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Water and sanitation systems in Kingston and St. Andrew are to be improved through a US$40 million loan from the Inter-American Development Bank. The House of Representatives, at its sitting yesterday (Sept. 20) approved a Government guarantee for the loan to the National Water Commission (NWC), which will undertake the Kingston Water Sanitation Project.
The project is estimated at US$54.7 million, with the NWC providing the remaining amount. Finance and Planning Minister, Dr. Omar Davies, who raised the motion, said the project, which spans five years, would serve to improve water supply and sanitation services in Kingston and St. Andrew through increased efficiency.
Dr. Davies said that the level of unaccounted for water, estimated at 60 percent, was attributable to the high number of illegal connections and the fact that the NWC infrastructure was old. He said savings could be made by improving the system.
The Finance and Planning Minister noted that there was also need to improve the sewage treatment facilities in the Kingston and St. Andrew Metropolitan Area, which would include the rehabilitation of overloaded pumping stations to avoid the overflowing of the system, which had negative implications for public health.
Furthermore, he said the loan would also help in the reorganization and modernization of the NWC.Dr. Davies pointed out that whilst the Government was providing a guarantee for the loan, its repayment was explicitly the responsibility of the NWC, which would be generating additional savings and additional revenues in order to service the loan. Repayments, he said, would begin in five years at a 4.8 per cent interest rate.
In the meantime, Opposition Speaker on Finance, Audley Shaw urged that the project should be efficiently undertaken to ensure maximum benefits from the money being spent. He questioned whether other pumping stations in the corporate area, such as Harbour View and Seaview Gardens, could receive assistance to correct problems of overflowing.Water and Housing Minister, Donald Buchanan in his remarks, said that the NWC had already commenced work on the project and a feasibility study was carried out in 2003.
He said substantial work had also commenced in parts of St. Andrew where some $5 million had been spent on improvements and tenders were distributed. In response to concerns voiced by Opposition Members, he further informed that the tender process on the Harbour View project was to commence shortly.
Currently, the NWC produces and distributes some 50 million gallons of water per day in Kingston and St. Andrew region, which has 97 per cent potable water coverage, while household connection to sewerage facilities is at 30 per cent.