Friday, July 12, 2024

Plans underway to improve water services on Ambergris Caye


The topic of adequate water services and a connection to a proper wastewater system in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, is a task every administration on the island has tried to tackle with help from experts in this area. The current administration, headed by Mayor Gualberto ‘Wally’ Nuñez, is working to establish a new water plant in northern Ambergris Caye and upgrade the present facilities (south water plants and wastewater system) to make them climate resilient and sustainable.
The San Pedro Town Council is partnering with Belize Water Services Limited (BWSL), the Ministry of Economic Development, and the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre. A Ministry of Economic Development representative shared that they visited the island and familiarized themselves with the current system that BWSL is running on Ambergris Caye. “We have been looking at the sites, meeting with stakeholders, the San Pedro Town Council, to find out what the issues are and what opportunities we can find to materialize the project,” the government representative shared. While the project is in its preliminary phase, the following step is to assemble a proposal for the Green Climate Fund.
According to their studies, only a small percentage of northern Ambergris Caye connects to the water and wastewater system. As such, the groundwork has started putting together a concept note for funding and establishing a new water and wastewater facility on this island. This will provide residents with better access to running water. Currently businesses in areas like Secret Beach have been using aerated septic tanks to treat wastewater and minimize the impact on the environment. However, even this system is insufficient, and a proper facility is imperative as this area of Ambergris Caye rapidly develops.
The facilities producing water and treating wastewater and solid waste located south of San Pedro Town will also be upgraded to ensure they become climate resilient and sustainable. BWSL counts with sewage ponds in southern Ambergris Caye to which several residences and businesses connect. However, more households and establishments will be connected, thus, the needed improvement. The upgrade is also aimed at both systems to be better equipped to handle the increasing demand as the population on Ambergris Caye continues to grow. Mayor Nuñez noted that it will take plenty of planning, resources, and logistics to complete the project, but his administration is committed to improving the water sector on the island.
The plan to upgrade the water supply and treatment on Ambergris Caye is not a new topic. In January 2020, months before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country, BWSL spoke about an ongoing plan to construct a new water plant and wastewater system in northern Ambergris Caye. The project was estimated at that time to cost BZ$60 million. The plant will treat raw waste and count with a reverse osmosis desalination treatment plant. If this project is successful with aid from the Green Climate Fund, the accumulation of solid waste will cease and not be dumped into the waterways around the island as it allegedly occurs daily.
The parties involved in this project said they are seeking better water services and health benefits for the island residents and the environment. Currently, toxic waste in the waterways threatens the mangrove environment and the Meso-American Reef System, which supports Ambergris Caye’s tourism and fishing industry.

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