LETTER OF THE DAY - Idea drought hits water minister

Published: Wednesday | January 30, 2013 Comments 0

THE EDITOR, Sir:

I have read what Minister Robert Pickersgill is doing at this late stage at the onset of the dry season, and I am puzzled.

He has been the minister in charge of dealing with climate change for one year now, and only now is he announcing measures that can be described as a Band-Aid on the problem, and claiming they will result in "minimal impacts on the socio-economic situation of the country".

The United Nations Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change has published in its report broad predictions of general changes on the weather of the world which are generally conservative. Considering that the changes are already coming faster and more extreme worldwide, they ought to be taken seriously.

In the maps depicting rainfall in years to come, it can be seen that the Caribbean has a wide band across it, encompassing Jamaica, where decreased rainfall is expected. It doesn't take a very smart person to understand that if we have droughts almost every dry season for the past decades, that the severity, on average, is only going to be worse as the years go by.

If rainfall is decreasing generally as predicted, he should realise that the future of the Breadbasket Parish, St Elizabeth, might more resemble a parched desert with only 'macca bush' being able to survive.

Minister Pickersgill (and the Government as a whole) is acting as if this severe drought can be got through by the use of 'black tanks', harnessing new sources (which, he admits are themselves drying up), rehabilitating storage tanks, trucking of water, etc.

All of the water he is considering ultimately comes from rainfall. Duh!

Unless he wants to go the route some Australians have taken: drinking water from sewage?

Future planning

Where is the long-range planning? New reservoirs to catch the short-duration hurricane deluges from the predicted hurricanes of greater severity? The new covered reservoirs to reduce evaporative losses as hotter, dry winds blow over them? (Evaporation can account for nearly an inch (25mm) per day in dry weather.)

Stringent regulations to protect our remaining forests? Urgent action to replace leaky water pipes which deliver about 50 per cent of the water that enters them as a stopgap measure over the next few years, while the multi-year projects are realised? In the long term, renewable energy-powered reverse osmosis plants to make fresh water from seawater as rainfall decreases to replenish aquifers?

Thinking of breaking up the National Water Commission into pieces, as some are recommending, that cannot rapidly act together and privatising them?

Take your head out of the sand, Minister.

HOWARD CHIN (PE)

Member, Jamaica Institution of Engineers

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