Sat | Jul 11, 2020

Earth Today | New water project adopts lessons learnt

Published:Thursday | June 4, 2020 | 12:30 AM
CLARKE
CLARKE

THE NEW CReW project is to take lessons learnt from the last effort, while building on its gains, in pursuit of better wastewater management in the Caribbean.

According to Chris Corbin, programme officer for the pollution and communications subprogrammes with the Ecosystems Division of UNEP, co-executors of the current and former project, while satisfied with the outputs of CReW, there is much that remains to be done if the challenges to effective wastewater management are to be overcome.

The intention is address those with CReW+.

“This innovative project will build upon its previous phase, also funded by the Global Environment Facility and co-implemented by IDB and UNEP. Through this earlier project, 13 countries of the wider Caribbean region benefited from capacity building and the development of innovative sustainable financing solutions for the wastewater sector,” he noted.

Eighteen are to benefit this time around.

The successful implementation of the last project, Corbin said, also resulted in improved awareness, policy reforms and stress reduction, among other achievements.

Those gains also included the ratification of the Cartagena Convention’s Land-Based Sources of Marine Pollution (LBS) Protocol by Jamaica (November 2015) and Costa Rica (May 2016); as well as access to improved wastewater treatment by over 37,000 people, or some 8,400 households.

Some 12 new wastewater treatment plants were completed with co-financing from the Inter-American Development Bank; while National Wastewater Revolving Funds, worth $5 million and $3 million, respectively, were established in Belize and Guyana. Also, a Credit Enhancement Facility worth $3 million was set up in Jamaica.

COVID-19 DELAY

Meanwhile, despite a delay forced by the spread of the COVID-19 global pandemic, efforts are afoot to get things moving on the new project.

“We are in discussions with focal points who have been asked to coordinate such discussions so that activities can be fine-tuned. Support is also available through consultants to have finalise work plans and ensure all partners are on board,” Corbin explained.

The first CReW, implemented between 2011 and 2016, had a little more funding (US$20 million compared to the US$14.9 million available now).

However, in demonstrating one of the ways in which they had derived lessons learnt, Corbin said: “The funds were greater but important to highlight is that under CReW+, funds are more equitably distributed and all of the participating countries will be supported to have activities on the ground and focus more on wastewater improvements at a community level targeting vulnerable populations.”

Stakeholders, including Corbin, have long advanced the need for the efficient use of wastewater within the region.

“We need to consider wastewater as part of an integrated and holistic approach to water resources management and recognise that wastewater contains over 99 per cent water. Initial focus should be on reuse of grey water (that is, from kitchen, laundries) for reuse in irrigation, aquifer recharge, etc.,” he told The Gleaner in 2019.

“The reuse of sewage effluent requires much higher levels of treatment to be considered for reuse, and where such treatment is provided and from testing, we can ensure that there are no human health risk (and) it becomes a tremendous resource,” he added at the time.

Corbin is not alone.

“The more we can reserve that freshwater, the more we can put ourselves in a position to be resilient to climate change,” Peter Clarke, managing director for the Water Resources Authority, said last year.

He was speaking amid record high temperatures in Jamaica in 2019 that got up to as much as three degrees higher than the year before.

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