Minister of Finance Camillo Gonsalves’ “pet project” in Ribishi has suffered a setback with the collapse of a major retaining wall following heavy rains last weekend.
In a Jan. 11 Facebook post, Gonsalves said the project was to improve the small field, located at Background in the East St. George constituency, which he represents in Parliament.
“It’s taking some effort, but we are increasing the width by about 40%, adding washrooms, and other amenities,” he said, adding that even with the expansion, the land is not enough for “a full-fledged, competition sized playing field, but will be a HUGE improvement on what was there before.”
He had said that a 7-a-side competition would take place in a couple of months, after the new surface is levelled and grassed.
Then, in an April 28 update, the minister said, “Almost there”, adding that most major work for the field was completed.
“So excited about how this tiny area is being transformed into a launching pad for future footballers and athletes,” Gonsalves said.
But, in a post on Tuesday, Gonsalves said there was “a setback” on Monday morning with the recreational facility.
“The heavy weekend rains badly damaged the retaining wall that was being constructed to support the expanded field,” the MP said.
He said he visited the facility on Monday “with a top engineer from the Ministry of Transport and Works, and an attorney.
“There is an engineering solution and we have come up with a plan to quickly address the shortcomings that the rains revealed.
“This should not have happened. The silver lining is it happened while the facility was still under construction, so we can take the necessary corrective actions now,” he said, adding that the development would obviously delay the opening date.
“… but delay is not defeat. Setbacks are only permanent if you make them so. Even more committed to delivering a top-class sporting and recreational facility to the residents of this area,” the minister said.
iWitness News understands that preliminary assessments by the government experts found poor engineering and poor construction.
iWitness News visited the facility on Tuesday and saw a steady stream of water running in the direction of the recreational facility on an unpaved section of road.
Further, the surface of the fields showed signs of heavy flow of water on top of it.
Additionally, the section of the field that had been backfilled to expand the playing area had been filled in only with dirt and the weep holes to drain water from the field had been placed only at a particular height. It, therefore, seemed that the water had to rise to that level before it would have been able to drain from the field.
A number of residents of the community commented on Facebook about the collapse of the wall, with some of them speculating that this could have been avoided had the road been addressed before the field was built.