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Some 60 per cent of the water produced throughout the country by Guyana Water Inc (GWI) is lost through wastage. Among those said to be responsible for the wastage are over 30,000 consumers in New Amsterdam who are serviced by the billion-dollar state-of-the-art water supply project.
So worrying is the situation that the water company has announced plans to launch a major campaign in the new year to reduce the amount of water wasted. GWI's Director of Operations, Andrew Barber, said the utility has increased the number of gangs to specifically fix leaks in its system. Already water inspectors have begun working in the city and other areas in the country in an effort to reduce wastage and a team is to be established in New Amsterdam early in 2004.
In a further step towards minimizing wastage, Barber said, the company is working on a new set of by-laws which will be put to the government in the new year for approval. He urged citizens not to waste water and to pay their bills on time.
"We are striving to reduce our operational cost, in particular our energy bill, to improve our billing system and to collect outstanding monies," Barber added.
Similar concerns were expressed at the recent commissioning of the third and final phase of the New Amsterdam Water Supply Project by Minister of Housing and Water, Shaik Baksh, and Head of Delegation of the European Commission in Guyana, Per Eklund. They both called on Guyanese and in particular residents of New Amsterdamers not to waste water.
Baksh, in his presentation, disclosed that funding is being sought for "a major Water Treatment Plant for the Upper Corentyne which will supply consumers between Number 70 Village and Moleson Creek. Region Six has been receiving its fair share of projects including the laying of new pipelines at Number 19 Village, Glasgow to Kortbraadt and Mara on the East Bank Berbice; Numbers 52 to 58 Villages and a proposed new project for Number 79 Village to Crabwood Creek."
According to Baksh, his ministry will be moving with the support of the donor community, especially the European Union, to provide treated water to all Guyanese. "We see it as important to the alleviation of poverty and the health of Guyanese."
The minister also disclosed plans to complete in the new year a draft town plan for New Amsterdam, which he said "never saw the light of day even though it was prepared several years ago." A similar plan will be completed in 2004 for Corriverton since the ministry now has "the resources in the form of two town planners to do such work."
Touching on GWI's management, Baksh said: "We have to ensure that the utility responds more quickly and expeditiously to the complaints of consumers." How-ever, he noted that the company has already formulated a Consumer Charter which is expected to be approved soon and will be posted up in public places throughout the country.
Baksh also pointed to the need for water committees in major population centres to keep the ministry and GWI abreast of the problems confronting consumers in the various areas.
In March, Barber had told this newspaper in New Amsterdam that "there is still a lot of wastage in the system with some people having no taps and cut-off valves in their storage tanks." Then Divisional Manager, Joseph Codette, had also noted that the division was working to reduce wastage and ensure that everyone has a stand-pipe and proper plumbing. The division had launched a campaign to disconnect those without stand-pipes in an effort to reduce wastage and achieve a first floor level of supply by mid-April. How-ever, to date this has not been achieved. According to Baksh, "we still have problems in the region with levels of supply," which he attributed to technical difficulties and expressed the hope that they would be resolved shortly.
The minister also noted there was need for a policy on fire hydrants in the towns. "The service will have to be paid for since it will not be the responsibility of GWI. We have to work out a policy position on this and payment of fees for the use of hydrants wherever they are installed." Large quantities of water and in some cases treated water are used by the Guyana Fire Service in fire-fighting.
Severn Trent Water International assumed management of GWI on January 1, 2003.
The team will manage the company for the next five years in conjunction with local managers. Severn Trent is the world's fourth largest privately-owned water company serving some eight million customers across the United Kingdom.