Ministry Confident of Total Access to Potable Water by 2010


The Ministry of Water and Housing is confident that it will be able to meet and fulfill its policy objectives in its thrust to enable total access to potable water by Jamaicans, come 2010.
Director of Water Policy and Research in the Ministry, Patricia Snow tells JIS News that foremost among the Ministry’s strategies for the new legislative year is the introduction of a new draft Bill, ‘The Water Supply and Sewerage Services Act’, which will indicate the roles and functions of all players in the sector.
Miss Snow says it is hoped that the Bill, which is to be brought before the Houses of Parliament soon, will be passed in this legislative year. The Act, in conjunction with the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR), will provide the parameters for the sector and will govern present players, the Ministry and other sector players, including the National Water Commission (NWC).
She explains that currently, the sector operates through the NWC Act, which is an institutional Act. However, the new Bill will be a sector wide Act, which will outline to parties, the process for licensing, approval and renewal as well as the role of the Minister and the avenues for appeals.
“We will at that point be harmonized in the sector and everybody will be placed on a level playing field. It will encourage private sector investment and provide a level playing field,” she notes.
Also on the legislative side, the Water Resources Authority Act and the Flood Control Act are to be amended to allow the responsibility for the implementation of the provisions under the Act, to remain with the Works Ministry and transfer the responsibility for the legislative aspect to the Water Resources Authority (WRA). This, she says, is in a bid to plan for and manage flood control, a process, which is not exercised at present.
During the remaining five year period, the National Irrigation Commission, the WRA and the NWC will be making every effort to implement aspects of their action plans, in order to meet the 100 per cent access goal.
In this regard, the NWC recently developed its project programme and profile, which shows some 71 per cent access to potable water for rural, major towns and urban areas overall. The organisation’s goal is to improve its reach to 85 per cent by 2010, provided funding is received. The Director says it is hoped that the remaining 15 per cent will be covered by private providers; the NIC, through the National Irrigation Development Plan (NIDP) and under the Rural Water Programme.
“We should be able to get to 100 per cent by then,” she tells JIS News. The process is expected to cost between US$2 billion and US$ 3 billion, including the rural and major programmes.
Programme Director for the Government of Jamaica/Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Rural Water Project, Ian Gage says the allocations to the sector in the recent estimates of expenditure are at the “heart of the success” of the projects. He tells JIS News that the Ministry will also be working to strengthen its capacity to ensure that it is able to deal with water and water issues.
He notes that much is also being done from the community and private sector component through the community water organizations/benevolent societies, established for the sustenance of each project.
The Programme Director points out that work under the IDB project is advanced and construction is to commence soon on four pilot projects in Cotterwood, St. Elizabeth; the Whitehorses to Pomfret area in St.Thomas; Gravel Hill in Clarendon and the Mile Gully, Warwick Castle area of St. Mary.
On the sanitation end, he informs that there is a movement on the part of the Ministries of Health, Land and Environment, and Water and Housing, in collaboration with Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) groups and specialists in the field, to put together a sanitation policy for the country.
Miss Snow says that being fully conscious of the complex nature of the situation, the Ministries of Water and Housing, and Land and Environment have agreed to include provisions in the Water Supply Sewerage Services Act, which will govern the operations of sewerage developers.
Still on the sanitation end and the largest yet, is the Kingston Metropolitan Area sewerage project, which is to be built in the Soapberry area.
Mr. Gage informs that the US$50 million project, which is in the design stage, is now moving and a steering committee has been selected. He says the first phase of the multi-year construction development will involve redirecting, taking all the sewage from the existing sewered areas in Kingston and Portmore to the plant.
The concept of the National Water Sector Policy was developed by Prime Minister P.J. Patterson in 1996, and stemmed from the realization that it was imperative that the country’s water resources be properly managed, given the commodity’s importance as a driver of national prosperity, and its finite nature.
The first main plank in the undertaking is ensuring total access by Jamaicans. The 2010 timeframe was arrived at as reasonable, based on the availability of resources and the capacity of the agencies to implement the work some five years before the 2015 deadline stipulated under the Millennium Development Goals.

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