As Government struggles to ease the water woes of consumers in the north and east of the country, the Freundel Stuart administration might be turning to Suriname for help, with a trial shipment expected here around independence.
The Surinamese company Amazone Resources (AR) is said to be preparing to ship two million litres of surface water to Barbados in a flextank, the result of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed in April 2015 with the Barbados Government.
Chief Executive Officer Auke Piek said the shipment was scheduled to leave the South American nation around November 25, although the state-owned Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) this evening quoted Chairman of the Barbados Water Authority Dr Atlee Brathwaite as saying the water was already on its way here.
A story in the Trinidad press Thursday quoted the Piek as saying during a press conference on the sidelines of the 2016 Caribbean Water and Wastewater Association (CWWA) Conference and Exhibition in Port-of-Spain, that the precious commodity would arrive here in under a week after the vessel leaves the Dutch-speaking Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country.
“We would like to have the launch of the flexbag on November 21 or 22, and after that it will be sent to Barbados with [drinkable] surface water from the rivers. The journey should take four to five days, using a tugboat to pull the floating flexbag/flextank . . . .We will test, through our trial, how does the water behave during transportation,” Piek was reported to have said.
He said an independent firm had tested the water at various sources in Suriname, including the Suriname River and the Coppename River.
The Surinamese company boss assured that the bags would be equipped with satellite navigation systems for tracking purposes, as well as for constant monitoring of the water quality en route to Barbados.
Minister of Water Resource Management Dr David Estwick told Barbados TODAY this evening there was not a done deal with the company to supply water, but investigations were being carried out to determine the feasibility of the arrangement.
“I don’t know about that. We are just evaluating a process for a technical feasibility. There have been no arrangements or no agreements established as far as I am aware on that process. It is just an exploratory investigation to make sure the technical feasibility is there,” the minister said.
He insisted that barging water was nothing new, and that it was being done between islands of the Bahamas, as well as elsewhere in the Caribbean and other places that experience severe drought.
The minister added that it emerged at the Caribbean Water and Wastewater Management meeting that the current drought could continue and could get worse.
“So we are looking at mitigating measures until we can get the two permanent desal [desalination] plants constructed. As I said before, the first desal plant is six million gallons, the contract has been signed and we hope to have the second one signed shortly, but the construction phase could take up to 18 months. So if it is that we are going to have a continuing issue with drought, it means that I will have to put contingency measures in place . . . so we have been evaluating that process,” Estwick stressed.
This notwithstanding, Piek has hinted at further shipments if the experiment is successful, stating that under the terms of the MOU, AR would “organize the first test trial with fresh Suriname water and from there we will grow our business model”.
“At this moment, all options are open. We can leave the flextank offshore of Barbados as a storage tank because it is our plan not only to have one bag, but maybe 400 or 600 bags in the future. So we can use the bags as a storage facility . . . . It just needs enough space to be connected to the floating buoy systems,” he was quoted as saying.
Suriname’s Minister of Natural Resources Regilio J Dodson, who also attended the conference on Tuesday, said his government’s role was to facilitate government-to-government arrangements, following which AR could enter into supply arrangements with state or private entities.
CBC also reported Thursday night that the water would be tested when it arrives here and if it is found to be fit, it will be used in agriculture, but not for consumption.