Bullish on Bernard Lodge - Enterprise team head moves to allay fears about infrastructural challenges
The mega township that has been proposed for several thousand acres of the Bernard Lodge lands in Portmore, St Catherine, is one step closer to getting off the ground.
It will include artificial lakes to help with the recharge of the aquifers that produce water for the St Catherine plains. It will also feature closed underground garbage silos throughout the development and closed sewerage systems to prevent contamination of the aquifers.
Additionally, major roadways are either being upgraded or slated for upgrade and a major road will traverse the development.
Minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Daryl Vaz, used last Wednesday’s post-Cabinet media briefing at Jamaica House to provide the latest update and promised that the Government will update the country on the status of the development every three months.
Vaz also introduced the six members of the enterprise team which is leading the development.
The team is headed by the CEO of SCJ Holdings, attorney-at-law Joseph Shoucair, and includes a chartered accountant and engineers.
The team has reportedly held nine meetings with the relevant government agencies, including the National Water Commission (NWC), the Portmore Municipal Council (PMC) and non-governmental organisations, since March.
According to Shoucair, the nine meetings focused almost entirely on the infrastructure.
“It is no secret that there are serious infrastructure challenges in the Greater Portmore area and we intend to address not only the needs of the new communities, but the existing communities,” said Shoucair.
Speaking on perhaps the most controversial aspect of the development access to adequate, potable water Shoucair pointed out that the NWC is about to start construction on a second treatment facility on the Rio Cobre.
That facility is expected to have the capacity to produce 15 million gallons of potable water each day.
Shoucair said that one of two existing trunk lines that take water into Portmore is being expanded to increase its capacity, while a new line will be built in the development area.
He promised that steps will be taken to protect the delicate aquifers in the area as they have been affected over many years of overuse, in particular by the sugar operations at Bernard Lodge, resulting in a high manganese content in the water.
Shoucair said to combat this, the developers will construct artificial lakes that will serve to recharge the aquifers.
“Those of you who have travelled to Florida would be accustomed to these lakes,” said Shoucair, as he added that the lakes will also be used for recreation.
On the matter of sewage, Shoucair said that the current treatment facilities will be expanded.
He said that the NWC is currently constructing the first phase of a system that will accommodate some of the existing requirements of the Greater Portmore area, as well as a new development that is under construction.
A new sewage trunk line will be constructed to take the sewage from the development area into the new treatment facility.
In terms of roads, Shoucair told the media briefing that the “rehabilitation of the George Lee Boulevard has been completed”.
He added that the Naggo Head main road is being widened, while Grange Lane which links Spanish Town to Portmore and the Dunbeholden Road will be dualised and new traffic signals installed, so, too, Dunbeholden Road.
Traffic signals will also be installed at the Passagefort-Dyke Road intersection which is being widened.
“This should increase safety and (vehicular) performance of the junction by 35 per cent,” said Shoucair.
MAIN ROAD UPGRADE
The enterprise team head said that the Bernard Lodge main road will be upgraded, in particular where it meets Lakes Pen and Port Henderson roads, and a new four-kilometre corridor will be built from the Dunbeholden Road that will traverse the development area into the new town.
Vaz, who pointed out that the development consists of 4,677 acres, stressed that this was but a fraction of the tens of thousands of acres on the St Catherine plains, most of which have remained idle for a long time.
“We have a major issue in terms of squatting, in terms of garbage dumping, in terms of sand mining, all of which are a major threat to the people, to the communities, to the environment, and most importantly, to the aquifers,” said Vaz.
The Bernard Lodge project is slated to also include the construction of 17,000 houses, schools, hospital, and fire station, as well as light-manufacturing plants, among other infrastructure.