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JIS News

As CARICOM countries embrace the reality of a Single Market and Economy, regional governments are working to ensure a unified and structured approach to deal with the many challenges facing the Caribbean water, wastewater, and solid waste sectors.
The region’s water ministers made this commitment at a recent high-level meeting, which formed part of the 14th annual Caribbean Water and Wastewater Association (CWWA) Conference and Exhibition, which was held in Barbados last month.
Minister of Water and Housing, Donald Buchanan, who attended the meeting, told JIS News that this inaugural summit was just the first step towards the development of this unified approach.
“At this meeting, the ministers and other senior officials engaged in the water sector met and discussed how we could have greater collaboration in our approach to the solutions to the challenges of water supplies across the Caribbean,” Minister Buchanan said.
The participants at the CWWA conference focused on technical aspects of the water and wastewater sector. Some of the major themes discussed at the two-day conference included: trends and challenges in water & waste management; institutional strengthening for disaster management of utilities; appropriate, affordable and accessible technologies for the Caribbean; trends in hazardous/biomedical waste management in the Caribbean; watershed and coastal zone management issues; mechanisms for innovative financing of water and sanitation projects in the Caribbean; and CSME opportunities for water and waste sectors in the Caribbean.
The representatives at the ministerial meeting also discussed the intricacies of public/private sector partnerships, as well as integrated water resources management and the millennium development goals, and examined the legislative framework governing the respective countries’ water resources.
“There are a few countries that have actually developed a clear legislative framework that governs the water sector. Jamaica is one of them, and the others are going to be looking at the model and seeking also to utilise that as far as is practicable within their situation,” said Minister Buchanan.
According to the Minister, the inaugural meeting went well and the decision has been made to convene such a meeting annually, to coincide with the CWWA meeting. In addition, now that the foundation has been laid, the ministers have committed to keep the lines of communication open.
“We are also going to be exchanging technical information as it relates to what solutions are being applied in each country so that we can do a cross-reference and a cross-check,” Minister Buchanan added.
Continuing, he disclosed that this collaboration would also include sharing information on international companies operating in the region so that unprofessional or unethical organisations are not allowed to repeat their poor performance and work unimpeded across the region.
“We would have shared the experiences and that would put us in a better position to know who are the most qualified and who has a track record of performance,” said the Water Minister. “We have also set up a loose coordinating secretariat, which resides for this year with the Barbados Minister of Public Utilities and Energy,” he added.
Minister Buchanan also gave the assurance that having started the process, the region’s governments would not “sit idly by over the next 12 months waiting on the next meeting to happen,” but would instead sustain a system of information flow in the interim.
“All of the technical information that was made available during the CWWA meeting as well as the high-level meeting is being distilled through the Barbadian Ministry of Public Utilities and Energy and will be shared with all the countries. Out of that, each country may have specific issues that we would want to share with each other,” he informed.
Next year’s CWWA meeting will be hosted by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, and will be held in Tobago.