WASA’s brutal contempt
GEORGE ALLEYNE Wednesday, April 25 2012
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David and the media: Government Senator David Abdulah speaks to reporters at Linx Suite Hotel Restaurant, Riverside Drive, San Fernando where he addre...
Government, in particular the Ministry of Public Utilities, should demand answers as to why, if the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) is overstaffed by approximately 2,800 workers, it still hires contractors to repair leaks in its water transmission system along and at the sides of the nation’s roads.
Incidentally, the over staffing is an official People’s Partnership Government position voiced by the Ministry of Public Utilities last week. Is Government advising the nation’s taxpayers that it is unable to source the needed expertise within WASA itself to fix the numerous water leaks which have beset the water system? If this is so, then would it not be less costly for Government to institute training programmes for relevant WASA employees in an effort both to upgrade their efficiency and to contain the cost of repairing water leaks within WASA’s budget for in-house work?
This is probably the first time since 1850, when a colonial administration established WASA’s earliest “predecessor” and with it a pipe borne water supply in urban areas, that Trinidad has been faced with so many broken water mains. Yet Government, through the Ministry of Public Utilities, insists that the Water and Sewerage Authority is overstaffed. Overstaffed or staff under utilised? But under utilisation is not a worker created problem, but rather a management problem.
It is a demonstration of ineffective use of manpower. But this is the 21st century and where are Government’s 21st century initiatives with respect to pipe borne water? In addition, is proper attention being paid to the manner in which the work on repairs to water leaks is being supervised? Have the foremen and supervisors been exposed to the continuous changes in technology? Is there a Division at WASA with special responsibilities for conducting studies of the effects that various types and/or properties of soil can have on water transmission pipes?
Does WASA, for example, measure the output of its workers?
Additionally, does it have skills training programmes? If I have put forward these questions it is because all too often WASA would arrange for the digging up of roads to fix broken mains only to have the leaks recur less than a year later. But as I have pointed out, this is a management problem which, ultimately, becomes a Ministry of Public Utilities and Government responsibility.
In the meantime, not only have I been a victim of shoddy repair work by the Water and Sewerage Authority, but scores of other residents of Hutton Road, St Ann’s where I live have suffered because of this and the Authority’s demonstrated indifference to residents’ concerns.
There had been a ruptured water main between light poles 12 and 13 for the past month. I had hardly been aware of it before a passerby advised that he had reported it. The rupture spread several feet to a point in front of my home, with many gallons of water pouring into my property and undermining the Eastern portion of my driveway. A formal telephone report was made from my home to WASA on the morning of April 5, Holy Thursday. A crew came on Tuesday, April 10.
Apparently a broken main and the loss of water and the inconvenience to residents is of no concern to WASA during a holiday weekend.
The crew had dug a few inches of dirt, covered it back and left. The leaking and wastage of water continued. Since then half a dozen reports had been made from my home and the rupture had become more widespread.
When the first follow through report was made that although a WASA team had come and that water was still gushing out there was a casual, almost indifferent reply: “The job has not been completed.” Later, when several complaints were made that the situation had worsened, clerks taking the reports would remark somewhat cynically that they would “report it to the relevant authority”.
The Water and Sewerage Authority has not always been this indifferent.
When, in 2003, the water main burst in the road in front of my home, I made a report and the same day the problem was repaired. I wish to make this clear. I am not protesting merely on behalf of myself and my family, but on behalf of the welfare of scores of residents who have been adversely affected by WASA’s brutal contempt and, unavoidably, that of its Ministry, the Ministry of Public Utilities.
Schoolchildren have slipped and fallen in a road made difficult to walk on. Persons, including women with babes in arms, have been splashed with water caused by some cars driving by, without slowing down, through a water filled depression in the road. On Monday, WASA finally despatched a crew to end the inconvenience and needless waste of water.