Sun | Dec 5, 2021

EDITORIAL - More on the water crisis

Published:Saturday | July 12, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Images of nurses dressed in their crisp, white uniforms demonstrating about lack of water at the country's only maternity hospital have forced this newspaper to return to the issue of the current water crisis.

It is reasonable to conclude that the nurses from the Victoria Jubilee Hospital in Kingston had exhausted all other means of having the problem addressed and felt that a public display of their frustration was all they could do to ensure that water, so vital for performing their duties, reached the hospital.

And they got water. Within a few hours of the protest, water was trucked to the facility. It is shameful that the nurses had to pound the pavement in order to achieve their objective. This is a stunning example of administrative ineptitude. Presumably, hospital personnel, the National Water Commission (NWC), the health and water ministries knew of the looming water crisis. They should, therefore, have put contingency plans in place. This looks very much like dereliction of duty. And because we have become a country so lacking in accountability, no one is likely to be held responsible for this bungling.

Sadly, we may see other workers take similar action in the days and weeks ahead if the situation gets worse and administrative personnel fail to plan.

Water restrictions

The water ministry has announced water restrictions against specific outdoor uses, accompanied by periodic water lock-offs. Is that it? We submit that these predictable actions will not provide the solution to the worsening water crisis. For even though the subject is being highlighted at this time of extreme drought, let's not forget that, for some communities, there is a perennial water crisis.

We begin by appealing to the NWC to be responsive to complaints about leakage and to get them fixed expeditiously. If the NWC fails to move swiftly to address leaks, how can it expect householders to react to water restrictions with any seriousness? We refer, of course, not merely to leaks that can be seen, but would encourage the agency to do a leak audit in the Corporate Area and elsewhere. This newspaper hopes that the numbers will be so compelling that the State will implement the real fixes we have long recommended: divesting of the NWC and the pricing of water at viable rates instead of the uneconomic ones that currently exist. This could supplement funding to overhaul the old, leaking infrastructure that accounts for wastage of more than 60 per cent of water, including social-welfare supply to poor communities.

There must be a serious effort to augment the water supply to the country to avoid this annual dilemma. We have noted the announcement by the NWC about tapping into wells and desilting the Hermitage Dam, and we hope that these projects will be tackled quickly to ensure greater availability and reliability of future supplies of water.

Another thing to consider is the increase in the number of fires during this dry season. We assume that the barely mobile Fire Brigade has its own contingency plans in place to ensure that, as best as possible, life and property will be saved in the event of a fire.

The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gleaner. To respond to a Gleaner editorial, email us: editor@gleanerjm.com or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.