Wed | Jan 16, 2019

Daryl Vaz | Why we're pressing ahead with Bernard Lodge city

Published:Sunday | December 23, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Daryl Vaz

I refer to your editorial in The Gleaner of Monday, December 17, 2018, captioned 'Bulldozing ahead with Bernard Lodge city'. This article contained a number of misunderstandings and inaccuracies, which I am obliged to bring to the attention of your readers and your good selves.

In his remarks at the last post-Cabinet press briefing, Joseph Shoucair, in his capacity as chairman of the Greater Bernard Lodge Enterprise Team, reported on the deliberations of the group as of that date. In his capacity as chairman of SCJ Holdings Limited, a GOJ agricultural land-management company, Mr Shoucair was at pains to point out that notwithstanding the new town proposal at Bernard Lodge, SCJ Holdings Limited was not distracted from its primary mandate of securing investments in order to put idle agricultural lands into production.

It was in this latter capacity as SCJ chairman that Mr Shoucair reported on investments that had been secured for agricultural lands, not forming part of the proposed Bernard Lodge development area.

Thus, the proposal for the US$130m investment in the bamboo-to-commodities project, of which you had made mention, had been secured for government lands in Trelawny and a US$5m agro-industrial, Israeli-sponsored project for lands at Innswood in St Catherine.

The proposed expansion of Caribbean Broilers' Imagination Farms will be located on government lands, adjoining Imagination Farms, which are also not part of the Greater Bernard Lodge Development area.

This letter is not the appropriate forum to provide you with all of the details regarding the proposed development. I take the opportunity, however, to emphasise the following:

Of the 4,600 acres comprised in the proposed development area, in excess of 1,700 of those acres will be dedicated to agriculture and agro-processing.

The area to be dedicated to housing is 1,439 acres.

While we note Basil Fernandez's reported views, we are comfortable with the National Water Commission's commitment to provide the new development with its total daily requirement of 3,000,000 gallons of potable water from the new treatment facility on the Rio Cobre. I might also add that the private-sector entities financing this new treatment facility would have been convinced of its viability before contractually committing to spend some US$60m on its construction.

Regarding your environmental concerns, the following should be noted:

(a) The Government has publicly committed that not only will we be constructing infrastructure for the new development, but we will use the opportunity to fix the (water, sewerage, road and drainage problems) that have historically plagued existing Portmore and that are likely to arise as a result of the new project.

(b) We will take steps to protect the already impaired and 'overallocated' water resources of the alluvial aquifer and construct a series of earthen drains and retention ponds, in order to restore its water levels.

(c) The Kingston Metropolitan Area is fast becoming overcrowded. It is constrained by the mountains from expanding to the north and east and must, therefore, look to the west in order to accommodate its excess population. The old Bernard Lodge Estate (much of which is damaged by large-scale sand mining, the dumping of garbage and squatting) is the logical area for the metropolis' expansion.

- Daryl Vaz is minister without portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister.

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