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KINGSTON — The Government signed a US$3 million agreement with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) on July 26, which will provide grant funding support for the implementation of a major waste water rehabilitation project across the island.

The initiative falls under the Caribbean Regional Fund for Wastewater Management (CReW) in partnership with the Global Environment Facility (GEF), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA).

A total of 44 National Water Commission (NWC) wastewater facilities have been identified for rehabilitation, with 11 to be worked on under the initial phase, which is already underway.

They are: Mineral Heights Wastewater Treatment Plant; Longville Wastewater Treatment Plant; Elletson Flats Wastewater Treatment Plant; Ebony Vale Wastewater Treatment Plant; Acadia Wastewater Treatment Plant; De la Vega Wastewater Stabilization Ponds; Ensom City Wastewater Treatment Plant; Blackwood Gardens Wastewater Stabilization Ponds; Greater Portmore Wastewater Stabilization Ponds; Yallahs Wastewater Stabilization Ponds; and Boscobel Wastewater Treatment Plant.

The scope of work to be undertaken include upgrading and expansion of the facilities as well as decommissioning of some old facilities and the re-direction of their flows to a central sewer system for better treatment.

Minister of Housing, Environment and Water, Hon. Dr. Horace Chang, speaking at the signing ceremony at the Ministry in Kingston, said the initiative is an important part of improving the NWC's wastewater management as well as protecting the environment, public health and economic development.

"The environment affects water, it affects housing and housing affects the environment. There is need for meaningful collaboration to ensure the quality of the built and natural environment…and we will have the basic feature of a sustained environment for a long time," he said.

Dr. Chang commended the IDB and the international agencies that have partnered to create this "unique mix" of funding, which he said, "will allow us to move forward much more aggressively in satisfying the environmental needs."

Country Representative, IDB, Ancil Brewster, in his remarks, noted that the proper disposal of wastewater has a significant impact on the quality of life and the control of waterbourne diseases.

"This project is really important because it goes to the grain of a lot of economic stability in many of our countries. Tourism, for example is one area, which is impacted by inappropriate management of wastewater, and fisheries, in which coral reefs are depleted because of degradation and high levels of pollution and this, in fact, creates more damaging effects from climatic events," he said.   

The primary objective of the CReW is to establish innovative, feasible financial instruments for cost effective and sustainable financing of wastewater management in the Caribbean region.

The funds secured under the programme have already facilitated the ongoing implementation of technical assistance activities at three pilot facilities of Blackwood Gardens, Greater Portmore, and Mineral Heights, scheduled for completion in October 2011.

The project will result in the rehabilitated facilities being restored to perform at their design levels and better meet the standards for sewage effluent discharge mandated by the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA).

By Chris Patterson, JIS Reporter