Sun | Dec 17, 2017

MoBay ill-prepared for natural disaster - McKenzie

Published:Thursday | November 30, 2017 | 12:00 AMChristopher Thomas
Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie (left) and Montego Bay Mayor Homer Davis participate in a tour of sections of Montego Bay, St James, which were affected by flood rains last week.

WESTERN BUREAU:

In the wake of the recent heavy rains, which triggered massive flooding in sections of Montego Bay, St James, Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie says that he will be having a meeting in January with the nation's municipal corporations and other stakeholders to address the issues of squatting and illegal building construction.

McKenzie, who toured sections of the western city yesterday to get a first-hand look at the restoration work taking place, made the announcement at a press conference.

"The municipal corporations will have to take a more proactive approach to the question of squatting, to persons who are building illegally, and persons who continue to block drains and waterways," he said. "Early in January, I will be bringing all stakeholders together from across the country to have a look at where we are in terms of squatting and illegal buildings and the steps that need to be taken."

During last week's heavy rains in Montego Bay, several sections of the western city suffered infrastructural damage. A number of houses in Albion Lane, North Gully, Canterbury, and King Streets, which are located alongside the city's North Gully Drains, were flooded out.

Several streets in downtown Montego Bay, including in Sam Sharpe Square, were left covered with mud, boulders, and other debris. These areas have since been cleaned up using a $20 million disbursement from the Ministry of Local Government's emergency funds.

"St James has almost 35 per cent of its households in squatting communities," said McKenzie in explaining the parish's general inability to withstand natural disasters. "Another 26 per cent live in board houses. Those housing solutions do not have any resistance to what we saw a couple of days ago."

He added: "What it means is that the public education about how and where we live must be a critical part of the corporation's focus. If the new Building Bill is to change the face of how we do business as it relates to building, then we have to be in a position to enforce the regulations that have been passed."