marl to sell, bitumen and aggregate to sell, and equipment to rent out.

As with so much else in life, it’s not the shiny surface that matters, but the substructure/foundation and the things you don’t see. And we are habitually pointed to look at the shiny pretty surface, and gullibly, we enjoy that for the moment without asking too many questions about what lies underneath. There’s a deeper metaphor there somewhere, no doubt.

QUESTIONS NEED TO BE ASKED

So facing the current destruction, it would be great if some questions were asked. Perhaps one of those parliamentary committees could take it up to investigate.

If there is a problem with the design, it’s the engineers we should ask about what went wrong. If the design was fine, but the problem was with the implementation, then we need to talk to the contractors. Remember? Call de contractor … wi need de contractor!

A statement has been issued by the Jamaica Institute of Engineers. But where is the Professional Engineers Registration Board on all this? That is the body that legislation empowers to protect us with legal teeth. There are bodies out there upon whom the public must rely. They need to be courageous and help us to understand why we spend so much on roadworks that collapse if there’s more than a drizzle.

There’s a Professional Engineers Registration Board Act. If the board finds “any person or organisation registered under this act – to be guilty of dishonesty, negligence or incompetence”, it has an array of punishments.

If it was the contractors who came up short, what’s the recourse available to the public?

How is it that we’re being told that so much spending took place without proper planning for drainage? If the smart people at NWA can’t manage to plan for the needed drainage, maybe the time has come for a National Drainage Agency (NDA)? Or maybe even a Drainage Utilization Management Board (DUMB)? Or why not plan ahead with a Drainage Utilization Management Board Future Urban Carriageways Kingston Society?

And what if the NWA engineers are bright and capable, but it’s others who habitually intervene for reasons explained above, to make sure that the hogs at the troughs are well fed? That’s at our expense.

– Daniel Thwaites is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com