Jamaicans face possible jail term as drought situation worsens

KINGSTON, Jamaica, CMC – Jamaicans could face possible prison terms as the National Water Commission (NWC) issued a prohibition order making it a prosecutable offence to waste water or use excessive amounts of potable water for non-essential purposes.

Jamaica, like several other Caribbean countries, is facing a severe drought situation and the NWC said that the prohibition order, which goes into effect on Friday, is aimed at dealing with the worsening water situation.

“The prohibition notice that the Commission normally publishes in time of extreme drought is usually intended to send a signal to the population to indicate that not only is it not right to be wasting water from an already limited supply, but it is also now not legal.

“We’re hoping that it will serve to persuade persons to do the right thing and in instances where persons persist in doing the wrong thing, we would have the force of law to support us in taking action against them,” said NWC Corporate Communications Manager, Charles Buchanan.

He said some of the breaches of the prohibition order include using NWC supplied water in a drought affected area to water gardens or lawns, using potable water to irrigate farms, refilling ponds and swimming pools, washing motor vehicles with a continuously running hose, using NWC supplied water to wash down walkways, “or in any other way that they choose to use treated water in an excessive manner for something that is not considered essential.”

In a statement, the NWC defended its position saying that more stringent water conservation measures must now be observed.

It said that the limited potable water available should be reserved for essential purposes such as drinking, cooking, washing, bathing, sanitation and Buchanan warned that the offences are punishable by a fine imposed by parish courts.

He said failure to pay the fine will result in imprisonment of up to 30 days.

The NWC said that as a result of the worsening drought situation, customers in several communities will continue to experience intermittent supply, low water pressure or no water.

Meanwhile, in a statement posted on his Twitter page, Prime Minister Andrew Holness said following consultation on the “floor of Parliament, I am able to further announce that the Government will allocate J$25 million more to address water issues in the parishes affected by the drought.

“This means $J125 million will now be available,” he said.

Holness said that his government has allocated J$800 million (One Jamaica dollar=US$0.008 cents) for the 2019-20 fiscal year to the Rural Water Supply Limited (RWSL) carry out capital works mainly in rural areas of the island.

“The RWSL will be undertaking several catchment tanks and rainwater harvesting systems during the financial year,” he said, adding that  11 of these projects should be completed by September this year.

Holness acknowledged that “the island continues to experience serious drought conditions in many areas”.

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