Residents of St Joseph have issued a warning to Government and the Barbados Water Authority (BWA): don’t “play games” with their water supply.
Amid the ongoing debt standoff with the BWA during which the property management firm, Innotech, removed community tanks from rural districts over unpaid debt, villagers are holding the water utility accountable for any disruption in service.
While many have grown accustomed to life without steady running water in the hilly, remote area, the thought of losing their community tanks is an offence for which the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) will not be forgiven.
Instead, residents in Chimborazo, Horse Hill and Branchberry, St Joseph say they have entered into a contract with the BWA for the supply of water. Having been reduced to heavy dependence on outdoor tanks, they appear in no mood for excuses.
Sobie, an elderly resident of Chimborazo, went as far as saying that he supported the position taken by Innotech, while calling on the BWA to improve its services.
“Once they [the tanks] haven’t been paid for, I agree with them [Innotech]. If [BWA] haven’t paid me, then I am withdrawing my services. That is a fact. But so long as I’m paying my water bill, you have to let water come through here [the taps], and if there’s no water coming through my main and coming out of the tap, you don’t get a cent from me. I am different to the other people that like a lot of talk. If I can’t get nothing, you can’t get nothing. Simple as that,” he said.
Earlier this week, Innotech took the drastic step of removing its water tanks in an apparent bid to force the BWA’s hand over the debt, which is reported to be at $18 million.
The move was met by a defiant Minister of Water Resources, Wilfred Abrahams who said Government will not be bullied over the outstanding debt, while accusing Innotect of breaching its contract with the BWA.
But rural residents who spoke to Barbados TODAY were not impressed.
“We don’t know about the contracts, nor the nitty-gritty with the tanks. The tanks were a great idea. We weren’t getting any water, but if we could start getting some water through our taps and not from the tanks, we could still pay our bills, because we got water . . . . But you aren’t getting any through your taps, nor through the tank. I am not giving them a ‘yin’, not a ‘yabba’,” said Sobie.
Winston Gable, another Chimborazo villager, argued that the supply of water to ‘poor’ Barbadians should not be put in jeopardy by the BWA.
“If you’re not getting paid for the uses of the tank, you still have employees to pay . . . we who are paying for water are getting nothing . . . I got little animals and on mornings, you can’t get a bath, you can’t have a cup of water unless you dip it from a bucket, when you are paying for water. It is not good. “said the pensioner, who engages in small farming.
“Down by Government House got water. Why must St Joseph and St John always suffer for water?” asked Henderson Cox.
At Horse Hill, residents recounted receiving horrifying news that their source of water was in jeopardy.
“We woke up on Monday, the water was off, and the water truck came and gave us some water at around 8:15. Then the people from Innotech came and took up the tanks. We assumed they were going to clean them and bring them back, but the people said the tanks weren’t paid for, so they’re carrying away their tanks,” said one man.
“The men that moved the tanks showed some remorse. They honestly didn’t want to move it . . . because they understand our situation, but they had to do it, that is their job. Innotech had no right holding us for ransom though. They had no right holding the poor man for ransom,” he added.
Those sentiments were shared by businessman James Edgehill, manager of Caribbean Consultants Ltd, who said such a move was not in keeping with corporate social responsibility as he donated 12 water tanks procured from Rotoplastics (Barbados) to the water authority.
While the residents are happy to hear that they will have access to water from other tanks, they again appealed to the BWA for a permanent fix to the problem.
Krystal Grant, another resident of Horse Hill, said the lack of running water continued to make life difficult, noting that over the past three years, her relatives and neighbors were even forced to endure dry taps on Christmas Day.