Government yesterday signed an agreement with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) for the largest loan ever granted to any country in the English-speaking Caribbean.
Minister of Planning and the Economy Dr Bhoendradatt Tewarie and president of the IDB Luis Alberto Moreno signed off on a US$246.5 million facility, the first tranche of a US$546.5 million loan, which is to be used towards a three-phase wastewater rehabilitation programme in the country.
The signing took place at the Hilton Trinidad, and Moreno described it as a history-making moment.
"This is the largest loan that the bank has done in any country of the English-speaking Caribbean. It is close to $250 million. The first phase that we are bringing today is very significant as it will increase access to wastewater collection and treatment services to a large segment of the population and therefore it will help decrease the uncontrolled discharge of the untreated wastewater into the environment.
"And in the case of Trinidad and Tobago it is estimated that only 30 per cent of the population is connected to wastewater collection systems and that many more are still abandoned or malfunctioning," Moreno said.
It is estimated that in the Caribbean region as much as 80 per cent of all wastewater is discharged into the Caribbean Sea, he said.
Tewarie, who broke down the details of how the money will be spent to implement the programme over five years, said it will begin with the construction of two new and improved wastewater treatment plants, "one in San Fernando and the other in Malabar. Then there will be institutional strengthening of (the Water and Sewerage Authority) and that will focus on policy reforms and institutional reforms".
"In addition there will be after the successful completion of phase one, the commencement of the other two phases. Phase two will involve another US$100 million and will focus on the continuation of the institutional strengthening of WASA and the integration of the sewerage work for the connection to the newly constructed wastewater treatment plants at San Fernando and Malabar.
"And phase three, which will involve another US$200 million in loan financing, will finance the expansion of the wastewater collection system to move the entire population and various catchment areas through a centralised catchment base system," he said.