Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 4th 2015 Contents BG8 ENERGY
BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt JUNE 2015 • WEEK ONE
The Beetham Wastewater
Recycling Plant (BWRP)---
being constructed by a
consortium led by the
omnipresent Super Indus-
trial Services---has faced a
barrage of criticism since
the award of contract.
These criticisms have focused mainly on
the issues of possible corruption and NGC s
involvement in a project that is remotely
connected to its core business. But, even as
the project proceeds apace, I think it is
important for us as a nation to question the
viability and rationale for this project, as we
should with all other mega projects.
Multimedia advertisements financed by
NGC, have extolled the many virtues of the
"This is just what is required at this time,"
" A most important project," and "A long
It is estimated that an astonishing
$500,000 was spent on advertisements aimed
at convincing the general public that BWRP
is a worthwhile project and that the benefits
to be derived from it will justify the expen-
diture of approximately $1.1 billion. Inter-
estingly, I cannot recall one of these adver-
tisements presenting in quantitative terms
the expected benefits of this project.
From a national perspective, we need to
ask a few pertinent questions:
• Does this project represent the best allo-
cation of scare resources?
• What were the alternatives considered
and does this project yield the highest net
• Waste-water recycling is just one of four
major methods for winning more water and
eliminating any shortage.
• Other methods are harvesting of fresh
surface water (from rainfall), drilling for
ground water, and desalination of sea water.
According to the World Food and Agri-
cultural Organisation (FAO) waste water reuse
is an option that is being increasingly taken
up in regions in the world with water scarcity,
growing urban populations and growing
demands for irrigation.
It is not surprising that waste water proj-
ects are most popular in arid regions such
as the Mediterranean, Middle East and desert
regions of the USA, to name a few. There is
a close correlation between those countries
with severe water scarcity and those that are
engaged in the reuse of waste water.
Do any of these factors explain the urgency
with which NGC/WASA are attaching to this
Globally, water scarcity is measured by the
water stress index---defined as the amount
of fresh water available to each person. A
country is considered to be experiencing
water scarcity if the amount of water available
in a country is below 1,700 cubic metres per
person per year.
World Bank data indicates that 2880 cubic
metres of water are available for each person
in T&T, placing this country well within the
no risk zone on the global water stress index.
In this blessed land, climatic conditions
ensure there is no shortage of water from
Our annual rainfall is more than adequate
to take care of our all water our needs year
round. Yet data from WASA suggests that
T&T faced an annual water shortfall of about
35 mg/d in 2012. The problem is not water
availability but water capture and delivery.
Our failure to capture nature s water in
the rainy season, compounded by an insuf-
ficient and leaky infrastructure, create water
shortages particularly in the dry season and
in remote areas. The Beetham project does
not address these problems.
It was evident from the early 1990s that
rapid growth in Point Lisas would have cre-
ated competing demands and therefore strain
available supply. It is in response to this
threat that the desalination plant in Point
Lisas was constructed in 2002 with the pri-
mary purpose of serving the needs of the
estate. It continues to do so today.
Point Lisas demand is approximately 12
million gallons per day compared with a
desalination capacity of 32 million gallons
per day. The desal plant is currently under-
going an expansion which would take its
production capacity up to 40 million gallons
While this is ongoing, we are told that the
Beetham project will provide water to Point
Lisas and the supply of the desalination plant
will be distributed for domestic use.
The explanations provided by the author-
ities have been woefully short of what is
required. In this period of limited resources
and legitimate competing demands, we need
to ensure that as a nation, we derive max-
imum benefit from each dollar spent.
It is reported that the previous government
had abandoned this project because it proved
economically unfeasible. Has any comparative
cost benefit analysis been done to determine
whether this scaled-down version is the most
cost-effective approach to meeting the short-
ages in domestic supply?
Has this project been evaluated against
other available options including the onsite
expansion of the desal plant, expansion of
existing fresh water facilities, building of new
fresh water facilities?
For example, for over ten years now we
have been hearing of the proposed Mamoral
This is a project that is touted to yield
multiple benefits. As recent as 2012, NIDCO
president Dr Carsen Charles is quoted as say-
ing, "the new Mamoral Dam will not only
prevent flooding but will also allow the Water
and Sewage Authority to capture water for
Charles, at that time, also said that a con-
tract was awarded for the" feasibility and
design" of the Mamoral Dam. Nothing has
been heard of it since that time.
Similarly, the BWRP needs to be assessed
against other plans to build small-scale desali-
nation plants in the remote areas thereby
creating diversity in supply and bringing the
solution closer to the source of the problem.
Two such plants are already in operation
in Point Fortin and Moruga.
In the absence of the hard data from such
analysis, the current advertising campaign is
nothing but raw propaganda. Failure to pro-
duce the analysis also means that the Gov-
ernment is paying lip service to the principles
of good governance, prudent management
of resources and sustainability.
Gregory McGuire is an energy economist
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