It has been over two months now since our Minister of Water Resource Management Dr David Estwick unveiled Part 2 of his now infamous “Rapid Response” plan for the curing of this island’s severe water ills. Yet, sadly, it would seem that precious little relief has been forthcoming in terms of the much-anticipated respite for that category of citizen who now suffer the indignity of being regarded as “Barbados’ water poor”.
Understandably, Rome was not built in a day, neither are desalination plants or proper leak-detection systems for that matter.
However, at the very least we would have thought that by now Government would have made good on its promise to deliver 50 free water tanks to residents in these water-deprived communities.
At his October 7, 2016 press conference Dr Estwick had promised as much. He had also said that a Rapid Response Unit would be set up immediately at the BWA to deal with all customer complaints.
Still, on a scale from high to low, communication between the public and the BWA remains at a worrying low. If in doubt, you just have to tune into one episode of the BWA’s weekly television “water works” programme, which by its very name, highlights the current disconnect with thousands of residents for whom the system is clearly not working.
Granted, a lot of sewage has been spilled since Dr Estwick last spoke, but that is simply no excuse for prolonging this whole mess, especially since he has said everything to make us believe that the ruling DLP has the situation well in hand.
“We at the Ministry are saying that if everything works out as planned, some elements of the rapid response mechanism could be in place within a matter of a few days,” Dr Estwick had promised more than a year ago.
“The immediate response mechanism is in fact a system that will be put in place which is a fast track system to outages in any part of the country. We plan to execute this system by introducing within the catchment area that is being serviced by a particular reservoir, a series of community storage tanks into that area. These community storage tanks will be placed at particular locations within that community. The tanks will be refilled and refilled again by the various water tanks coming into the area,” he had explained.
However, it is unsettling to say the very least that over a year later there is still no water in parts of St Lucy, St Peter, St Joseph, St Thomas and St John. And with Christmas around the corner, it is even more troubling for us that there is still little hope of a solution to the rural water outages.
Just this morning, Shaney Forde emailed from Boscobel, which straddles St Peter and St Andrew, to say that residents were angry at yet another Christmas season without water.
Her note coincided with a press statement issued by the BWA in which it stopped short of admitting to the ongoing water shortages.
However, the BWA said that “as a precautionary measure”, it would be reactivating some of its community tanks in the parishes of St Peter, St Andrew, St Lucy, St John and St Joseph “to ensure water availability in the event that any unforeseen service disruptions occur over the Christmas holiday”.
The BWA also informed that water tankers will also be dispatched to give assistance should the need arise and it also advised customers to store an adequate supply of water should work crews need to carry out emergency repairs on its network.
This may all seem well and good for the BWA and its management team. But are these the same reserve tanks which at least one group of St Peter residents say have been empty for five days now?
And what about those residents who have not seen a water tanker since last Monday?
Are they going to be faced with a repeat of last year – no baking, no smell of fresh laundry, no preparation is being done because there is simply no water?
It is heartrending to think that while some of us will be laying out our succulent turkey and ham this Christmas, some residents who have been without water for months may not be able to bathe, much less cook or drop by Dr Estwick’s popular Hoodees bar for a lime with friends.
Yes, it is true that Dr Estwick is by no means God nor is Dr John Mwansa for that matter.
However, if we could make one wish this Christmas and actually have it fulfilled, it would be for the BWA to allow water to freely flow through those dry taps once more.
It would certainly bring a smile to the faces of residents of Boscobel, St Peter like Emerald Hewitt and Dorian Boyce who are proud, hard-working Barbadian seniors, who have no doubt paid their water bills and their taxes. But instead of relaxing in their retirement, they are now forced on a daily basis to trek to one community tank or another, or to be on the lookout for a water tanker, which has been known not to come.
No wonder they are having trouble this year summoning the spirit of Christmas. For who would want to spend a regular day, far less Christmas and Boxing Day and New Year’s without running water?
Boscobel, St Peter resident Collene Badal has every right to be furious at this stage; so too Forde, who in her note to Barbados TODAY, not only described the situation as “simply ridiculous”, but borrowing a phrase from a very familiar Christmas carol, suggested that instead of a “jolly, jolly Christmas” water-starved communities were now in for a “folly, folly Christmas” – thanks to the BWA, who have now had more than enough time to effect a workable plan.