Tue | May 23, 2017

Get it right - Engineer says flawed drainage contributing to severe flooding

Published:Wednesday | May 17, 2017 | 5:00 AMEdmond Campbell
A mother carries her daughter on her back through thick vegetation and mud along a breakaway section of the Sunnyside to Guy’s Hill main road in St Catherine. She was determined to get her child to school as clean as possible and on time to sit her Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate examinations.
Acting Prime Minister Dr Horace Chang updating journalists, at Jamaica House in St Andrew yesterday, on the Government's response to the damage to the country caused by heavy rains.
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As the Jamaican Government rushes to carry out a comprehensive assessment of the significant impact of heavy rains on the country's infrastructure and the agricultural sector, Carvel Stewart, past president of the Incorporated Masterbuilders Association, said it was imperative that a national drainage solution be designed to address the longstanding problem of flooding.

Stewart, a civil engineer, said he might be challenged by colleagues in the field, but noted that he was ready to defend his position that the country lacks a proper design for its drainage solutions.

"What we have are individual areas trying to address the localised drainage requirement," he told The Gleaner yesterday.

A major flaw of Jamaica's drainage system, according to Stewart, is the designing of roads to carry water.

"Don't you see what happens to the roads when the rain falls? The roads are destroyed. We don't have enough drains," he said, adding that the roads are used as drains to discharge the water in an appropriate drainage channel. However, he said in a lot of cases it ends up on land, which does not have any outlet for drainage.

"When you see the water on the various roads - the Jacks Hill Road, the Mona Road, Hope Road this morning - it's ridiculous! I can recall that some work was done on Hope Road to reduce the volume of water, but there is still a massive amount of water on it."

He said that the water should be intercepted and taken underground in pipes.

"We have been spending money on a lot of things, and apparently we love the business of repairing roads," Stewart mused.

Giving an example of a properly designed drainage system, the engineer pointed to the East-West phase of Highway 2000. He said the water runs off the roadway to the sides, immediately preventing any build-up.

He argued that with a small country like Jamaica, computer technology could be used to come up with a model showing the different intensity of rainfall "and then come up with an overall design" in relation to an effective drainage system.

While acknowledging that this undertaking would be expensive, Stewart suggested that construction could be done on an ongoing basis.

He reasoned that when developers are in the process of developing a tract of land before it is approved by the various regulatory bodies, such a plan would have to conform to the national (drainage) design so that it discharges into the eventual final solution.

 

SEVERE BLOW

 

Addressing journalists yesterday at a press conference at Jamaica House, Dr Horace Chang, who was acting in the role of prime minister, said this week's heavy rainfall has dealt a severe blow to infrastructure, farmlands and agricultural crops. In addition, Chang said that communities have been flooded, and bridges and roads washed away. There were also landslides and residents were marooned in some communities.

Clarendon has received the brunt of the weather system, leaving a trail of devastation in the parish.

The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management has activated the National Emergency Operation Centre at Level Two, as the country braces for more rains going into tomorrow because of a trough across the Caribbean that is affecting weather conditions in the island.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who has cut short a visit to the Dominican Republic, was expected to return to the country last night and will today tour areas most impacted by the torrential rains.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com