Guyana to host regional water conference

The 26th anniversary conference and exhibition of the Caribbean Water and Wastewater Association (CWWA), to be held in October, will bring together over 400 participants from the Caribbean, Latin America, North America and Europe, who will engage to share ideas, information, and new technologies in water, wastewater and waste management.

The theme of this year’s conference, which is being hosted in Guyana for the first time, is “Promoting Innovation and Creativity in Water, Wastewater and Waste Management.”

The conference, which will be held from October 16th to October 20th at the Marriott Hotel Guyana, will target not only high-level policy makers, but the regular man as well, in a bid to disseminate information on water and wastewater management, and the challenges being faced as far as resource distribution goes, in the regions and locally. It will also focus on waste management, which is a new focus for the conference.

“…The focus will be on when our people come together what new have we discovered? What new have we learnt? What can we promote and demonstrate to others through the network? Solutions to problems that one country might have developed which they can share with another country,” Executive Director of the CWWA Patricia Aquing stated at the launch of the conference last Friday at the Marriott Hotel.

The panel at the launch of the CCWA conference. From left are Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI) Public Relations Officer Leana Bradshaw; GWI Managing Director Dr Richard Van West-Charles; Minister within the Ministry of Communities Dawn Hastings; Executive Director of CCWA Patricia Aquing; and GWI’s Executive Director of Commercial Services and Customer Relations Marlon Daniels.

Describing the event as more than just a “jamboree,” Aquing stated that the coordinators of the conference will seek to build synergy between the event and its relevance to the local population.

She said that by the end of the conference, it is hoped that the average citizen will better understand and appreciate the challenges that come with water distribution.

“…at the end of the day if we view water as a human right, it means all our populations must have access to potable water and water availability, so the quality and the quantity are important…And so the significance of water is not about just getting water in a tap, water is a development issue and that’s what we have been trying to stress. Development meaning that when you don’t have water in the quantity or when you don’t have available water, every aspect of your economy is going to be affected,” she asserted.

Noting that oftentimes conferences are “far removed from the ordinary citizens,” Guyana Water Incorporated’s Managing Director Dr Richard Van West-Charles, who also spoke at the launch, said that these events act as platforms for knowledge sharing, which can result in better practices.

Furthermore, he highlighted the role the conference can play in advancing Guyana towards fulfilling its Sustainable Development Goals, while noting that research plays an important role in influencing policy and driving development.

“We have to put this in the context of the sustainable development goals which have got to be met and in terms of the area of wastewater, we all know that Guyana is lagging far behind. Sometimes in many of our developing countries, research is seen as a luxury, but in essence when we look at the thrust for development in the developed world, what drives development is knowledge and hence the relevance of this conference to what we are doing in Guyana as we seek to make the change, as we seek to impact on the lives of many of our citizens,” Dr Van West-Charles stated.

‘First times’

As far as water distribution in Guyana goes, Van West-Charles said that water quality management is the highest priority for Guyana Water Incorporated at the moment.

“I wouldn’t say Guyana is water stressed. The important thing with respect to water and its link to human health is that we ensure that the water that people consume is of a good quality. And we have embarked aggressively on a strategy looking at the coastland. That’s why you heard of the mini labs and the testing kits and so we want to, as a priority, we’re moving in every region right now to ensure that the schools have good quality water. In the hinterland, we are looking at the sources where they combine either from springs or from rivers to ensure that those are filtered properly for consumption,” he said in a comment to this newspaper afterwards.

Minister within the Ministry of Communities Dawn Hastings, during her keynote address, noted that with Guyana being known as the “Land of Many Waters,” water is often taken for granted. She acknowledged that several local communities have only just been granted access to potable water.

“…And you know GWI has a lot of first times in this year in 2017. Every time I go to speak or I go to commission a new well or a new water distribution unit, I keep hearing, “this is the first time.” For the first time the residents at Moleson Creek, Jackson are receiving potable water to their home. Then I was up on the highway in Waiakabra, Silver Hill, it was for the very first time that the residents there, Guyanese like any one of us, were able to receive their water supply…,” Hastings related.

Meanwhile, according to a Guyana Water Incorporated statement, included on the agenda for the October conference will also be the 13th High Level Forum of Caribbean Ministers Responsible for Water (HLF13), which will assemble ministers from all Caribbean countries, water utility managers and development partners, to discuss matters related to the water sector, and an exhibition featuring over 60 exhibitors, who will showcase the products and services they offer in the water and wastewater sector.

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