Posted: Sunday, August 28, 2022. 4:46 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: For a system that lasted barely an “overnight,” Minister of Infrastructure Development and Housing Julius Espat said the damage caused by the August 17 tropical wave crossing Belize exposed significant weaknesses in our road network – approximately $12 million and more worth.
“The $12 million wasn’t a magic number; it was a number that the Ministry of Finance alerted us that they had available, and so we sat with our engineers…and the district supervisors came in with their detailed reports,” said Espat, who added that priority was placed on the most affected areas and repairs in other areas will be dealt with from the normal budget.
And the Minister says that residents of rural areas in the Belize, Corozal and Orange Walk Districts have just as much right to be able to travel without issue to and from work and school, but are in some cases literally blocked from doing so: “What we have noted is that there is a lack of proper drainage and culverts in all of the villages we mentioned, so the emphasis is to be able to go to the foundation of the problem rather than try a band-aid solution.”
All are in agreement that drainage is an issue that needs to be addressed, but there is also the question of low-lying and flood-prone areas and the threat of climate change, exemplified by the Old Capital and the construction of a pumping station to clear the canals and the New River in Orange Walk.
The Minister committed to sharing the financial report on the spending of the emergency funds. The communities of Ladyville, Burrell Boom, Maskall and Bomba, Belize City (Lake Independence, Port Loyola, Belama), Western Paradise, Flowers Bank, May Pen, and Crooked Tree in the Belize District will see road repairs, culvert installation, drainage improvements and other improvements valued at $6.75 million. Notably, the Philip Goldson Highway which saw two culverts collapse between Miles 24 and 31 is not included as the highway is covered by a series of contracts and the Government is negotiating with the contractors to take on the additional expense in their general contract for building.
New culverts will be installed across roads in the Orange Walk District and in Orange Walk Town and outlying villages from Trial Farm in the north to Carmelita in the south for a total of $4 million in Orange Walk, and the same for parts of Corozal Town and southern villages from Libertad to San Roman for $1.25 million.
Espat also pointed out that far more is needed, but there are many compromises to be made in terms of the finance available and the work to be done. He also pointed out that the Ministry has spent upward of $10 million on equipment for the district units of the Ministry – graders, backhoes, excavators, trucks and so on.
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