Sat | Jan 19, 2019

Dam it! Well, maybe not

Published:Thursday | November 27, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Basil Fernandez, managing director of the Water Resources Authority, has declared that damming the Bog Walk gorge in St Catherine would amount to "constructing a white elephant".

The Government earlier this year signed a memorandum of understanding with China Harbour Engineering Company for a feasibility study to dam the gorge.

However, appearing before the Public Administration and Appropriations of Parliament yesterday, Fernandez, Jamaica's chief hydrologist, said Jamaicans should not place much hope in it as a solution to water woes within Portmore and the Corporate Area.

"My work - and the work of the Water Resources Authority - has indicated it cannot dam it because we would be losing water through the limestone bottom. We were going to be having an issue of integrity of the dam," he said.

"I have spoken to a number of engineers who have done geotechnical work out there, and they have found huge pockets of sand within the limestone itself, which, when you put the hydrostatic pressure and the weight of the dam on, could lead to some form of collapse," Fernandez said.

The Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing said that damming the gorge would create a reservoir that could store up to 1.9 billion gallons, and supply 80 million gallons of water per day.

Fernandez, however, said that based on the flow in the Rio Cobre, "There is going to be 20 per cent of the time when there is not going to be any water."

He added: "I need to make it very clear that this is what our simulation has shown."


Fernandez's comments were in response to a revelation made by Dr Kingsley Thomas, president of the National Water Commission, that he has taken the decision

not to spend US$400,000 in consultancy fees to study the possibility of providing Portmore and the Corporate Area with greater volumes of potable water.

"We have a project proposal for the building of a content water treatment facility, which is in the gorge," Thomas said, while adding that it relates to providing 15 million gallons of water per day to the Corporate Area and Portmore.

He said to go ahead with the proposals would be unwise, since the feasibility study is being undertaken on the dam. Thomas reminded the committee that it was he who mooted the damming of the gorge in 1999, as he thought it would naturally lend itself to storage.

"All of the points made regarding seepage and that sort of thing, the technology exists to seal these things," Thomas said.

"A lot of technology exists, a lot of people thought that the Three Gorges Dam in China could not work. They moved a million people, and it is now producing water. We cannot second-guess technology and what technology can do in today's world," Thomas added.