Sun | Oct 22, 2017

Water woes again this year - really?

Published:Thursday | July 9, 2015 | 12:00 AM

We are embarrassingly in the same predicament we found ourselves in last year, and the year before, and the year before when there was hardly enough water for all of us and our ineptitude and negligence were again on display. It is appalling that the country that loves to boast about being the 'land of wood and water(!)' can only provide us with a few short days of water supply. Frighteningly, the relevant stakeholders have waited until now, when storage levels have reached crisis proportions - less than 15 days' supply if there is no interruption, to provide the nation with an update and outline conservation measures.

The situation seems to be much worse than the previous year. What explains our ineptitude in addressing this recurring problem? Drought is certainly not a new phenomenon and I am quite sure the meteorological services would have provided us with more than enough advice about rainfall figures for the year to be more than prepared. There is really no justification for our inability to provide citizens with such a basic/fundamental right as the right to water. Could we not have prepared ourselves this year?

I sincerely hope that we have a plan for our educational institutions this year so fewer schools, teachers and students, if any at all, will be affected. I hope the Water Tank Challenge was able to provide enough schools with tanks so they can be prepared. I note as well that Dr Dayton Campbell has also been distributing tanks to schools in his constituency. I encourage all members of parliament to work with their councillors, whether they are Labourites or Comrades, to use portions of their constituency development fund to ensure that every school has tanks to supply water for at least one week.

 

lack of concern

 

For quite some time now the situation has been at crisis levels, with nary a word uttered or concern registered - surprisingly, not even from the 'Articulate Minority'. I started writing a similar article last year around this time. It's the same thing every year really. I hope we are all busy praying desperately for copious amount of rain over the next few days or weeks so the storage levels can increase. There is nothing prayer can't do. It might even fix the whole issue of leakages which at one time accounted for at least 30 per cent of water that's wasted.

Last year, up to July 20, at the time Minister of Water Robert Pickersgill made an address on the situation, the Government expended $85 million on the trucking of water under the Rapid Response Programme to provide some areas across the country with this very important natural resource, water. I have a couple follow-up questions in this regard.

Why did we wait until now to outline these important measures to conserve on the little that we have left? Was it not clear that this is a recurring problem and, therefore, we should have been more prepared? What of the measures proposed last year? Did we adequately address the issue of leakage? For how long were the LEAK Hotline numbers operational? What of the water supply improvement projects that were to be expedited? How many new and restored sources of water for treatment and distribution were identified and harnessed in the last year? Did we manage to repair 100 systems under the Tank and Pump Programme and upgrade and rehabilitate the existing 445 storage tanks islandwide? What new ideas and/or measures are being proposed this year? What is the long-term strategy? Have we considered the economic implications of this crisis on our nation? Our tourism industry? The health implications? How will our health services fare? Does the Ministry of Health have a plan?

As citizens, we need to be as vocal about this situation as we were about the Outameni purchase and/or when the Jamaican dollar devalues. But let's not politicise this as we did with chik-V and health in general.

We must recognise that we can do better than this ad hoc approach to addressing this recurring problem of inadequate inflows of rainfall to provide a consistent supply of water to all our citizens. We need both parties coming together to develop a long-term strategy which includes appropriate water sources for irrigation (especially in the Breadbasket!) and firefighting.

- Jaevion Nelson is a youth development, HIV and human rights advocate. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and jaevion@gmail.com.