WASCO Dam Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Project Un­der­way

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By

STAR Re­porter

Amidst strike ac­tion by employees last week and grow­ing ag­i­ta­tion by mem­bers of the pub­lic over the qual­ity of its ser­vice, WASCO has launched the John Comp­ton Dam re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion project in Mil­let. The project is ex­pected to not only sta­bi­lize and im­prove the sup­ply of wa­ter lo­cally, but par­tic­u­larly through­out the dry sea­son. The ini­tia­tive is ex­pected to cre­ate ben­e­fits to Saint Lucia by si­mul­ta­ne­ously cre­at­ing em­ploy­ment WASCO says.

The dredg­ing and the de-silt­ing of the John Comp­ton Dam has been a ma­jor source of con­tro­versy here, with crit­ics claim­ing that the dam was not main­tained and de-silted reg­u­larly, as was re­quired. Hur­ri­cane To­mas and other ad­verse weather sys­tems only made mat­ters worse.

In April 2013 the Na­tional Wa­ter and Sew­er­age Com­mis­sion es­tab­lished and ap­proved a “Dredg­ing Fee” for the pur­pose of de-silt­ing the dam. The Com­mis­sion be­lieved that if the dredg­ing would take only two years to com­plete at a cost of six mil­lion dol­lars, then it was nec­es­sary to de­cou­ple the cost for the dredg­ing from the new tar­iff, since the dredg­ing was more con­sis­tent with a project. A dredg­ing fee of 10.43% was sub­se­quently at­tached to the bills of con­sumers. As at 30th April 2015, the Dredg­ing Fund ac­count bal­ance was re­ported at EC $8,433,235.19. Funds from this ac­count have been used for the pay­ment of a study com­mis­sioned to de­lin­eate the way for­ward for the dredg­ing project.

Ac­cord­ing to WASCO the over­all project will aid in im­prov­ing pub­lic health of res­i­dents and is ex­pected to im­prove life qual­ity with fewer dis­rup­tions, so­cial and eco­nomic losses which may be ex­pe­ri­enced as a direct re­sult of wa­ter short­ages and dry spells. How­ever, some re­main scep­ti­cal, re­call­ing that th­ese same words were ex­pressed when the dam was opened.

“This project will be one of the most im­por­tant projects ever un­der­taken by gov­ern­ment. We need to value the re­source we have here which is the wa­ter. With re­gards to the cli­mate change con­di­tions which have been hap­pen­ing around the globe, we know the ef­fect it is hav­ing on our wa­ter sys­tems in this coun­try and hence the rea­son I say this will be one of the most im­por­tant projects ever un­der­taken by any en­tity in Saint Lucia,” said Des­mond Long, MP for Anse La Raye/Ca­naries at the launch of the project.

Di­vi­sion Chief for the Caribbean De­vel­op­ment Bank, An­drew Dupigny, also spoke: “The Roseau wa­ter shed and the reser­voir be­hind the John Comp­ton wa­ter shed should pro­vide wa­ter se­cu­rity for ap­prox­i­mately 93,000 res­i­dents in the north­ern dis­tricts of Cas­tries, Gros Islet and part of Anse La Raye.”

He pointed out that th­ese ar­eas con­tain much of the na­tion­ally es­sen­tial so­cial and eco­nomic in­fra­struc­ture of Saint Lucia. “Hence the sus­tain­able op­er­a­tion of the John Comp­ton Dam is of crit­i­cal link to the over­all sus­tain­abil­ity of the Saint Lu­cian econ­omy,” Dupigny said.

He con­tin­ued: “The project will re­sult in a num­ber of pos­i­tive im­pacts. It will in­clude the re­li­a­bil­ity of the wa­ter sup­ply dur­ing the dry sea­son . . . and thereby im­prove pub­lic health to the res­i­dents and their over­all qual­ity of life.”

Other ben­e­fits would in­clude a re­duc­tion in dis­rup­tion and the losses ex­pe­ri­enced by busi­nesses and schools that have been af­fected by wa­ter out­ages in the dry sea­son over the past few years. It would also fa­cil­i­tate eco­nomic growth in the north by in­creas­ing wa­ter avail­abil­ity. It will pro­vide direct and in­di­rect em­ploy­ment for ap­prox­i­mately 40 peo­ple dur­ing the con­struc­tion and will in­clude the re­siliency of the dam to sed­i­men­ta­tion events caused by se­vere rain­fall. WASCO rev­enue will also in­crease, as more wa­ter will be avail­able for sale dur­ing the dry sea­son.

Prime Min­is­ter and Min­is­ter for Fi­nance, Eco­nomic Af­fairs, Plan­ning and So­cial Se­cu­rity, Kenny An­thony, as part of his ad­dress said, “Fi­nally, af­ter sev­eral years, we are tak­ing some crit­i­cal and cru­cial steps and it has not been easy to come to this po­si­tion, be­cause there have been re­peated eval­u­a­tions by all kinds of teams to as­sess our op­tions.” He went on to ad­mit that he was wor­ried when he no­ticed a drought in the rainy sea­son and re­quested an emer­gency plan to be put in place.

The head ta­ble at the launch of the Dam de-silt­ing project L-R: Vin­cent Hip­polyte WASCO GM, Eg­bert Louis Chair­man of WASCO, Se­na­tor Jimmy Fletcher and

Prime Min­is­ter Kenny An­thony.

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