The Keith Mitchell administration is being accused of having a lack of interest in protecting the rural economy.
The accusation was made by former Tourism Minister, Dr. George Vincent, the current caretaker in the Constituency of St. John for the National Democratic Congress (NDC).
Dr. Vincent used the occasion of the bad weather and severe flooding that occurred on the west coast of the island on September 13 to chide the NNP for not paying serious attention to the plight of rural folks.
The raging water completely washed away the temporary bridge that was erected as an alternative to the Lance Bridge, which is currently under reconstruction.
Speaking at the NDC’s weekly press conference in St. George’s last week Monday, Dr. Vincent said that whenever there is extreme rainfall, the river overflows its banks and floods the entire community of Gouyave Estate.
He recalled that back in April 2011, extreme flash flooding had displaced more than a dozen families along the west coast but in an effort to remedy the situation, the then ruling NDC government of Tillman Thomas approached the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) for funding, which was approved to the tune of $10.4 million.
He said that the funds were earmarked to do a project called the ‘extreme rainfall,’ which was geared at addressing the extreme rainfall condition of the mid-river under which the Lance bridge and the nearby Hubble bridge run and to prevent future flooding along the coast of the river.
“The NDC had signed for a loan of $10.4million towards a project called ‘extreme rainfall.’ This project has not been implemented…we need to prepare ourselves for extreme weather conditions and this was one of the things that the NDC was preparing for but unfortunately this government (NNP) did not implement it,” he added.
Dr. Vincent expressed the view that the Mitchell-led government is not serious about taking care of the rural economy because the situation with the project is more than 6 years old.
“My friends, 6 plus years have passed and we have not seen a stroke of work on that river,” the NDC Caretaker said, pointing out that “there was (also) supposed to be road rehabilitation along the river from Clozier to Gouyave.
“Up to today, the slides where the road goes into the river have not been addressed. My friends, what we are seeing here is a lack of interest in protecting the rural economy because should these roads fall apart by a heavy down pour, Clozier would be barred, and (there would be) no access to the Florida area,” he added.
The NDC Caretaker noted that the farming communities of Clozier, Florida and Pleasance, would be seriously affected as a result of flooding.
He recalled that approximately “10 families were to be relocated from the flooded area on the Lance” in order to facilitate the project, which would have “replaced the middle river bridge, which is located under the little river,” as “it (the bridge) is too low.”
Dr. Vincent also expressed concerns that the island could lose the $10.4 million package for the project, which was approved by the CDB at the “249th Board Meeting on December 8, 2011.
He called on the NNP regime to “hurriedly ensure that this project is implemented” since “we would lose the money.”