JIS News

Three communities in St. Thomas are to benefit from a water project under the Government of Jamaica/Inter-American Development Bank (GOJ/IDB) Rural Water Programme.
Programme Director, Ian Gage, informed JIS News that the construction phase of the project was completed, adding that the new water supply system would serve approximately 3,000 people in 750 households in the communities of Whitehorses, Botany Bay and Pamphret.
Outlining the status of the project, Mr. Gage told JIS News that the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Housing, Transport, Water & Works, Dr. Alwin Hayles has written to residents of communities informing them that the project had been completed, and that the Whitehorses/Botany Bay/Pamphret Development Benevolent Society was established to manage and operate the water supply project on behalf of the community.
“You are all required to submit an application form to the Benevolent Society in order to obtain service,” Dr. Hayles said in his letter.
According to Chairman of the Benevolent Society, Leonard James, who has also notified the residents, the management of the Society is now in the process of distributing service application documents. In his correspondence to the residents, he said that, “we have worked long and hard to ensure that potable water in our homes become a reality, because we recognize how this precious commodity can greatly enhance our living conditions.”
It is anticipated that once the residents submit their applications, the Society will be able to move forward with the connections.
The Whitehorses/Botany Bay/Pamphret water supply system is one of four similar projects funded under a GOJ/IDB US$12.5 million loan for community managed water supply systems. This is part of the national goal of providing access to potable water to every Jamaican household by the year 2010. Mr. Gage told JIS News that, “the four projects are, for us in Jamaica, part of a pilot process that’s going on, that’s also being done through the Jamaica Social Investment Fund, where these community based water supply systems are being implemented.”
Addressing the importance of the community’s role in managing the water supply systems, Mr. Gage told JIS News that, “in terms of capacity building, there are some specific training.geared towards them not just working with the water supply, but to strengthen the community in general.” “The ability of the community to keep the water supply going depends on its ability to pay the water rates,” he added.
Continuing, Mr. Gage explained that, “the degree to which the community is stronger and able to generate income is therefore part of the sustainability of the water supply, so the extent to which we can assist in the community being involved in other processes, we do that also.”
The Whitehorses/Botany Bay/Pamphret Development Benevolent Society will be licensed by the Office of Utilities Regulation. The initial tariff (water rate) will be based on a flat rate and will in time be a metered rate.
The concept of the Rural Water Programme advances the coming together of residents to operate their own water and sanitation systems, with no more dependence on the National Water Commission (NWC), the Parish Councils or the Rapid Response Unit.
Paving the way for this collaborative approach, the government made provisions within its water policy, for the formation of Community Water Organisations (CWOs) or Benevolent Societies, to manage and maintain water projects and to ensure that the community has easy access to clean, safe, drinking water and proper sanitary facilities.
Once formed, the organization takes on the roles normally carried out by the NWC or parish council in supplying water to the community. It is responsible for constructing water supply systems, which the community owns and operates. It also ensures that all the components of the system are in working order, including fixing leaking pipes, proper chlorination of the water as well as the proper functioning of pumps and valves.
The organisation must also produce monthly financial reports, implement tariffs, bill customers, collect fees and make disconnections. It operates as a business, in the same way as the NWC, but on a smaller scale.
The government, in collaboration with the IDB, is currently overseeing four Benevolent Societies implementing water and sanitation projects in St. Thomas, Clarendon, St. Elizabeth and St. Mary.

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