Yet another crisis and access to water is the critical factor causing many Barbadians to cry out for mercy. We heard these cries during the prolonged drought, we heard these cries for water at the height of the Covid-19 lockdown, now the same cries are being heard as the ash descended from the La Soufriere volcano on Barbados. How much longer must access to potable water be the bottleneck restraining the development of this country?
Barbados has tapped out on its groundwater supply. The St Philip water augmentation project, which includes the Vineyard project, will bring temporary relief to the parishes in the south. The package desal plants in the north will only provide temporary relief to residents in St Lucy, St Peter, and other areas. Meanwhile, residents in St Joseph and St Andrew shall continue to have water issues as these measures do not adequately address their water supply.
Within a few months of taking office this administration, through then Minister Wilfred Abrahams, ruled out the possibility of more desalination plants. At that time, he said, “Desalinated water sourced directly from the sea costs $4 a unit, so if we bring more desalination plants online, our annual water supply expenses would increase by over $100 million, and we simply cannot afford that.”
The Democratic Labour Party disagreed with the cost assumptions which were made by the Minister then and we still disagree now. The government simply needs to look at the desalinated water cost globally. These costs vary within a range of US$0.50 to US$1.20 per cubic meter. In any case, the lack of access to potable water is costing this country more than $100 million in revenue annually when we consider its constraints on housing development, productivity, and the impact on the wellbeing of those affected. This BLP government has so far raised close to $1 billion in loans during the Covid-19 Pandemic. Seeking a loan to construct the desalination plants should be part of the stimulus package. These projects would be labour intensive and would help to eradicate a major developmental challenge.
The plants alone are not the solution. We also need to invest in large water storage reservoirs. These large reservoirs, strategically located across the country so that they can gravity feed the system in cases of an emergency, would be useful in times like this where the BWA has to cut back on pumping or production at the desal plants. The reservoirs can only be kept filled if we increase our access to potable water through desalination.
The Democratic Labour Party supports the calls of the BWA appealing to persons not to wastewater as they try to clean up the ash. At the same time, we empathize with Barbadians as many of us recognize that being able to wash down the ash is the only sure way of getting it under control.
However, we do recognize that residents in areas such as St. Lucy, St Peter, St Thomas, St Andrew, St Joseph, and St John are facing severe water outages. They do not have the luxury at this time of throwing a bucket of water on the ash, as they have none. We are appealing to the BWA to continue to do what they can to assist residents in these areas by sending out the tankers and filling community tanks. Government should immediately look at subsidizing the cost of water tanks and pumps to make them more affordable to households, especially as many are struggling financially.
We support the efforts to deploy groups to clean up the roads. These groups should be quickly deployed to communities dealing with the ongoing water crisis.
However, the Democratic Labour Party strongly believes that cries for water should be a thing of the past in 2021. We urge the Mia Mottley government to retract its political stance and invest in the desalination plants and additional water storage capacity. They are needed now more than ever.
Andre Worrell — DLP Vice President and Spokesperson on Agriculture and the Environment