50,000 ‘black tanks’ for needy J’cans over next five years

PRIME Minister Andrew Holness has announced a programme to gift 10,000 polyethylene water tanks or ‘black tanks” to the most-needy households across Jamaica in the new fiscal year, which begins on April 1.

This is part of a five-year programme which will see 50,000 Jamaicans provided with the tanks.

Making the announcement during his contribution to the 2023/24 Budget Debate in the House of Representative on Thursday, Holness said the black tank programme will start in the new fiscal year with a focus on the areas most affected by the current drought.

Households on the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) database, and households recommended by Members of Parliament (MPs) and assessed will qualify for the tanks, according to the rules of the programme to be established by the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation.

“All the tanks issued will be placed on our National GIS [Geographic Information System] database. This will give us valuable information about household storage capacity and how to plan for the delivery of water to those tanks,” said Holness.

“A parallel project is to assist households to convert these tanks, where possible, into rainwater harvesting systems connected to their roof. The HEART/NSTA Trust will be tasked with developing a National Service Corps of trainee plumbers and future water engineers to install these tanks and convert them into rainwater harvesting systems.

“This will be a five-year programme, with the objective that every water vulnerable household must have storage and rainwater capabilities to withstand drought and water service disruption. With the accelerating adverse effects of climate change, droughts are likely to recur with increasing frequency and severity,” said Holness, as he pointed to measures being implemented by his Administration to deal with the current drought and similar weather challenges in the future.

Holness noted that though the impact of the current drought is being experienced nationally, the parishes of Clarendon, St Thomas, Portland, St Mary, and Westmoreland have been most affected.

“The condition has persisted and an initial allocation of $150 million has been made, of which $30 million is for the Ministry of Local Government to assist municipal authorities, $20 million for the purchase of household water tanks, and the remaining $100 million to enable MPs to respond to requests for trucking of water,” said Holness.

“The Cabinet will review the reports of the Drought Management Committee and will soon determine if conservation orders should be issued. Until then, I am repeating my pleadings with citizens to conserve their use of this precious commodity. Fix leaks, report leaks, reduce washing cars and watering lawns and do not leave the faucet running,” added Holness.

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