The Water and Sewage Authority (WASA) is being chastised for water shortages. Minister of Public Utilities Robert Le Hunte in turn is blaming the harshness of the dry season.
Instead of playing a blame game, shouldn’t we blame ourselves for not demanding accountability, consultation and transparency from our elected governments? In 2015, WASA operated with a loss of TT$2.88 billion, which is twice as much as the national budget of the island of Dominica for that year! This WASA disaster didn’t happen overnight. Is it a compounded problem of neglect, corruption, mismanagement and nepotism by each successive government?
Up till now WASA has not upgraded or repaired its dilapidated infrastructure, have not instituted a metering system, have not updated water conservation legalisation, continue to employ three times more than the global average of required employees and are spending up to 24 percent of its operating expenses to purchase privatised water each year.
Twenty years ago, as a quick fix, the Panday administration touted desalination as the solution to ‘water shortages’. Back then, most public interest bodies were silent whilst FFOS clamoured about the unsustainability of the privatisation of naturally reoccurring water. The estimated construction cost of the facility was stated to be US$200 million x 6.77 = TT$1.35 billion.
According to the “Review of the State of the Water and Sewerage Authority of Trinidad and Tobago 2010 – 2015” (an April 2018 Report published by the Regulated Industries Commission – RIC) today, 20 years later, an estimated TT$10 billion has been paid to the privately owned Desalination Company of Trinidad and Tobago (DESALCOTT). The owners of DESALCOTT must be congratulated for quite a handsome return on their investment, but at whose cost?
The RIC 2018 report further states that, in the year 2015, WASA had a water shortage of 52 million cubic meters (52,000,000 m3). In that year (2015) DESALCOTT supplied 72 million cubic meters (72,000,000 c3). Citizens paid TT$539 million for 72 million cubic meters but there was only a 52 million cubic meter shortage. Why therefore did we buy 20 million cubic meters extra at a cost of an additional TT$122 million? Is this a fake water scandal?
This year the DESALCOTT’s lucrative, exclusive, secretly arranged contract expires in 2019 and yet our government and opposition have not murmured a word about the future of water. Why this silence?
The Ortoire River on the south east coast of Trinidad, discharges an estimated 70 million cubic meters of fresh water per year (70,000,000 m3), which is greater than the average annual production of DESALCOTT. It’s time for our nation to wake and face reality! Too late would be the cry when our children’s children are forced to pay the cost of our corrupted and lackadaisical approach to their future. Why is there no public consultation by our responsible parliamentarians on ways that we can avert this multibillion dollar leakage of privatized water that is bleeding our withered Treasury for every last cent? Oil and gas money flowed freely then and we spent it like water in a wet fete!
FFOS is calling on Minister Le Hunt to hold public consultations on the future of water. When will we face the reality of WASA dilapidated infrastructure, the outrageousness of privatised water or that northern range quarries (legal and illegal) are further jeopardizing our potable water supply since an estimated 90 percent of our naturally harvested potable water emanates from this range?
FFOS recognizes the former minister of public utilities, Ganga Singh for his role in not only negotiating the DESALCOTT contract, but again, for a second time, when the UNC returned, they successfully negotiated a second such facility. Are we to believe that if the UNC is elected again, our water will become more privatised? What is PNM’s position on privatised water?
Unless our governments embrace the globally accepted position that potable water, like clean air, is not a luxury but a human right, our nation will continue to deprive our unborn generations of their most basic need.
Fishermen and Friends of the Sea