Stop selling the water!

TRUCKERS and water shop operators who have been selling the commodity have been warned to stop or face the consequences.

Minister of Local Government and Community Development Desmond McKenzie told Wednesday’s post-Cabinet press briefing that residents who have been forced to pay for water intended to be distributed free must make report to their respective municipal councils.

“We are providing water free of cost to all communities. I know of cases where people fill up tanks and sell water to communities. I urge people that once they find that happening, report it to the municipal corporation or to the Ministry of Local Government,” McKenzie said.

Last week, the Jamaica Observer visited impoverished communities in Kingston and St Andrew, where residents complained that they don’t have the money to keep up with the purchasing of water every week.

One elderly woman in the Kingston Western said: “I have to pay people to fill my five-gallon bottles. I don’t work. I have two drums and it was only two times I got water that I understand was sent by the Member of Parliament. After the two times, they said that only ‘agents’ will get water. When the truck comes nowadays, it only goes to special people yard. You have to have money to pay for people to go and catch water for you. They charge $100 to fill each five-gallon container and I have eight of them. Every week we have to buy water and sometimes I have to use cups of water to bathe,” the frustrated woman said.

McKenzie said that building water shops is not the ultimate answer to the water woes, but said that it provides help for many people during this time of need in the drought.

“It has created an area where people can depend, without having to worry. We have just concluded the construction of a major facility in St Elizabeth. Quite recently, we opened the largest water shop built so far, which is a 30,000-gallon facility in Manchester. We are looking now to commence work on a new facility in Clarendon, which is one of those parishes that have a severe problem with water.”

McKenzie said that the country is experiencing serious effects of drought and the lack of access to potable water, due to a lack of maintenance and investment in infrastructure over many decades.

“Because of this, we are seeing serious problems in various communities in the constituencies of St Andrew South, St Andrew South West, Kingston Central, and Kingston Western. Pipeline that has been laid on Spanish Town Road, once it is fully activated, will bring some relief to the people in downtown, Kingston,” McKenzie said.

He added: “My ministry will be working closely with Minister Matthew Samuda on a black tank programme for five parishes that are severely affected by the water crisis. The tanks will be provided to the municipal corporations to be distributed in communities, based on surveys we have been doing. We are not going to just distribute tanks. It will be on a needs basis. We expect this programme to be rolled out by the middle of October.”