GOVERNMENT urban planners are promising that by the middle of next year Jamaica would have identified the location of its third city.
Prime Minister Holness last year mandated the then newly installed board of the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) to prioritise creating a new city.
“We are well in train, and we hope by this time next year to have pinned down a location. I can’t tell you where it is because we don’t know, but we have advanced the planning and development and we know where it is not going to be,” UDC General Manager Dr Damian Graham told reporters and editors at the at the newspaper’s Beechwood Avenue headquarters in Kingston.
Dr Graham was very tight-lipped about the possible areas of interest, but explained that 65 per cent of the country has been ruled out as those areas have been mapped in what is termed as ‘negative zones’. These include Linstead and Portmore in St Catherine; May Pen, Clarendon; and Mandeville, Manchester.
“There are some that have geological faults, that are close to the ocean and are in need of infrastructure, that are far greater — the population density wouldn’t support it. they are protected areas, elevations that are too high — like Blue Mountain Peaks. but there are a lot of other towns and coastlines that are of interest in Cornwall, Middlesex and Surrey,” he said.
At the same time, Dr Graham said that the remaining areas either have a city already, or have areas that present a geological problems.
Some of the considerations regarding where the new city will be located will include geological, as well as growth of population, which would balance the economy in the event of a calamity during which one one city is severely affected.
“As a point of continuity for any country, it is important for us to make sure that if there is a crisis in one city, the economy goes on,” said the UDC boss.
Dr Graham pointed out that in the 1907 Kingston earthquake, the fault line “basically ran from St Thomas through Kingston, down to Spanish Town, and passed through the Clarendon plains”, which he said would have to be considered in the construction of a new city, as well as the possible impacts.
According to Prime Minister Holness, a new city would help to alleviate the urban overflow into Kingston, reduce the burden on the capital’s infrastructure, and support Government’s objective of having two-thirds of the Jamaican population living in urban centres.
Dr Graham, meanwhile, said the rational of creating a new city is centred around the continuity of government services and having a diversified economy.
“The trend now in urban development across the world is to diversify your economy, so we are looking at how we do that in Jamaica. We have traditionally relied on either bauxite or tourism and we recognise that those two pivots are not diversified enough. Smart economies now look at smart cities, tech cities, unlocking latent assets of intellectual property and creativity in technology as a way forward, as well as having a place for the continuity for the seat of government,” he said.
“The (new) city itself won’t be built in five years. The city will take us 15 or 20 years but, as the urban development planners for the Government we have to take the foresight — based on Vision 2030 and beyond — to look at what the country will need in the next 20 years, 25 years, 50 and 100 years.”