Construction At What Cost?

THE EDITOR, Madame: 

Recently, I returned to Jamaica after 18 months, due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions and the closure of the international borders of Trinidad and Tobago. At first sight, I was awestruck by visible signs of a booming construction industry – incredible high-rise residential buildings in Kingston and St. Andrew, Business Processing Outsourcing centres as well as  hotels. I was pleased to witness scores of skilled and unskilled young men working on these construction sites. 

As days passed, I initiated conversations with various individuals on my observation – buyers and vendors in real estate, persons in finance, persons who have been approached by developers to purchase their land, and just ordinary individuals.  Regrettably, I was unable to converse with developers or politicians. The conversations left me with a fundamental question, “Construction at what cost? Destruction?”

With the projected increase in habitants per square mile in Kingston and St. Andrew, the following questions emerge for me.

  • Are there plans afoot by the National Water Commission to identify additional water sources for the city, or upgrade the sewerage systems? 
  • What about the pollution of the aquifers and water tables because of increased population?  
  • Are there enforced legislations to address the issue of increased water run-off which has the potential to destroy property during heavy rains? 
  • What plans are there to address increased emission of carbon dioxide from vehicles and its contribution to the destruction of the environment?  
  • What about plans for traffic management and control with the anticipated increase in vehicles? 
  • How about the wages and benefits of the construction workers?

One day, I drove along a particular road in Kingston where there was ongoing construction of two massive apartment buildings. I witnessed two huge trucks parked on the sidewalk waiting to pick up dirt from the site. Then, I saw the destruction of the concrete pavement. Whose responsibility would it be to repair the public sidewalk?  How about public roads destroyed during the construction of these apartments and townhouses that are now littered with townhouses and apartments? One St. Andrew Road that was smooth like a baby’s skin two years ago with only a few town houses, today it is pothole riddled and rough like grater.  Who is responsible for repairing damaged roads cause by massive construction?

While I accept the contribution of the construction industry to economic development, it leaves me with the question, “Construction at what cost, destruction?  I welcome the input of government, politicians, environmentalists, and developers to this conversation. 

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