Basdeo Panday__use

‘Not touching root cause’: Basdeo Panday

They are merely touching the tip of the iceberg.

This was former prime minister Basdeo Panday’s reaction yesterday to news of the shake-up coming in the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA).

At a news conference yesterday, Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales announced that based on the recommendations of a Cabinet sub-committee which looked into WASA’s operations last year, Dr Lennox Sealy will replace acting WASA chief executive officer Alan Poon King with ­immediate effect.

Gonzales also spoke of plans to transform WASA.

But Panday, in a telephone interview with the Express, said while the minister may be “well intentioned”, WASA’s woes were deep-rooted so “there will be no change”.

“They have found out about people there who mismanaged before, and what has happened to those persons? Nothing. ­Because they are party members or friends. What they are doing won’t help because they are not touching the problem at the funda­mental and root cause,” he said.

WASA’s US$7 ­million desal bill

According to Gon­zales, WASA’s monthly desalination bill is ­almost US$7 million.

“Trinidad and Tobago is not water-scarce,” said the ­minister.

“Why are we buying desali­nated water when all the evidence suggests that if you drill for your wells in some of the water-rich areas around T&T we can have much more water than is necessary,” he stated.

“If you get management right and you get the water resource agency within WASA to do what they are supposed to do and you drill for those wells, you rehabilitate those wells, you can bring about almost 30 to 40 millions of gallons of water in the grid, thereby removing the country’s dependence on desalination water and saving this country hundreds of millions of dollars within the shortest time possible,” Gonzales added.

However, Panday defended construction of the desalination plant under his administration.

“When we were in office, the report we had was that a lot of the water was being sent to Point Lisas (Industrial Estate) and that’s why the people didn’t have water. So we set up the desal plant in order to supply water basically to Point Lisas.

“When we set up that plant, what we were paying Desal for the water was cheaper than what WASA was producing it for... they must check on that, so it was a cheaper way of ­providing water for the people.

“WASA has spent billions and billions dollars and can’t provide water for 1.3 million people.

“The fact that they were paying the desal plant, however much they were paying, how much are they paying WASA for supply of the same water? That I think is the issue, but they won’t face those issues,” Panday said.

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