Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer
Dr Winston Green, member of parliament for Central St Mary, has served notice of his intention to get tough on people who engage in illegal and/or inappropriate sand-mining activities in his constituency.
Green used the recent opening of the Westmoreland Bridge to appeal to residents to play their part in protecting and preserving the new 180-metre facility which spans the Wag Water River in the vicinity of Chovey, where it connects with the Junction main road.
Speaking with The Sunday Gleaner afterwards, Green disclosed that such activity had undermined the integrity of the original structure, contributing to its failure to withstand the ravages of the torrential rainfall, which resulted in its eventual collapse.
The US$18-million replacement is a major improvement over the one-lane bridge which existed before. Its collapse resulted in the communities of Lewis Store, Clonmel, Coffee Piece, Ranch and Clonmel being cut off and starved of commerce, during the more than six years of the road's closure.
Farmers were among the hardest hit as in addition to paying more for transportation costs, they had to travel longer distances, over bad roads, which impacted the quality and delivery of their produce.
Now Green wants residents of these and adjoining communities to recognise the new bridge as a major infrastructural investment, for its immense value, well beyond its multimillion-dollar price tag, and help by reporting any suspected incidents of sand mining which could threaten its longevity.
He noted that the main road leading to Enfield had been undermined by illegal sand mining, resulting in a major breakaway which forced motorists to use the few, much longer alternative routes into the community. That road has since been repaired.
Now the member of parliament wants constituents to join him in protecting their built environment, by preserving the natural environment.
"Sand-mining efforts have been done improperly over the years and contributed to the falling of the bridge, and the same thing happen at Enfield, so we have to be more vigilant with respect to sand mining," he appealed.
Green said while illegal sand miners were cause for concern, he intends to turn the spotlight on legal sand mining operators as well, to ensure that their operations are in keeping with the terms and conditions of their licences.