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Cabinet approves $30m to fight drought - Robertson says allocation insufficient for West St Thomas

Published:Wednesday | January 23, 2013 | 12:00 AM

Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter

WEST ST THOMAS Member of Parliament James Robertson says the funding that has been allocated for a drought remedial programme is insufficient.

Robert Pickersgill, the minister of water, land, environment and climate change, in a statement to the House of Representatives yesterday, said Cabinet has approved the financing of a drought remedial programme to the tune of $30 million.

However, Robertson has suggested it is hardly enough to meet the needs of his constituency.

"I have a list of about 55 areas, districts, schools that need water to be trucked to, each requires about three trips per week. And when I look at the budget for that, based on the information, I have that a trip is about $10,000 to $15,000, the weekly budget for west St Thomas is approximately $2.5 million," Robertson said.

On hearing the estimate, Pickersgill exclaimed, "$2.5 million per week? That's frightening!"

The minister, however, said he was not suggesting the allocation was enough.

"That is what the Ministry of Finance has given to us on an emergency basis but the (National) Water Commission has a budget for this drought problem of over $300 million. They are to tell me how they are going to deal with that budget," Pickersgill said.

The minister said water would be trucked to affected communities as part of the drought mitigation programme.

"We are guided by the information we get from the Met Office, ODPEM (Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management) and other relevant agencies and requests that we get from councillors and members of parliament," he said.

The minister had used the statement to update the nation on drought conditions across the island.

Urged to conserve

Jamaicans are being urged to conserve on the use of water as a result of drought conditions being experienced in some parishes.

Pickersgill said weather forecasts suggest rainfall will be below normal until at least May.

He said weather stations in Savanna-la-mar in Westmoreland, Tulloch in St Catherine and Serge Island in St Thomas revealed extremely dry conditions, which is one level above the worst.

The minister said approximately $100 million would be spent over the next three months for emergency works on storage tanks in drought-affected areas.

He said the NWC would increase the trucking of water to affected areas. He also said there would be increased water lock-offs at nights.

Pickersgill also said the major storage capacity in the Corporate Area - Mona reservoir and Hermitage Dam, are near 100 per cent capacity, but said the levels were expected to decline during the drought season.

In the meantime, three parish councils appear to be in danger of not receiving allocations from the water ministry to assist with drought mitigation this year.

Pickersgill said parish councils which have outstanding balances from last year's allocation would not receive any new allocation until the balances have been cleared.

"Our records indicate that the three parish councils that have depleted their allotments are Portland, St Thomas and Clarendon," Pickersgill said.