St Augustine MP Khadijah Ameen speaks to the media about water issues in the country, at a press conference held at the UNC’s Headquarters in Chaguanas. – Photo by Angelo Marcelle
ST Augustine MP Khadija Ameen is demanding WASA immediately engage additional contractors to supply truck-borne water to every single household affected by the water shortage, while it get its act together.
At a news briefing at the United National Congress (UNC) headquarters, Chaguanas on Friday, Ameen said affected consumers, mainly in south and central Trinidad, are not interested in the blame game, as to whether power outages or Desalcott’s inability to meet its quota is responsible for their dry taps.
“They just want water.”
Acting WASA CEO Kelvin Romain blamed problems at Desalcott for the water problems. He also said it was unacceptable that consumers were going weeks without water..
Ameen said the situation has reached a stage where it is now a public health issue as people were resorting to untreated water from rivers and ponds to do their daily chores.
She said in light of shortages from Mayaro to Cedros/Icacos, Tableland, Penal and central, plus accompanying protests, WASA has failed to accept responsibility, blaming other entities, while consumers suffer.
“It is the job of the Minister of Public Utilities Marvin Gonzales to provide water. We are asking for immediate measures to be put in place to deliver truck borne water to every household in South and Central while you all fix your business.”
She reminded Gonzales that it is WASA’s responsibility to provide a truck-borne supply to its customers when it is unable to meet its pipe-borne commitment, not the corporations.
Because WASA has failed to do so, she said consumers are calling on the corporations which have been assisting police stations, health centres, schools and public institutions as well as private citizens.
“But the allocation for water trucking in the regional corporations is not enough to meet the demand caused by WASA’s shortfall,” she said.
Ameen also recommended WASA abandon the dysfunctional application for people to call to request a supply. She said consumers wait on line for almost an hour for their call to be answered and get a reference number, and two more weeks before they receive the actual water.
Ameen was joined by Siparia mayor Doodnath Mayrhoo, Rio Claro/Mayaro Regional Corporation chairman Raymond Cozier and deputy chairman of the Penal Debe Regional Corporation Gowtam Maharaj, whose regions are all affected by the water shortage.
Cozier said he was just interested in knowing why his region was not getting water, what was the solution, and for WASA to fix the problem. He said while WASA was supplying water 24/7 in some areas, in his region people were willing to accept water even once a week.
“Not even that they could be guaranteed from WASA,” Cozier said.
Maharaj said Penal/Debe was obligated to serve consumers whether or not they were WASA customers, but their allocation was exhausted. He said even the trucks employed to service over 20,000 households, “were fatigued.”
Mayrhoo welcomed a plan Gonzales rolled out to upgrade the water supply infrastructure via a US$315 million fund from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), but had a difficulty with the timeline.
Gonzales gave a December 2024 timeline for relief, while explaining the procurement process will start at the end of September, contractors selected by the end of the year and estimated completion date 12 months later.
“What should consumers do in the meantime? Die?” Mayrhoo asked.
Dubbing Gonzales the “Minister of No Water,” Mayrhoo called on Gonzales, “To wake up from your sleep. People need water now. Water is life. Water his health. Water is everything.”
He expressed concern that although a meeting of all chairmen and mayors was scheduled with the Rural Development and Local Government Minister Faris Al-Rawi on Friday, the water crisis was not on the agenda for discussion.
Maharaj said the water tables in the Penal/Debe areas were close to the surface and suggestion retention ponds be developed to provide water and also assist in local economic development.