The Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) is not holding out much hope that the solutions announced by Minister of Water Resource Management Dr Minister Estwick will bring relief to the water-starved communities.
Dr Estwick today announced the immediate establishment of a Rapid Response Unit at the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) to help ease the water woes plaguing several communities, as well as a new hire purchase system to facilitate the acquisition by Barbadians — initially in the water-starved parishes of St Peter, St Joseph, St Andrew, St Thomas and St John — of complete water tanker systems for a nominal charge over a five-year period.
Opposition Member of Parliament for St Joseph Dale Marshall told Barbados TODAY he was waiting anxiously to see whether today’s announced solutions would be anything like those made in January.
Back then Dr Estwick had revealed plans for the commissioning of the St Philip Water Augmentation Project, along with rehabilitation of the well at Groves, St George, and completion of a pumping station at The Lazeretto to relieve water-starved areas in St Peter and St Lucy.
He further reported at the time that Government had acquired $80 million from the Caribbean Development Bank for the fixing of water mains; and that there would be the addition of eight water tankers to the BWA’s fleet, along with the installation of two packaged desalination plants within a year or so. One of the desalination plants was recently commissioned in St Lucy.
“In January the minister proclaimed that he had the solutions and that we would see relief in very short order. Now in October of the same year a different set of solutions are being posited and once more we are being promised relief in short order,” Marshall said.
“I really don’t have any faith in either this administration or this Government and neither do my constituents, so I have no confidence really that we will see any improvement in the water situation in my constituency as a result of anything that the minister said today.”
Marshall appeared to give tacit support to the hire purchase plan for storage tanks, saying he had been advocating for a long time that Barbadians should be given tax incentives to install such tanks.
However, he argued the initiative should be private sector-driven, although he said he was not opposed to Government helping “to jump start” the programme.
The BLP spokesman also took issue with the budget allocated for the scheme, arguing that based on the amount of work that would have to be done to install the tanks, the money was far from adequate.
“The minister said between $4 million to $5 million will be provided . . . . If that solution with all these different segments comes in at $5,000 you could immediately see that that will only assist 1,000 families [and] in St Joseph alone I have more than 1,000 families that are hard hit.
“If the solution comes in at $3,500 you are only going to cover just over 1,400 families. So . . . the limit here is because the Government is funding it. I think there is a role for Government to play but certainly if $5 million is the ceiling then I really don’t know that they will be doing anything more than scratching the surface.”
In making today’s announcement, Dr Estwick said the new unit would operate on a two-shift system, and would be responsible for addressing water outages and leakages, all communication with the public, the deployment of water tankers and the filling community tanks.
Marshall said the shift system made little sense since water ought to be available all day, every day.
“Take for example a situation where tankers fill a community tank on its last shift. There’s every reason to believe, based on our water consumption, that that community water tank will be empty in very short order so that individuals who seek recourse through getting water from a community water tank at 5 o’clock in the morning is more than likely to find that it will be empty or near empty. And I think the way to deal with that is to make sure that the community water tanks are all filled to catch the break of day so that when Barbadians need water to jump start their day it will be available.”
The Opposition legislator also said he shared BLP Leader Mia Mottley’s position that difficult times called for extraordinary measures and anything less during the water crisis would not work.