Letters to the Editor

Ja's water resources are at constant risk

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

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Dear Editor,

I look at all the development happening across Kingston and St Andrew and I would like to start a conversation about the way in which we approach development vis-a-vis how we treat with protection of our water resources.

The success of any economy is hinged on sustainable access to water for sanitation and health purposes. And, as Jamaica is known as the “land of wood and water”, I can't help but feel as if we take for granted the fact that our natural water resources are not exactly renewable.

Our aquifers are being contaminated by sewage and rendered unusable due to saline intrusion and over extraction.

Since 2009 the population in Kingston and St Andrew has been steadily increasing (STATIN, 2017) and currently approximately 25 per cent of Jamaica's population resides in Kingston and St Andrew, making this region the most densely populated in Jamaica.

Based on the 2011 National Population Census, approximately 95 per cent of residents in Kingston and St Andrew receive water through pipes; this includes piped water to their home or through community standpipes. The remaining five per cent, that is, approximately 33,212 residents, depend on either rainwater harvesting through catchment areas or from springs or rivers.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that 1.1 billion people do not have access to safe drinking water. This number may be much larger now given the current issues relating to climate change and variability. Access to water is not only restricted by physical fixtures; for example, the transport mechanism, it is also influenced greatly by the quality of the water source. Water is a critical component in ensuring the continuity of ecosystems. Once effectively managed our water resources will, in turn, work for us by managing discharged pollutants and act as agents for increased tourism.

Amidst our thrust to meet various UN sustainable development goals and our Vision 2030 dream of Jamaica being “the place of choice to live, work, raise families, and do business”, we must seek to focus, in a more sustainable manner, on water quality and its role in sanitation and impact on ecosystem biodiversity. By doing so, various developmental targets can be met. By caring for water resources and, by extension, the natural environment, the ecosystems will, in turn, help to regulate the quantity and quality of water and drive development.

Jamaica's water resources are at constant risk of contamination, as a known 11 per cent of Kingston and St Andrew residents use pit latrines and other unsewered methods of disposal for faecal excrement. And, of the remaining 89 per cent, an unknown portion is not connected to the main sewerage system. This, coupled with the issues of ineffective solid waste management, puts pressure on domestic water treatment plants and water resources management authorities. These issues promote inefficiency in process management and can negatively impact the economy, especially in a country where water resources inclusive of public water supply is managed by the Government.

It is important for us, as a nation, that having celebrated World Water Day 2019, we commit to the integration of management practices to ensure that all risks to our water resources are reduced, eliminated or more effectively managed. This will help to ensure that we have a sustainable Jamaica that our upcoming generations can enjoy.

Mario Christie


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