Despite drought conditions being alleviated locally, the Government has rolled out the pilot phase of its Rural Water Household Resilient Programme, under which 3,000 black tanks are to be distributed to promote water harvesting in communities.
Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation (MEGJC), Senator Matthew Samuda, has stated that transparency will be a key element of the initiative to ensure that only persons in need of the tanks will benefit from the initiative.
The pilot phase is expected to be completed by the end of December, and it is also geared at boosting water resilience at the household level in rural communities.
The 400-gallon tanks with supporting infrastructure for rainwater harvesting are currently being distributed in the constituencies that were deemed to have been hardest hit by the recent drought.
Samuda provided an update on the initiative while tabling the National Water Resources Master Plan and the Rainwater Harvesting Guidelines in the Senate recently.
“We will work through all teething pains with a small number, first, of 3,000 four hundred-gallon tanks to make sure the distribution process is equitable, efficient, and provides transparency to the public by way of how persons would have been selected,” he indicated.
Grant funding of $60 million was provided by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to purchase the tanks.
Samuda said the MEGJC, through the Rural Water Agency, will provide funding of $250 million to facilitate the coordination of the project and the deployment of water harvesting systems and tanks.
“We will install these tanks along with the accompanying rainwater systems for 3,000 households in Jamaica,” added the minister.
He said constituencies that will participate in the pilot programme are predominantly in the eastern part of the country. These areas were largely affected by drought conditions earlier this year, which saw alarming decreases in their usual rainfall forecasts.
The areas to be impacted by the pilot programme include East and West Rural St Andrew; East and West St Thomas; East and West Portland; and South East, Central and West St Mary.
Additionally, the southern belt of St Ann, including the southeast and southwest sections, and the hilly northern belt of Clarendon, including the northern, north central and northwest sections of the parish, are to benefit from the programme’s pilot phase.
Samuda said the tanks will be distributed in areas that are either outside of the utility footprint of the National Water Commission (NWC), or in an area where that footprint, by way of its infrastructure, is significantly degraded and unable to provide a predictable supply.
He informed that Members of Parliament (MPs) in the constituencies have submitted 230 names each for proposed recipients of the tanks.
Further, teams at the Rural Water and the Social Review Committee have commenced the rollout of the rainwater harvesting systems and tanks.
“The same oversight process that is under way for the New Social Housing Programme will be used in assessing the recommendations from MPs to ensure that it’s constituents most in need get the benefit that the Government will provide,” declared Samuda.
Another interesting element of the programme is that each location that a tank is provided will be mapped and geotagged to ensure accountability.
This, said Samuda, will further ensure that, “we start the process of properly assessing the true national storage capacity for water”.
Another important element for the project involves training, whereby each MP has identified 10 young persons who will be taught to do installations by the HEART/NSTA Trust, and will receive a stipend for their work during the project.
Once the pilot phase is completed, the programme will be expanded nationally to include all rural constituencies.
Under the initiative that was first announced by Prime Minister Andrew Holness in March of this year, 50,000 black tanks are to be provided to residents of rural communities over the next five years, to significantly improve water supply resilience.