Pay your WASA bill or you'll be cut - Le Hunte

No pay, no wa­ter.

If con­sumers don't pay their wa­ter rate bill they'll be dis­con­nect­ed, says Pub­lic Util­i­ties Min­is­ter Robert Le Hunte.

Le Hunte gave this re­sponse to re­porters in Par­lia­ment yes­ter­day af­ter Unit­ed Na­tion­al Con­gress ac­tivist De­vant Ma­haraj called for peo­ple who do not get wa­ter to boy­cott pay­ing their wa­ter rate bills.

Ma­haraj said, "Un­der the Peo­ple's Part­ner­ship gov­ern­ment over 70 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion was re­ceiv­ing a reg­u­lar sup­ply of wa­ter. Cit­i­zens, par­tic­u­lar­ly from Op­po­si­tion-con­trolled ar­eas, now com­plain bit­ter­ly about the lack of wa­ter and the sup­ply in PNM ar­eas.

"Since Gov­ern­ment still con­tin­ues to is­sue WASA bills to cit­i­zens who aren't re­ceiv­ing wa­ter in their taps, WASA has breached the con­tract, there­fore, re­frain from pay­ing any WASA bill un­til they ac­tu­al­ly start re­ceiv­ing ser­vice which they are pay­ing for."

How­ev­er, Le Hunte said, "That (call) is ir­re­spon­si­ble. The Gov­ern­ment sub­sidis­es WASA to the tune of $ 1.8 bil­lion. WASA's rev­enue is on­ly $700 mil­lion. With an ex­pen­di­ture of $ 2.4 bil­lion, if peo­ple don't pay their bills you're ask­ing Gov­ern­ment to sub­sidise WASA to a greater ex­tent. (So) If peo­ple don't pay bills, they run the risk of be­ing dis­con­nect­ed— and we're go­ing to do that."

Le Hunte, who met with WASA yes­ter­day, ad­mit­ted that the num­ber of peo­ple who re­ceive a wa­ter sup­ply 24/7 is now be­low 20 per cent, down from the nor­mal lev­el of 32 per cent.

He said those af­fect­ed are not on­ly in Op­po­si­tion ar­eas but al­so the East-West cor­ri­dor, in­clud­ing Five Rivers and Ari­ma. He said ar­eas which were on the sched­ule are get­ting less than be­fore due to the harsh dry sea­son.

"Fur­ther re­duc­tion of sup­ply in the dry sea­son to ar­eas which were al­ready on sched­ule is nor­mal but I ad­mit in some ar­eas we had to cut back a lit­tle more than we'd have usu­al­ly cut back," he said.

But the min­is­ter added, "I don't think any­one could have be­lieved 70 per cent of T&T was re­ceiv­ing wa­ter— that's an ex­ag­ger­at­ed fig­ure. The re­al fig­ure was more like 50 per cent in the wet pe­ri­od and dur­ing the dry sea­son that falls to be­tween 30 and 20 per cent.

"Ma­haraj's fig­ures are wrong. We seem to be go­ing through the cur­rent prob­lem every nine years and we're al­most back to the prob­lem­at­ic (wa­ter) sit­u­a­tion we had in 201o. Our dams are about 20 to 25 per cent be­low where they should have been on the year­ly av­er­age. How­ev­er, this wasn't unan­tic­i­pat­ed."

Le Hunte said WASA pro­duces 240 mil­lion gal­lons of wa­ter and projects will raise this to 250 mil­lion gal­lons. He said it's a lot of wa­ter for 1.3 mil­lion peo­ple and the prob­lem isn't sup­ply but stor­age— where T&T is be­low stan­dard-aged in­fra­struc­ture and de­mand man­age­ment is­sues.

Gov­ern­ment and Op­po­si­tion last night de­bat­ed a mo­tion in the Sen­ate on the wa­ter sit­u­a­tion af­ter the Op­po­si­tion called for an ur­gent de­bate.

- by Gail Alexander

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