Minister of Water Resource Management Dr David Estwick has told his critics to stop playing politics with the current water woes facing some sections of the island.
Earlier this week residents of St Joseph staged a protest outside the offices of the Barbados Water Authority in the Pine complaining they have had to put up with dry taps for over a year.
Following the protests, which involved Oppostion Barbados Labour Party Member of Parliament for St Joseph Dale Marshall and his St George South colleague Dwight Sutherland, there were calls for Dr Estwick to step down. However, the Government’s lead spokesman on water told reporters this morning that while he respected the right of residents to protest, others should not seek to politicize the issue.
“The issue is to understand the facts and not play politics with the water. Water is not a political issue, water is a life and death issue,” Dr Estwick said, adding that his challenge now was to “fix old infrastructure that should have been fixed”. He said he would launch two new mains shortly from Golden Ridge to Castle Grant and from Sweet Vale to Castle Grant.
“But I’m not going to get into that because if a man does not have water he has a right to protest. But you do not use the protestation politically because if you got 31 inches of rain last year, which is the lowest rainfall in 76 years, where is the Barbados Water Authority going to get the water from?” he asked.
Dr Estwick explained that the island’s average rainfall was barely enough to extract 44 million gallons of water per day, which has been done since 1998. And given the growth and consumption over the past 18 years, he said the current supply could not meet the demand.
“That is the reason why I congratulate former Prime Minister Owen Arthur, because after the [former] prime minister got the information on the water management and water loss study, he understood he had to try to augment water supply so he built one desalination plant.
“But what he should have done, he should have built several desal plants and he should have gone ahead and upgraded the mains and reservoirs and so on at that point in time. That never happened so we still have an infrastructure that is 100 years old and crumbling at the same time that we have a significant reduction in rainfall,” Dr Estwick said as he sought to apportion blame for the current situation on the former Barbados Labour Party administration.
He also stated that several areas and wells across the island had not yet recovered from the lack of rainfall, while insisting that the current Government was not to be blamed for the situation.
“What does that have to do with the minister?
Do I make rain?
“The fact of the matter is that those wells, many of them had to be closed or had to be reduced their pumping significantly, otherwise let them destroy the entire water infrastructure in Barbados,” he said.
He noted that Government was in the process of constructing permanent desalination plants with a capacity of six million gallons of water per day.
The minister called on his critics to understand the matter at hand before calling for his resignation.
“Understand the science, the issues as they are and guide your charges appropriately. Not rile them up because they have an issue, a national issue that we are trying to resolve in the best way that we can.
“So that’s why I’m saying it is foolhardy to attempt to bring a water crisis and make it a political target, as though somebody selectively pinpointed somebody in St Joseph and turned off their water. That is absolute horse doo doo. Rubbish!”
Estwick stated that he would speak to the issue of improvement of the water infrastructure in due course.
Last month he opened a temporary containerised desalination plant in Hope, St Lucy, and a second plant is due to be launched in Trents, St James soon.