Saturday Express Editorial

IT doesn’t seem to be getting any better, or more manageable—this constant irritant of the manner in which major roadworks continue to be conducted across the country.

Among the latest examples of this glaring lack of co-ordination among the public agencies involved has been a recent development on the Western Main Road in St James. In a heavily-traversed thoroughfare such as this, motorists have had to be dodging gaping holes, finding creative ways not to cause accidents.

Not to play favourites with different parts of the country, in this question of the care and maintenance of our roads, the average citizen assumes that in built-up, urban communities, there would be a much greater duty of care being taken on issues such as this. But what exposures such as this confirm are the pleadings of citizens in other less high-profile districts, where disgruntled residents are forced to continue staging roadblocks and protest demonstrations to get attention.

In many cases, as well, such hazards are amplified by the deplorable state of pavements and sidewalks, themselves damaged either through constant rains over time, by leaking underground pipelines or broken mains.

The Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) continues its struggles with the sufficiency of a reliable supply to people in communities from one end of the country to another. Alongside this, the utility appears often unprepared to address the need for forward maintenance of underground mains. There continue to be long-argued declarations about WASA’s need to derive value for money from its operations. Given its lack of readiness to address some of these perennial infrastructure imperatives, it is clear the level of under-funding is an issue which remains to be effectively addressed.

For decades, we have been told that the Authority suffers from a 50-per cent leakage problem, from the volume of water it produces on an annual basis. Despite the repeated claims by officials, and by Cabinet ministers over succeeding administrations, this is an agenda item that remains virtually unchanged.

It is to be noted that the new Minister of Public Utilities, appointed after the August 10 general election, listed an improvement in the country’s water supply as his priority issue number one.

Minister Marvin Gonzales disclosed his lack of awareness about this perennial frustration for still too many consumers. With knowledge of the contentious resignation of a minister before him just prior to the start of the election campaign, a high-ranking member of his party’s executive, on this very WASA-water question he will be advised to treat this urgently.

The muscular improvement in the Authority’s infrastructure maintenance programme, however, must command equal attention to that of universal availability of supply. If WASA cannot maintain the momentum necessary on these twin-tracks of its operations, perhaps some other entity must be appointed to take charge of the upkeep and the timely attention to broken and damaged roadways, caused by faulty mains.

As the country’s publicly mandated supplier of water and sewerage services, WASA has as part of its mandate the preservation of the safety and integrity of the roadways. Indisputable evidence abounds, however, of continued unsatisfactory performance.

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