While waiting on divine intervention for water

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

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Dear Editor,

Anyone looking for the most searing indictment of Jamaica's elite/ruling class since Independence needs look no further than your columnist Garfield Higgins' brilliant article on our perennial water crisis.

The crisis is self-made; the answers are right under the noses of those who govern and have governed Jamaica. Yet their record on the subject has been one of ignorance, neglect and incompetence.

Thanks to Higgins for revealing what only a few of us seem to know, namely that it was decades ago that the two water facilities serving the Corporate Area were built — none since Independence, while the population has grown exponentially.

Our brightest and best academics have been polishing their theses and the politicians have been figuring out how to win the next election.

Finally, it seems, the Andrew Holness-led Administration appears to have awoken to this crisis, no doubt after anguished cries from voters in the prime minister's own constituency.

But we still have those who ought to know better banking on seasonal rainfall as the only solution. Only recently, in a letter to the Jamaica Observer written by Ambassador Derrick Heaven, stated: “Rainfall is the only source, I know, that provides all the water we need.”

Really?

While no one wants to deny the contribution of “divine intervention” in solving Jamaica's crime and water problems, while we pray help from above, why don't we help ourselves by trying desalination plants? There's plenty of water in the sea, you know!

Thanks to a February 8, 2015 article in the British newspaper The Guardian we know that “since 2007, 68 new desalination plants have been built across the Caribbean, which now boasts an installed capacity of 782,000 cubic metres of purified water per day”.

Several Caribbean neighbours, who we used to believe were not as smart as us, have gone the desalination route. The article noted that St Martin, St Thomas, the British Virgin Islands, Curacao, and Aruba are almost entirely dependent on desalination: “They could not survive without it. Their economies would collapse,” one expert noted. Curacao and Aruba, islands that receive very little rainfall, built commercial desalination plants 80 years ago!

Of course, as with virtually any new idea mooted in Jamaica, we will almost certainly be told that it “can't work in Jamaica”. High-energy costs would be the 'excuse of the month'. Well, first of all, we boast in our tourist ads about how many days a year the sun shines; we know about cheaper solar energy and, in the Cayman islands, one of our former pre-Independence 'colonies', that does not appear to have deterred them — and they have even higher energy costs than Jamaica.

According to a spokesman for Consolidated Water, in Cayman, they have designed the most energy-efficient plants in the world, employing something called isobaric energy device.

We just love to copy mostly negative, dysfunctional stuff from America. Perhaps, for once, we could copy something useful and functional from the rest of the Caribbean — while we wait on divine intervention, of course.

Errol W A Townshend

Ontario, Canada

ewat@rogers.com


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