Thursday , December 7 2023

Multiple projects in 2018 will make Saba more sustainable

The year 2018 will bring about multiple proj­ects and opportunities that will not only help Saba to recover from the hurricanes, but will also assist in build­ing stronger and to make the island more resilient for the future, Saba Commissioner Bruce Zagers announced in a provided outline.

Some of the multiple proj­ects in the Commissioner’s portfolio, which will be start­ed or fully executed in 2018, include the building repairs to homes, the harbour, the airport, water management, waste management and oth­er infrastructural projects which will carried out with the financial assistance of the Netherlands.

The road to a full post-hurricane recovery will kick into high gear in the first quarter of 2018. The repairs on many homes, started in 2017, will continue dur­ing the course of this year. Homes that were damaged will be rebuilt stronger to make them more hurricane resilient. “We must make every effort to ensure that the ones who unfortunately witnessed what a severe hurricane is capable of, will now reside in a much safer home,” Zagers said.

The Commissioner an­nounced what he called a “clean sweep,” which will al­low the government to help inhabitants who are not in a position to better prepare their homes for subsequent storms. As soon as repairs to the most damaged homes have been completed, there will be a second round of repairs of homes that were not severely damaged and as well as government build­ings.

The Fort Bay Harbour will probably see the biggest transformation in the com­ing period. Small changes were already being execut­ed such as remodelling the customs and immigration office to make it more visi­tor friendly. With the new design ferry passengers will now be able to wait inside an air-conditioned building while passing through immi­gration and customs rather than having to wait outside in the sun or the rain. Also, US $2.5 million dollars will become available this year to implement other harbour improvements and to create a harbour master plan.

Due to the hurricanes the harbour master plan will be expedited; significant finan­cial resources have been made available by the Dutch Government to completely transform the small pier area as it is known today. The basis of this master plan will be brought as a focal point for the new de­sign which will emphasize on separating major com­mercial traffic (cargo) from touristic traffic (ferries etc.), dive boats and our local fish­ing boats. Dutch engineer­ing firm Witteveen+Bos is working out this concept in detail.

During a visit to Saba in December, the engineers of Witteveen+Bos met with the local harbour stake­holders to ensure that the input of the daily users will be reflected in the design. The first concepts should be ready by the end of Janu­ary. Once a final decision is made on the design, plans will be made for the tender­ing process and the harbour project can go on hid.

Although the airport fared much better than the harbour during the hurricanes, 2018 will still bring signifi­cant change and improve­ments. The planning has al­ready started to completely resurface the runway.

Zagers explained that the runway resurfacing project will bring some inconve­nience as the airport will have to be closed for fixed wing aircraft for a month, starting mid-September.
The runway will be resur­faced using concrete, which is used in St. Barths, rather than asphalt. “Using con­crete has significant long term advantages over as­phalt: it has a much longer lifespan of 30 to 40 years, while the materials, knowl­edge and equipment for maintenance are available locally.”

During the airport’s clo­sure, provisions for addi­tional ferry connections as well as options with the med­ical helicopters will be made available to ensure that connections to St. Maarten remain possible. “The free movement of persons to and from the island must con­tinue as seamless as possible during the closure. Meetings with the relevant stakehold­ers are ongoing to ensure that any possible negative impact will be addressed ac­cordingly.”

A Winair aircraft is parked on the apron of the Juancho Yrausquin Airport in Saba. The airport is on the impressive list of projects that will be carried out on the island in the course of this year. The runway will be resurfaced and the airport terminal building refurbished. Other projects include the harbour, home repairs, water management, waste management and infrastructure. (Suzanne Koelega photo)

The airport terminal build­ing will be refurbished in a separate project. Improv­ing the arrival area, creat­ing more dry spaces during rain and relocating the bar area will be addressed in this project, which should start during the first half of 2018. Extra parking spaces will be made opposite the existing parking lot.

Since 2016, significant progress has been made to­gether with the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management to establish more water storage capa­bilities and to improve water quality. Several additional cisterns have been built and a water line from the Fort Bay to The Bottom has been installed and is operational.

A project has already start­ed to extend the water pipe from The Bottom Hill, close to Lollipops to St. Johns and then on to Windwardside. Eventually, this project will take the water pipe to Hells Gate. There will be water filling stations in these vil­lages.

The developments will sig­nificantly reduce the price of trucking as water distribu­tion will be possible within the villages rather than hav­ing to truck water from Fort Bay. Extending the water line to commercial proper­ties such as hotels is being looked into.

Not only will the trucking be cheaper but so will the water; government recently signed an agreement with AquaSab which will now be the main water provider. Water will be purchased in bulk resulting in the resale price being lower than the current price. More infor­mation about this will be re­leased shortly.

Later this year a water bot­tling plant will also be re­alised. This will ensure that affordable quality drinking water is always available. The reverse osmosis water will be further purified and the necessary nutrients will be added to ensure that drinking water is of a high quality. Saba is receiving technical support for the pipeline and the planned water bottling plant from the Dutch water consultancy firm Vitens Evides Interna­tional.

The hurricanes did signifi­cant damage to the recycling facility; however, this has presented an opportunity to bring the waste management system back into focus, to re-energise strategies and to improve the waste disposal system, stated Zagers. With financial support the current practices will be evaluated thoroughly.

Improving the equipment used to burn the non-recy­clable waste will be a pri­ority and all efforts will be made to find a new location for the burning equipment. A new recycling campaign will be launched, focusing on improvements in all steps in the chain of waste separa­tion namely household level recycling, the collection of waste, and if possible fur­ther improvement of the fi­nal waste separation stage at the landfill. “This requires a community-wide effort. We all need to work together to establish cleaner waste management and reduce the necessity of waste burning,” said the Commissioner.

In addition to the home repairs, the harbour, air­port, water projects, waste management, a large scale social housing project and a second solar park, Saba will also experience other infra­structure projects in 2018. The widening of the main roads and the strengthening of safety walls will continue throughout the year. There is also funding available to resurface side roads which will almost completely elim­inate any backlog with road maintenance.

Damaged street lights will soon be repaired and street lights will be added where necessary. In addition, a project is being planned to bench the dangerous cliff at Wells Bay. This much need­ed project will make the Wells Bay area much safer from threats of falling rocks. The road works, additional parking and new day care buildings in St. Johns will also start this year. This much anticipated project was delayed due to the fact that additional space was necessary for the continu­ously growing demand in the day care centre. With the securing of the addition­al funding, plans can now be finalised and construction can start.

With the magnitude and number of projects that are planned for 2018, it will be a challenge finding sufficient manpower and contractors to execute everything. This challenge will ultimately re­sult in some of these proj­ects being finalised in 2019, said Zagers.

The Daily Herald.

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