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JIS News

Two water supply systems under the Government’s Rural Water Programme are to be commissioned in the first half of this year, and stakeholders, ministry officials and interest groups are ensuring that the necessary operational guidelines are in place.
They are the Five Star system in St. Elizabeth and the White Horses, Botany Bay and Pamphret Development Benevolent Society system in St. Thomas.
Speaking at a workshop convened at the Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston on February 21, to assess the proposal for the organization and management of the schemes, Community Development and Gender Specialist for the Rural Water and Sanitation Project, Linnette Vassell said emphasis was being placed on managing the modalities and making decisions as to how the systems would work organizationally.
“We have to get in the business of managing these modalities, we have come together to decide how the system will work organizationally and how the systems will run,” she told JIS News.
The exercise saw stakeholders from the four benevolent societies involved in the project as well as Parish Council officials, operators of water systems, National Water Commission representatives, officials from the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) and the contractors discussing the operational guidelines in a bid to reach a consensus as to how the systems would operate.
Mrs. Vassell said the intention was also to develop a framework document, which would be signed by all participants signifying their commitment to comply with the operational guidelines as to the management of the systems. She said the document would be ready in another two months. She said there were additional matters which would have to be negotiated with the government in the period leading up to the conclusion of the document, based on concerns raised by stakeholders.
She explained that the systems would serve to stabilize the water supply in the areas in which they would be commissioned, and that the communities inSt. Thomas would benefit significantly, as the areas were poorly supplied at present.
Mrs. Vassell said the benevolent societies were an important part of the programme as they assisted in getting communities more organized and enabled them to have a stronger legal voice where governance was concerned.
Chief Technical Director for water in the Ministry of Water and Housing, Desmond Munroe, encouraged members of benevolent societies to embrace the participatory method of work and called for the inclusion of all community members in the decision making process.
“Together we have what is required to make this system work but we must pull together to work on contingent issues such as sanitation.water and sanitation go hand in hand, one impacts on the other,” he told the gathering.
Furthermore, he pointed out that benevolent societies had more power and could speak with one voice on matters concerning the water sector.
The Chief Technical Director pointed out that there were some key factors of community water management that needed to be addressed, such as matters relating to the management capacity of the communities, financing, appropriate service level and technology and water resources.
He said where the issue of the management capacities of communities was concerned, developing a sense of ownership was a key component, which was affected by factors such as social cohesion and the type of supply system that was selected. “We should not have a situation where people have irrigation but don’t have domestic supplies,” he noted.
He said the Ministry was putting much emphasis on skills and education, as they were vital to enhancing the management capacity of the community.
The concept of the Rural Water Development 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 even the Rapid Response Unit to provide these critical services.
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 ad proper sanitation 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 actually owns and operates. It also ensures that all the parts of the system are in working order, leaking pipes are fixed, that the water is properly chlorinated and that pumps and valves are functional.
The organisation must also produce monthly financial reports, implement tariffs, bill customers, collect fees and make disconnections. In truth, it operates as a business, in the same way the NWC operates, only on a smaller scale. There are currently 10 CWOs or Benevolent Societies operating in Jamaica.
The government, in collaboration with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), is currently overseeing four Benevolent Societies implementing water and sanitation projects in St. Thomas, Clarendon, St. Elizabeth and St. Mary.
They are Five Star Development Benevolent Society in St. Elizabeth; Gravel Hill Development Benevolent Society in Clarendon; Mile Gully/Warwick Castle Development Benevolent Society in St. Mary; and Whitehorses, Botany Bay & Pamphret Development Benevolent Society in St. Thomas.