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The National Water Commission (NWC) has received some $19 million in grant funding to undertake an Institutional Strengthening Project, which is aimed at improving its capacity to supply water, especially to rural communities.
The project, which will be undertaken over a 20-month period beginning this week and ending in February 2008, is being funded by the European Union (EU).
Speaking at a press conference to officially launch the project on July 31 at the NWC’s Head Office on Barbados Avenue, State Minister for Housing, Transport, Water and Works, Dr. Fenton Ferguson, explained that the “specific purpose of the project was to strengthen the capacity of the NWC” it being the principal water/sewage utility in the island. He pointed out that the “project is not about strengthening the NWC for the sake of strengthening the NWC; it is with the ultimate objective of better serving the Jamaican people, particularly the poor”.
The initiative, he noted further, fell under the Ministry’s mandate to “achieve universal access to potable water by 2010 and the implementation of central wastewater services in most major towns by 2020.”
In order to achieve “greater operational efficiency”, Dr. Ferguson said, the project would include the establishment of operations manuals and procedures, an asset management plan, management of supplies in rural areas in the context of community involvement and the implementation of a system of benchmarking for the operations of the NWC.
The project, to be undertaken by the Austrian-based SETEC Engineering Company, will be implemented in two phases. The first phase will take place over a four-month period, during which time tendering and other preparatory installations will be done, while the second phase, to be extended over 16 months, will involve improvements to the pipe networks and training of NWC staff.
NWC President E.G Hunter told the press that today’s launch was the culmination of six years of extensive dialogue with the EU. He noted that, “the intellectual component that this EU/Jamaica partnership will accomplish, will be an important complement to physical infrastructure”.
According to Assistant Vice President for Strategic Planning at the NWC, Aston Brown, the project would involve the development of a Geographical Information Systems (GIS) database, which would be crucial to the sustainability of the project.
The database, Mr. Brown informed, would contain detailed and “up-to-the-time” information on the status of damage, pipe condition, service progress and details of infrastructure. It will also allow for leak detection and repair, “hereby mitigating losses and saving revenue for doing improvements to the service,” he pointed out.
Head of Contracts and Finance for the EU Delegation to Jamaica, Jacques Stakenborg, said that the key objectives of the partnership were: to reduce energy costs for supplying water; improve the condition of the pipe network as well as reduce unaccounted for water, which currently stands at 61 per cent.