Environment

Guyana to upgrade water sector with CDB funding

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

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Guyana is to lay the groundwork for a modern water supply and wastewater treatment sector over the next 18 months with a loan of US$1.3 million from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB).

The work, dubbed the Water Sector Enhancement Project, is to be carried out by consultants and will include the drafting of a national water policy, construction design of water treatment plants, as well as the upgrade of related infrastructure.

“The Government of Guyana is currently seeking to enhance the management of its water resources, as well as increase the availability and access of water to communities. We expect that these funds will be used to provide technically viable solutions for the improvement of water supply to approximately 68,000 people who live along the coast as well as in the hinterland regions,” said Daniel Best, director of projects at CDB.

Guyana covers some 215,000 square kilometres on the northern tip of the South American continent, but is considered part of the Caribbean region and is a member of the Caribbean Community.

It has a population of about 800,000 and produces 2.9 million gallons of domestic, commercial and industrial effluent per day in the capital alone, according to the state-owned utility Guyana Water Inc. The utility's network features 24 sewerage pumping stations across central Georgetown and a septic receiving station at Tucville which collects effluent from the Tucville-Stevedore housing schemes, representing “a fixed population of approximately 60,000 residents and a transient population of another 200,000 persons”.

With no wastewater treatment plant and only about 13 per cent of the population having access to sewerage, according to the World Health Organization/United Nations Children's Emergency Fund Joint Monitoring Program (2006), the bulk of it is discharged untreated into the Atlantic.

The country's National Development Strategy (1997) lays bare the situation.

“Current sewage disposal practices appear to cause faecal contamination of surface water and unconfined groundwater sources. Pollution of surface and groundwater also has serious impacts on fisheries resources in coastal and marine waters, which then enters the food chain for the human population. Water quality is also affected by discharge of waste from distilleries and surface runoff (pesticides).

“Agricultural runoff, which ultimately enters the coastal zone, may contribute potentially significant pollutants in the form of increased biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) and nutrient enrichment. Such pollution may have serious impacts on aquatic and marine life, and any contamination of drinking water from this run-off would impact human health. Untreated industrial effluents discharged into nearby canals and rivers will affect the quality of these waters if not rapidly dissolved.”

Further, it stated that “only limited water quality monitoring is done for drinking water sources (that is, surface and groundwaters) and limited testing is done of rivers and coastal waters as well”.

Where potable water is concerned, the supply is characterised by low water pressure in the coastal regions and projections are that it will get worse with the impacts of climate change manifested in more frequent dry periods, as well as more intense rainfall.

Under the Water Sector Enhancement Project, consultants are expected to conduct a study to determine the feasibility of using water from the Hope Canal for potable water purposes. They are also expected, in laying the groundwork for the construction of the wastewater treatment plants and the upgrade of existing infrastructure, to incorporate climate resilient designs in their plans.

The CDB, established in 1970 for the purpose of contributing to the economic growth and development of its Borrowing Member Countries (BMCs), said the Water Sector Enhancement Project is consistent with its strategic objective of supporting inclusive and sustainable growth and development within its BMCs, as well as the its corporate priorities of strengthening and modernising social and economic infrastructure; and promoting environmental sustainability (climate change resilience, environmental management).

Previous groundwork on Guyana's wastewater system was carried out under the four-year Caribbean Regional Fund for Wastewater (CReW) project (2011-2015). It raised awareness of the issues surrounding wastewater management in the country and facilitated the creation in 2012 of the Guyana Wastewater Revolving Fund — valued at US$3 million with an additional US$560,000 in counterpart funding from the Government of Guyana. The fund offers loans to private businesses for construction and/or rehabilitation of wastewater treatment facilities at a rate below prevailing market interest rates.

CReW, which also had pilot projects in Jamaica, Belize and Trinidad & Tobago, was funded by the Global Environment Facility and implemented by the Inter-American Development Bank and UN Environment.

IDB and UN Environment did not immediately respond to Jamaica Observer questions yesterday about whether there have been any takers to date.

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