Engage with the IDB on access to safe waterWednesday, April 07, 2021
The wanton acts committed against our women and children in recent weeks could have, understandably, enshrouded an issue of vital importance to human survival, which was raised by an official of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
Mr Sergio Campos, the IDB's water and sanitation division chief, told us in an op-ed in the special weekend edition of this newspaper last week that 77 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean still lack access to safe water, and more than two-thirds of the region's population have an intermittent supply.
Ironically, he pointed out, these same people possess the largest fresh water reserves in the world per capita.
Here, in Jamaica, the National Water Commission (NWC) tells us that approximately 30 per cent of the water abstracted locally is used to meet the demand for potable water and the remaining 70 per cent for irrigation purposes.
According to the NWC, it provides water via house connections to approximately 70 per cent of Jamaica's population, and the remaining 30 per cent obtains water from standpipes, water trucks, wayside tanks, community catchment tanks, rainwater catchment tanks, and direct access to rivers and streams.
The Government is on record as stating that it intends to achieve 100 per cent access to safe drinking water for all Jamaicans by 2030 as part of the national development plan, which also includes protecting ecosystems and ensuring sustainability of future water supplies.
The aim, we are told, is to achieve this through finalisation of the National Policy on Sustainable Financing for Wastewater Management and the Jamaica Water Resources Master Plan, completing and promulgating the Water Sector Policy and Action Plan, as well as implementing the Integrated Management of the Yallahs and Hope River Watershed Management Areas project.
Additionally, the National Watersheds Management Policy is to be updated and infrastructure for the production, treatment, and storage of water, as well as for sanitation, to address both urban and rural needs, is to be strengthened.
Those goals are impressive, and the sooner they can be achieved the better for Jamaicans, especially those in deep rural communities that have been subjected to the indignity of absence of piped water for many years.
Mr Campos, in his article, makes some recommendations to bridge what he sees as gaps in providing people with access to safe drinking water.
He points to large, costly infrastructure which, he argued, are unsustainable, and which have done little for development while deepening inequality.
Additionally, he stated that mismanagement of water resources and distortions caused by climate change have broken the abundance and scarcity cycles that are taken into consideration for water management.
He suggested the development of sanitation infrastructure “in the most vulnerable areas, with plans and designs adapted to every community, while at the same time protecting watersheds”.
The general gist of Mr Campos' article is that the IDB, in addition to the many impressive programmes it already has underway, is more than willing to give further assistance in the area of water resource management.
We can't lose from greater engagement with the agency on such a matter of urgency.
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