Mr. Speaker, I once again thank the Most Honourable Prime Minister for the confidence he placed in me when he asked me to assume the responsibility for the Water and Housing portfolio. Indeed Mr. Speaker, water and shelter are two of the most critical human needs.
Water resource management has shaped the history of human civilizations to a major and permanent degree. Management of water resources is also one of the greatest challenges facing the present generation. Today, around 2 billion people have no access to clean drinking water and sanitation, and only 5 percent of the world’s wastewater is treated or purified. As a result, one person in two in the developing countries suffers from a water-related disease, and 5 million people die each year after drinking contaminated water.
International conflicts are expected to arise from the growing scarcity of this crucial resource in many parts of the world. Referring to Ethiopia’s plans for dam projects on the Blue Nile, President Anwar Sadat, the former Egyptian president, once threatened “Anyone who plays with the waters of the Nile is declaring war on us!”
Mr. Speaker, the Tainos, who were the first inhabitants of Jamaica called the island “Xaymaca” because the island was blessed with hundreds of springs and rivers. The present reality however, is that like the rest of the world we are faced with challenges to our water resources.
Notwithstanding these challenges, Mr. Speaker, the Ministry is committed to the goal put forward in our Water Sector Policy that ALL HOUSEHOLDS WILL HAVE ACCESS TO WATER BY 2010.
In order to achieve this goal we have taken a five-pronged approach:
Enhanced Institutional and Legislative Framework
Utilization of technology to monitor and protect our water resources
Installation of new water systems and rehabilitation of existing ones
National Irrigation Development Programme
Increased emphasis on rural water supply
The comprehensive organisational restructuring, which was embarked on by the National Water Commission was completed and is expected to realise annual savings in excess of $300 million. Included in this programme was the development and adoption of new work procedures to improve operational effectiveness and efficiencies.
The Restructuring and Modernisation programme at the NWC aimed at achieving improvements in the operational efficiency particularly in the areas of:
Improved system reliability and reduced down-time;
Reduction of water loss and Non-Revenue Water (NRW);
Increased potable water supply production and distribution capacity;
Increased sewage collection and processing capacity and effectiveness;
Improved customer care and improved responsiveness to customer complaints and concerns;
An even higher product quality and improved quality assurance procedures; and
Increased efficiency in the implementation of capital projects;
Consequent on the steps being taken, the Office of Utilities Regulation’s (OUR) National Consumer Survey, carried out by Market Research Services Limited, has confirmed that the NWC is ranked by the Jamaican consumer significantly above the other utilities in a number of the major aspects of service delivery.
The Management team of the Rapid Response Unit was restructured and was repatriated from Carib Engineering Corporation Limited (CECL) to the Ministry. This has resulted in savings of over $10 million and an improvement in the capacity of the Unit to fulfil its mandate.
Work is continuing on the development of a new Water Supply and Sewerage Services Act, which will facilitate private investment in the water sector by allowing for the licensing of service providers. This Bill should be enacted in the 2005/06 financial year.
The National Water Resources Master Plan that will detail the water resources inventory, the water demands, the impact of water quality on availability and the use and development of a new allocation framework, is being updated. The Master Plan will provide projections to the year 2025 and is being funded by a grant from the IDB.
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