Govt secures chinese funding for west coast sewerage project
With Cabinet still mulling over his proposals for revitalization of the ailing sugar industry, Minister of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management Dr David Estwick today turned his attention to the long awaited West Coast Sewerage Project.
And following a meeting with a six-member Chinese team of engineers, an upbeat Estwick revealed to Barbados TODAY that the project, which was been under consideration for more than 20 years now, was finally set to get going around the middle of next year.
Phase one of the project is expected to cost Bds$440 million with funding coming from the Industrial Commercial Bank of China. However, the Minister acknowledged that the overall cost could exceed $600 million, with Phase two estimated at $120 million.
The term sheet for the loan from the Chinese bank is now before the Ministry of Finance for interpretation.
“[It] is a commercial loan and I think that interest rate is around 3.90 per cent, but there will still be some negotiating element on this,” said Estwick, who described the current arrangement with the Chinese as a “fantastic offering [considering that] Barbados’ credit rating right now is not the best.
“Our international risk profile puts us at about Libor plus 7.5/8 per cent; so when you put in administrative costs, you could be running nine and 10 per cent for a commercial project,” he said.
Today, the technical team from the China National Complete Plant Import & Export Corporation (COMPLANT) made its presentation to the Minister and a six-member contingent from the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) at Hilton Barbados.
The Chinese are now due to prepare the project designs before embarking on Phase one, which will entail construction of a tertiary treatment facility to take effluence from Greater Bridgetown to Porters, St James.
“Then we would look at re-using some of that water for recharge within the various surrounding districts,” he explained.
Under Phase two, which is essentially a broader collection system that will link the Porters facility as far north as Shermans, in St Lucy, water from the treatment facility could also utilized by the nearby Sandy Lane and Royal Westmoreland golf courses.
Estwick noted that the project would also benefit the island in terms of electricity generation.
“One of the outcomes of this technical discussion is a look at how you can use what used to be discarded at landfills, which is the sludge output from the treatment process to produce electricity, either for the plant itself or the waste-to-energy plant for example. That material could be dried and once it is dehydrated it could be used in incinerators,” he added.
While stressing the importance of the West Coast Sewerage Project, he noted that it was a manifesto promise made by the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) Government and was also set out in the Throne Speech delivered by the Governor General Sir Elliott Belgrave at the opening of Parliament last year.
He also pointed to a study done by the Coastal Zone Management Unit, which had called for urgent intervention due to serious damage done to the coral on the west coast “not only from physical damage, but pollution, which is really sewage-related run-off, as well as climate change”.
The Minister also highlighted the fact that Mullins Beach in St Peter was recently rebuilt and that “many hoteliers and residents in that area were very concerned about the level of erosion.
“So we have to intervene because the major tourism plant exists on the west coast – five star hotels, major villas and so on.
“I therefore am going to endeavour with the help of the management of the Barbados Water Authority and the Board [of the BWA] to ensure that I carry out the mandate that has been given to me by the Cabinet,” he said.
While expressing confidence that the West Coast Sewerage Project was finally on course, Estwick warned that urgent action needed to be taken with the South Coast Sewage Treatment Plant.
“I think it was an error to have built the plant at a primary stage. A primary stage plant is nothing more than a filter. So all you are doing is taking up rocks and sludge. So you fooling yourself that you treating the water,” he warned.