Pickersgill outlines plans to improve Jamaica's water situation
Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
Water Minister Robert Pickersgill recently unveiled a raft of elaborate projects aimed at combating the drought-wracked Kingston Metropolitan Region (KMR), as well as to break the back of the woes bedevilling the decrepit sewerage systems in Portmore and the Kingston Waterfront.
The parched lands of the rural farming communities of Man-chester, Clarendon and St Elizabeth, among others, have also been singled out for treatment and Portmore has been earmarked for special attention.
Pickersgill said the long-term plans relating to both water and wastewater services are being laid out by his ministry and the National Water Commission (NWC) in the parish plans which are now being revised in relation to all parishes.
"These plans will put us in good stead to meet the desired level of coverage for our citizens over the next five to 10 years," Pickersgill told Parliament as he made his contribution to the Sectoral Debate. "Key stakeholder meetings will be organised at the local level to inform the public of the plans in these two critical areas."
The minister disclosed that the preliminary engineer's estimate is that it will require $191 billion over the next 10 years to execute all the works covered by the parish plans. "We have raised $26 billion of this amount," revealed Pickersgill. "Fiscal space permitting, we expect to be able to raise the remaining funds over the period."
Pickersgill told the House that within a few days, he would be signing the contract for phase one of the Port Antonio Water, Sewerage and Drainage Project at a cost of $1.65 billion. "We expect pipework on this project to begin within three months," he said. "I recognise that over the years the western section of the country has been plagued with water shortages - we intend to address this problem starting this fiscal year.
He disclosed that the Gover-nment would be embarking on bilateral negotiations to secure both the financial and technical resources to effect a number of water supply projects in the parishes of Trelawny, St James, Hanover, Westmoreland and St Elizabeth to the tune of US$250 million. "We recognise that the increases in water production capacity that will come from the various projects will not have the desired effect if immediate and definitive steps are not taken to reduce the levels of Non-Revenue Water (NRW) being experienced by the NWC," Pickersgill stressed.
NRW refers to the loss of water produced and arises mainly from old and leaking infrastructure and illegal connections (theft) to the NWC's network resulting in a loss of revenue.
"The aim is to reduce the NRW by 8 per cent annually over the next five years to a level of approximately 30 per cent down from 66 per cent by 2016/2017," said Pickersgill.
He disclosed that the physical works to achieve this target have already begun in areas such as Havendale, Waterworks, Norbrook and Hope Pastures.