Jagdeo a no-show as Sophia treatment plant commissioned

– plans announced to widen access to treated water

Over 30,000 residents of parts of Sophia, Prashad Nagar and Bel Air are now receiving improved water service with the construction of a $300 million water treatment plant, but its official commissioning was cut short yesterday after the president was a no-show.

Residents numbering about 35 were visibly disappointed when they were told towards the end of the programme, which started 20 minutes late, that President Bharrat Jagdeo was unable to be there because of an important meeting he was engaged in.

The ceremonial unveiling of the plaque, which was to

Part of the GWI’s new water treatment plant at Plum Park, Sophia. (See story on page 10) (Photo by Ivan Bentham)

take place at the Plum Park, Sophia location has now been postponed until further notice.

Housing and Water Minister Irfaan Ali, in his address to the gathering, said that the Sophia facility is one that would help in reducing the iron content in the water while pointing out that in Guyana the iron content in our water is naturally high.

Ali stated that only 3% of the world’s water is suitable for drinking, with the remainder having to go through processing and treatment in order for persons to consume it. He admonished Guyanese for not recognizing the bigger picture and the little blessings in the country. He stated that the water we have here still meets health standards stressing that in some countries citizens “can’t even put that water on their lips to say it is naturally produced”.

He told the gathering that water treatment is a very expensive formula. In 2006 for example, he

A section of the Sophia Water Treatment Plant. (Ivan Bentham photo)

said 25% of the population had access to treated water. Today, that figure has jumped to 45% and it is hoped that in another five years 70% of the population would have access to it.

He pointed out that 98% of coastlanders have access to potable water, but not necessarily treated water.

According to Ali, an area that is critical for the ministry is the issue of water wastage owing to line losses. He explained that there was a period when residents had no access to water and as a result lines were broken to try to get water.

He said GWI has to focus on improving the system to reduce those losses since every time this occurs, the operation costs go up for the company.

Focusing on Sophia, he said there is another integral piece of infrastructure that needs to be completed so that the water system in the entire community can be linked. He said the Cummings Lodge Well should be fully activated in another two weeks which will result in a complete water system for the Sophia area, increasing the level of service.

He said this partnership between the government and the Inter-American Develop-ment Bank (IDB) will see tremendous improvement not only in the pressure or flow of the water but the quality.

Ali said the Sophia facility is closely related to the one at Central Ruimveldt. He said persons are unaware of the level of investment taking place across the country. He said that over the last five years billions have been spent; $3.6 billion in Region Four; in Georgetown specifically almost $2.6 billion and on East Bank and East Coast about $1 billion.

He said the Sophia facility is a state-of-the-art plant that all should be proud of since it meets international standards.

Prior to Ali’s address Ramchand Jailal, GWI’s Director of Capital Invest-ment and Planning said that over the years the government has continuously partnered with the IDB and other donors for the improvement of the water and sanitation service in and around Guyana.

He said government has partnered with the World Bank in the water consolidation project which resulted in three new state-of-the-art water treatment plants at Lima, Essequibo; Vergenoogen, West Coast and Cotton tree, West Coast Berbice.

He said too that there were also partnerships in the Georgetown remedial programme which resulted in the construction of two new water treatment plants, one at Central Ruimveldt and the present one at Sophia. This is in addition to the rehabilitation of the sewage system in Georgetown.

According to Jailall, there was partnership with Japan in the construction of two state-of-the-art water treatment plants in Number 56 village and Queenstown, Essequibo.

He said the Sophia facility boasts the most up-to-date technology where gravity backwash is being used which is a process which does not require electrical energy. The plant also includes a sodium hydrochloride system which manufactures liquid chlorine which is safe for the disinfection of water that is supplied to the residents and surrounding areas, he noted.

In explaining the treatment process which he described as simple, Jailall said that the water goes to the irrigator and is oxidized before being transferred to a sedimentation tank, where some of the iron settles out. It then goes to a filtration system where most of the iron is filtered and the treated water is stored in a large capacity storage tank from which it is pumped to the residents. The project was constructed by UEM Inc, a Trinidadian company and was supervised by GWI staff.

Meanwhile , Jose Manuel  Ruiz, Chief of Operations, IDB country office said that last week the IDB signed off two projects in Linden; the Linden Water Rehabilitation Programme and a waste management project.

Besides the Linden programme, he said, the government through GWI is currently implementing a $10 million Georgetown sanitation improvement programme which aims to improve the Georgetown sewage system. He said that IDB has also injected a further $500,000 aimed at improving the company’s operating procedure. According to Ruiz, a $14.7 million water supply and sewage programme was completed last year which is aimed at improving the sanitary conditions in Georgetown and in so doing improving the quality of water.

He told those gathered that this new plant should be seen as a positive achievement.

“Our partnership with the Ministry of Housing and Water will continue to be a vibrant one,” he stressed.

Residents were urged to preserve and care the facility so as to ensure that it is passed on to future generations.

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