$280M water supply project commissioned in New Amsterdam By Daniel Da Costa
Stabroek News
December 9, 2003

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Just over one year after its completion in April 2002, the $280 million third and final phase of the New Amsterdam Water Supply Project was commissioned last Saturday by Prime Minister Samuel Hinds at a simple ceremony in the compound of the plant at Stanleytown on the southern edge of the town.

The ceremony marked the culmination of a ten-year-long project jointly funded by the European Union and the Government of Guyana. The European Union's contribution to the project, which was divided into three phases, was six million Euros or $1.2 billion.

The third phase of the project, which had its fair share of problems, was executed mainly by Southern Exploration and Production Company of Trinidad and Tobago. Work began in November 1999 and was completed in April 2002 after an additional $10 million contract was awarded to Japarts of Guyana to "tie up the loose ends".

A major sore point, which remains outstanding, is the reinstatement of some of the roads and street entrances damaged particularly during the final stage.

The third phase, which covered an area of four square miles, saw the laying of some 70,000 metres of pipelines and the installation of 4,700 house connections benefiting approximately 22,000 customers.

Just a handful of New Amsterdamers turned out to witness the commissioning of a project described as one of the most modern and expensive water supply systems in the country. Addressing the audience, which included senior officials of Guyana Water Inc, the European Commission and staff attached to the plant, Prime Minister Hinds noted that the ceremony was evidence that "we are slowly and steadily making things better for ourselves in Guyana."

He said improvements are not only taking place in the water sector but also in housing, electricity, roads and drainage and irrigation across the country. "It is important that we take note of each step we are making in the development process as we are doing today here. Yet we must ask ourselves where does donor aid come from and make our contribution to our revenue flow and Treasury."

The challenge facing Guyanese, he noted, "is for us to work collectively as a developing nation. One of the goals of the Government of Guyana is to ensure that adequate potable water supply is coming to all Guyanese."

Minister of Housing and Water, Shaik Baksh, described the project as "testimony of what the government has been doing in the water sector in Guyana and a commitment to ensure all Guyanese have access to safe and affordable water."

A background to the project was provided by GWI's Director of Operations, Andrew Barber who said the company was continuing its efforts to improve the levels of supply in the township. However, he pointed out that "further improvements can only be achieved through partnerships between GWI and customers."

Head of Delegation for the European Commission, Per Eklund, in his remarks reminded those present that the European Union has been involved in the water sector in Guyana for many years and referred to similar ongoing projects at Rose Hall on the Corentyne and Linden.

"This engagement can be seen as a part of the EU's commitment to the goals expressed in the World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg, South Africa in September 2002.

It calls for the reduction by half the number of people living without access to safe drinking water and also to cut by half the number of people who lack basic sanitation by 2015. These are ambitious goals but we have seen great strides in Guyana in recent years and hope to see further steps in the future."

To achieve these goals it is important, he said, to improve the service not only in the urban areas but also in the hinterland where access to water and good sanitation is often difficult.

"We must understand that access to potable water has been recognized as a basic human right. In the coming years there will remain a number of areas where further investment from the donor community will be required in the water sector. It is important therefore that every effort must be made to make such investment attractive to donors and to that end I wish to emphasize to the utility, the importance of continuing to make improvements in efficiency and effectiveness and the need for open and transparent management."

Eklund further reminded those present that "it is no longer enough in this day and age to knock on the door of a donor and ask for a request and expect they will cough up the money immediately. No, there are many actors in Guyana who are crying out for donor aid and who are putting up strong proposals for consideration."

According to the diplomat, the EU has been committed to the town of New Amsterdam since the early 1990s. He also pointed out that "it is important that the government maintains the momentum and emphasize the water sector as a priority area.

As donors we must be able to see that all parties are pulling in the same and right direction and that improvements are brought about through actions such as improved cost reduction and more accurate billing systems."

He also urged Guyanese to support the water utility by "paying your bills on time and also contributing to the upkeep of these investments if we expect quality of service to be maintained."

The first phase of the Water Supply Project was financed under the 6th European Development Fund at a cost of $400 million and was commissioned in August 1992.

It consisted of the construction of a new water treatment plant with two submersible pumps replacing the previous plant, which was installed in 1956.

The second phase saw the installation of some 15 kilometres of transmission mains, an overhead tank with a storage capacity of 110,220 imperial gallons and a 500 KVA generator.

The plant's existing production is 9000 m3 or 2.4 million gallons per day.