10th March 2016
15-19 February 2016, Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago
The Global Environment Facility-funded Caribbean Regional Fund for Wastewater Management (GEF CReW) Project convened its final regional capacity building workshop in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, from 15 – 19 February 2016.
The GEF CReW Regional Policy and Enforcement Workshop focused on the sharing of experiences related to the development and implementation of policies, laws and regulations concerning wastewater management and was attended by twelve of the Project’s 13 participating countries: Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Guyana, Honduras, Panama, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad & Tobago.
GEF CReW is an integrated and innovative approach to reducing the negative environmental and human health impacts of untreated wastewater discharges which have negative effects on marine resources and are a threat to the region’s economic development and quality of life of its people. Through three interlinked components, it has aimed to: provide sustainable financing for the wastewater sector; support policy and legislative reforms, and; foster regional dialogue and knowledge exchange amongst key stakeholders.
Caribbean countries have long indicated the need for assistance in the form of guidelines that would assist them in developing and updating policies, laws and regulations for improving wastewater management and planning, including more effective enforcement of existing laws. Wastewater management planning involves an evaluation of current and future wastewater needs, developing wastewater management alternatives to meet those needs and selecting the most cost-effective, environmentally sound wastewater management plans through careful comparison and evaluation of alternatives. The final recommended Plan must comply with national regulatory requirements and provide for sound wastewater management over the specified planning period.
In response to this need, the Project developed a “Regional Wastewater Management Policy Toolkit and Template” and accompanying “Guidelines for Developing, Reviewing and/or Updating National Wastewater Management Plans”, both of which were reviewed and discussed on the first two days of the Workshop.
Wastewater as a Resource was the focus of the third day, as a panel of regional experts discussed treated wastewater reuse and its many benefits, particularly in the Region’s increasingly water scarce environments. As participants considered how to create an enabling environment to take advantage of the many potential opportunities to generate revenue from wastewater management, several ‘win-win’ opportunities for both local communities and Governments were identified.
The experiences and lessons learned in developing and implementing sustainable financing mechanisms in the four pilot countries – Belize, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago – were shared on Day 4. Three questions were focused upon in facilitated discussion groups: 1) What entities should manage the funds? 2) How to bundle resources to increase the volume and impact of the funds? and 3) How can we access additional resources?
In a week of very candid discussions, participating countries shared the challenges they faced and the progress they are making in improving the enabling environments for better wastewater management in their respective countries. Indeed, dialogue on critical elements of the project was rich.
There was agreement that:
- The effects of poor wastewater management are generally underestimated.
- Under the GEF CReW Project, for the first time, some countries have discussed wastewater management at a national level. The Project gave countries the opportunity to reflect upon how they deal with wastewater management as well as how they finance it. Ensuring that the issue receives needed attention in the future will require champions and consistent efforts.
- Contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) must be considered in planning water and wastewater management strategies and types of treatment.
- For revolving funds and other financing mechanisms to be sustainable, good governance and realistic tariffs are needed.
- There is a need to examine other funding approaches and financing options such as blue and green bonds.
- The term “wastewater” perpetuates the perception that we are dealing with waste; labelling it differently would help people to see it differently, as “reclaimed water” for example.
- Countries need to look more seriously and creatively at the use of wastewater as a resource and this requires looking at water and wastewater in a more integrated way.
- Improvements in wastewater management are often driven by public health concerns and resulting legislation, e.g. Suriname and SVG; this at least keeps it in the public eye and can lead to some action.
- Monitoring programmes need to be strengthened. The adoption of standards and guidelines is vital and the strengthening and certification of both public and private laboratories is necessary if enforcement is to be strengthened.
- In the face of economic downturns and subsequent cutbacks, countries need to be resourceful in terms of research, monitoring and communication; it is both useful, efficient and strategic to deal with wastewater alongside other national priorities e.g. tourism.
- Early stakeholder consultation is important in order to understand the range of concerns, to obtain valuable inputs and ideas, and, to ensure sustainability of eventual efforts.
- Experiences as countries work to develop and establish wastewater management plans have been rich and instructive and need to be documented.
Day 5 was dedicated to a review and verification exercise for the new "CReW +" Project proposal concept currently being developed for consideration by the GEF Council later in 2016. Successful application will enable the development of a full-sized follow-on project which would build upon the lessons learnt in GEF CReW over the past five years.
The Project, which began in 2011, is in its final year. As this was GEF CReW’s last regional meeting, there was also reflection of the project’s challenges and achievements.
These have included:
- An improved understanding of the need to consider a wider range of financing options, depending upon different country situations and realities.
- An increase in awareness amongst decision makers, the media and the wider public of the importance of good wastewater management.
- Increasing stakeholder consultation at national level will enable countries to improve their policy, legislative and institutional frameworks and enable better wastewater management.
- Training of more than 600 technicians, government officials, and other stakeholders in various aspects of wastewater management, e.g., wastewater treatment technologies, operator assessments, management of revolving funds, and facilitation.
- Increase in regional and national level partnerships, as countries seek to maximize efficiency and effectiveness, and to learn from each other.
For more information contact:
Donna Sue Spencer
GEF CReW Project