Dry Spell Panic
A lingering El Nino is causing millions in agricultural losses in Caribbean countries hit hard by a prolonged dry spell.
In Trinidad and Jamaica water is being rationed daily. A limited amount is permitted through pipe lines and only for a few hours as authorities tighten their grips on the remaining water supply. So far, Trinidad’s water authority has repaired some 2,000 broken and leaking pipelines. A task that would have taken years or not at all under normal circumstances.
Like the other countries in the region, Guyana, Antigua and Barbuda are also struggling with water shortages as a result of the long dry spell.
Guyana’s Agriculture Minister Robert Persaud said the resultant losses could be around $3 billion Guyanese dollars (US$14.7 million). Water is being provided where it is needed. The country’s rice lands are drying up under the drought, especially in the hinterland.
“Across the country we have mobilised resources in all the regions and with local officials to try and work very closely with farmers to develop the type of system that we need so that we can respond, address, provide the type of assistance in all the areas,” he said.
Since the drought started the government has spent more than Guy$250 million (US$1.2m) in infrastructure works to help farmers. Some Guy$49 million (US$240,549) was located to hinterland locations. The ministry pays up to Guy$3.2 million (US$15,709) a day to operate pumps and conduct other works.
The National Office of Disaster Services said that on average Antigua and Barbuda go through a period of low rainfall every three to four years. In the last 134 years since 1874, they have experienced 36 occurrences of drought.
In light of the situation Jamaica authorities are considering a proposal by an American company to provide desalinated water from the sea to meet the water shortage. The treated water would be hooked up to an island-wide system and sold cheap. Up to five million gallons could be pumped daily.
And so continues the water woes across the Caribbean. From Trinidad and Tobago in the south to Jamaica in the north, authorities have banned watering lawns, washing vehicles, use of sprinklers and fountains and bathing at stand pipes to control the flow of pipe borne water.
People are urged to conserve water and not waste it.