As we begin a New Year, may I take this opportunity to wish the citizenry God’s richest blessings. I trust that as Saint Lucia begins a new dispensation there will be respect for our Constitution, our patrimony, our heritage, our conventions and the rule of law. And that our country will be developed equitably so that we all may have a share of the development pie.
Now to the dredging fee which was established in April 2013 when the National Water and Sewerage Commission (NWSC) awarded the Water and Sewerage Company (WASCO) a 66.15% increase in water rates of which 10.43% was decoupled for the purpose of dredging the John Compton dam.
WASCO in its application for a tariff increase stated, inter alia, that it was selling water at a rate which was less than what it cost to produce. The company also indicated that it needed to dredge the dam which was filled with silt, reducing its capacity to hold water by about two thirds. The fund was first established for a two-year period based on the estimated cost of $6,000,000. You may recall that around that time a heavy drought was forecasted. Thank God we have been having rain instead but that means the percentage of silt to capacity may have increased.
In 2015 it was determined that the $6,000,000 was woefully below a revised cost of $27.451 million. As a consequence WASCO requested that NWSC approve an extension of the two-year period which, as far as I can recall, was under consideration by the latter. The public was duly informed of WASCO’s request and NWSC’s agreement to keep the fee in effect, pending a final decision. A public information leaflet issued by the NWSC in late 2015 indicated that approximately $11 million was available in the dredging fund.
At the same time WASCO was informed by the CDB of its approval of a loan under the guarantee of the government to finance the desilting and rehabilitating of the dam. I am constrained to write on this matter since:
It is over two years since approval of the loan was granted and, as far as I am aware, not one grain of silt has been removed from the dam.
We the consumers are left in the dark whilst monies are being collected from us on a monthly basis.
It boggles the mind that we continue to hear of proposals to increase our hotel room stock by 2,000 and wonder how these extra rooms will be serviced with water.
I, and I assume the citizenry too, would like to know: How much money is in the dredging fund? What is the status of the loan approved by the CDB? When is the desilting and rehabilitation work due to commence? Is all the money collected from us as the dredging fee being kept in a separate account by WASCO and will it be available to
service the CDB loan? Has a decision been taken by the National Utilities Regulatory Commission (NURC) on WASCO’s request for an extension of the period and if so, what is the end date? (Please note NURC replaced NWSC.) What is the status of the de-silting project and will the CDB still be involved in the project? What is the current situation re silt content? Who has oversight of the funds collected?
We should not be left in the dark about the situation.