No Water, No Payment! Millions In Pipe, But No Water!
These were some of the chants of St Joseph residents Wednesday morning as they staged protest action to vent their frustration over perennial water outages and high bills.
Under the watchful eye of police, about 150 residents of the water-starved parish marched outside the Barbados Water Authority’s (BWA) headquarters for two hours, complaining that they had been without water for up to a year, yet they were receiving exorbitant bills. Some were not even certain they would have made it to today’s protest because they had no running water Wednesday morning.
They came from Bowling Alley, Newton Crescent, Bissex, Chimborazo, Horse Hill and Branchbury, bearing placards highlighting their plight.
One resident complained that while she had been forced to use the facilities at her mother’s home, her bills were significantly higher that what her mother had been receiving.
Yet, the residents claimed, Government seemed to be showing little to no concern, and they called for Minister of Water Resource Management Dr David Estwick to go.
“We are not blaming the Barbados Water Authority for what is happening, the Barbados Water Authority is governed by a minister that the Prime Minister has selected to rule over them. And on the behalf of the residents of all of St Joseph, I Andrew Dixon, am asking the honourable member [Dr] David Estwick to hand in his resignation as far as water is concerned to the Prime Minister. I believe that [Dr] Estwick is not fit to handle this water crisis,” protest organizer Andrew Dixon said.
The protesters were joined by Member of Parliament for St Joseph Dale Marshall, who condemned the “scandalous” decision by the BWA to charge residents for a service that had been sparse at best.
Marshall also took a dig at the Freundel Stuart administration, saying it should step aside.
“I think the whole Government should resign, but in terms of specifics of the water authority, I think it is scandalous that the water authority should be sending monthly bills to citizens who are not receiving a service.
“[The] water authority ought to wave the payment of any money to the water authority by any community that is without water,” the Opposition politician suggested.
In January this year, Dr Estwick had announced a series of measures to tackle the water outages in St Joseph and other parishes in the east and north of the island.
Among the plans was a project financed by the Inter-American Development Bank to replace all the old mains throughout the island.
Wednesday, Marshall complained that the new mains made no difference.
“We were excited when the minister promised in January that he was going to solve the problem; we were excited when we saw the mains going in, but the water situation now is as bad as it was before we got new mains [because] there is no water in them.”
The parliamentarian spoke of “unbearable hardship” residents endured last Christmas, and he was worried that they would be forced to suffer a similar fate this year.
“Last year Christmas was the worst for anybody in St Joseph. Going through Christmas without water was an unbearable hardship and it is three months away and my constituents are panicking on whether this year they will suffer [again],” Marshall said.
Marshall’s Barbados Labour Party colleague and Member of Parliament for St George South Dwight Sutherland also joined the protest.
Unlike the other protesters, he refused to demand Dr Estwisk’s resignation. However, he was certain that a resolution could be found to the vexing problem using the expertise at the water company.
“We have excellent, excellent professionals here [at BWA] who I know can find a solution to the problem. I will not call for the resignation of the minister because it is a technical problem. But I am calling on the Government to find a solution through technical assistance from the many engineering professionals we have in this country.
“This problem will get worse in Barbados because we have not been given a solution,” Sutherland declared.
For residents like Ramon Chase who lives in Horse Hill, there were no way words to adequately explain the frustration of having to put up with a water shortage that appears to have no end.
Still, Chase attempted to summarize the challenges he faces every day, and he was certain a political game was being played by the authorities.
“We can’t go on taking bucket baths, we can’t go on not being able to do laundry, being able to wash and cook as we suppose to.
“I believe this a political thing. Nobody ain’t coming and telling we nothing. The pride gone; we gone to the dogs,” Chase said.
Like Chase, Evaene Howard had difficulty making sense of the situation, telling Barbados TODAY he could not understand why a country celebrating 50 years of independence could not get it right.
“Somebody should let us know what is going on. We paying bills and no water. Up to Monday I pay my bill, [yet] no water. I cannot pay no more because I am not receiving water through the taps, so I’m not paying anymore,” Howard said.