Fri | Oct 19, 2018

Inner-city households to pilot solar bulb project - Naked-flame lamps and candles to be replaced

Published:Tuesday | May 1, 2018 | 12:00 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
Prime Minister Andrew Holness (centre) and Dr Andrew Wheatley (third left), minister of science, energy and technology, reviewing solar lamps, while chatting with (from left) Zavia Walker, Kathleen Grant, Jean Dallas, Sandra Latouche and Samuel Williams. They were attending yesterday’s handover of the lamps to members of parliament with communities and households vulnerable to fire from candle usage.

An ageing housing stock and the use of open flames in the daily activities of residents in a number of inner communities have been identified as major causes of house fires that have claimed the lives of at least 31 people, including nine children in recent times.

To this end, Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced that the Government of Jamaica would be seeking to eradicate the use of open flames, particularly in economically challenged households, and followed up the promise with the piloting of a project that would see 5,000 solar lamps being distributed to the affected communities.

The project was assigned to the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ) under the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology.

"Almost every year, as a representative I have had to deal with burnouts - someone's home will be destroyed by fire. It's not arson. It's that we have an ageing housing stock that is made primarily of wood. Some people make their houses out of cardboard and bagasse," Holness said at yesterday's handover of the solar lamps.

"They find all kinds of materials to build houses which are not necessarily fire resistant. That is one part of the problem. Of the houses that would have been destroyed by fire, a significant number of them would be caused by open flame usage," he added.

Constituencies to benefit from the pilot project are East Rural St Andrew, West Rural St Andrew, East Kingston and Port Royal, East Central St Andrew, South St Andrew, Eastern St Andrew and West St Andrew.

Meanwhile, PCJ Chairman Russell Hadeed has described the project as part of his agency's mandate and a useful way of dealing with the problem.

"The presentation of these solar bulbs is part of the PCJ's overall mandate but, more importantly, they can save lives. So, whatever we can do to save even one life, we would have accomplished something thing," he noted.

The bulbs have a guaranteed service lifespan of two years; five years with batteries included. It will give the user up to 20 hours on low beam and six hours of high beam. It will be fully charged in eight hours of sunlight.

Meanwhile, Member of Parliament for East Kingston and Port Royal Phillip Paulwell, who represented Dr Peter Phillips, said that he was delighted that the Government was following through on the promise to find a solution to the cause of the deadly fires.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com