Camagüey Has No Water Despite a 40 Million Dollar Loan from Saudi Arabia / 14ymedio, Ignacio de La Paz

Water supply truck, last April, in Havana. (14ymedio)
Water supply truck, last April, in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ignacio de la Paz, Camagüey, 23 August 2016 — The water supply crisis suffered by Camaguey, the third largest city in Cuba, worsened this August despite the spring and summer rains. Although the supply in some areas of the city presents no difficulties, in the historical district the situation is truly critical and citizens must resolve it as they can.

“I get water every day, clean and with good pressure,” said Luis, a resident of the Avenue of the Martyrs, in the neighborhood of La Vigia, in the north of the city. “I boil the water, treat it with sodium hypochlorite and we drink it.” Quite another thing happens to Roberto, who lives on Calle San Pablo, in the city center.

“I haven’t had water for three days. The water here comes very irregularly. Sometimes there’s no water for a week, and I’ve spent a whole month without water. I don’t have the strength to carry water. I was operated on for a hernia, but I still have to carry buckets of water from the tanks at workplaces. I live on a corner, I can’t dig a well, or install a tank, because the sewer pipe runs under the house. Nor can I install a “water thief” (a makeshift pump that “steals” water) because there is almost never water in the tap.

“Here in the higher area almost no one has water, and it’s the same in Hermanos Agüero and Principe Streets,” complains Heriberto, a resident of Cisneros Street. “The little that comes is taken by the Marquis and La Sevillana tourist hotels, which have huge tanks.” A resident of Havana Plaza, Hilda says that the water supply in the area is irregular and the greatest problem “is that it is very dirty.” She adds, “You have to let it sit for several days before you can use it. I don’t know why the water problem hasn’t been solved, when there was a big hullabaloo in the press about Saudi Arabia providing a loan to solve Camagüey’s water problem and now we don’t hear anything more about it.”

The official newspaper Adelante, in its issue of 20 August 2016, addressed the problem of water with a series of justifications based on lack of resources and investments. However, it omits mention of the soft loan of 40 million dollars from Saudi Arabia, granted in December 2014, to improve Camagüey’s water and sewer systems.

In an interview with Radio Camagüey on 13 April 2016, Luis Palacios Hidalgo, director of the Aqueduct Rehabilitation Project, and an official of the National Institute of Hydraulic Resources Delegation, promised that starting in June of this year the province would have – thanks to the credits granted – the “technological equipment and devices necessary for the aqueduct, guaranteeing the quantity and stability of water for the people.” To do this, he detailed, 1.8 million pesos will be dedicated to a water treatment plant.

These promises have not only not been fulfilled, but the situation has gotten worse. As for the Saudi credit, there has been no information about where the 40 million dollars is, how much of it has been used and how and why the project has been so delayed. Meanwhile, Roberto, Heriberto and so many other Camagüeyans continue to carry buckets of water in the afternoon for bathing and cooking.