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Minister of Water and Housing, Dr. Horace Chang, is expressing concern over the continued degradation of the country’s watershed areas, and is warning of the resulting problems to the environment and quality of life for individuals.
“The improved management of our watershed is important if we must have a constant supply of water. Degradation of our environment compromises our water system, and leads to a reduction of rainfall. Continued degradation also results in soil erosion, which sometimes destroys important elements of our water infrastructure, requiring costly treatment and replacement,” Dr. Chang outlined.
The Minister was speaking at the official opening of the Caribbean Water and Wastewater Association (CWWA) Conference at the Rosehall Resort and Country Club in Montego Bay St. James, recently. The conference, which is being held in conjunction with the Ministry, under the theme: ‘Integrated Water Resources Management – Developing Water Systems and Managing Waste’, commenced on October 6 and will end on October 10. The five-day meeting is being attended by Ministers with responsibility for water portfolios, permanent secretaries, and other Government officials from across the region.
Dr. Chang underscored the social costs and deleterious effects of soil erosion. “Erosion causes additional expense and burden on taxpayers as in many instances, entire communities must be relocated as their homes are either flooded or washed away.”
He said the Jamaican Government is currently in the process of establishing effective legislation, to safeguard the country’s water resources and coastlines, and prohibit construction activities being undertaken in flood plains.
Noting that the supply, distribution, and treatment of water is an expensive process, Dr. Chang advised that financing of this undertaking is being debated. He, however, stressed the need for capital to be sourced to effect improvements to the country’s water systems, without this being a burden to customers.
The Minister pointed out that the National Water Commission (NWC), the major supplier of water to households throughout Jamaica, currently serves 70 per cent of the population, providing approximately 90 per cent of all potable water.
Dr. Chang, however, lamented the fact that only 30 per cent of persons currently have access to effective wastewater treatment, while the other 70 per cent use septic tanks and resort to onsite disposal. He informed that the National Environmental and Planning Agency (NEPA), has now made it mandatory that all sewage be treated.
The CCWA is a regional Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), of professionals, involved in the water and wastewater sectors, and is an umbrella organisation for water utility entities in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).