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Feb 14, 2018

Old Northern Highway Villages Get Fresh Water

Just shy of two years ago, residents of Maskall in the Belize District welcomed the start of an upgrade to their water system that was more than thirty years in the making. Within a year, the old system lost electric power because residents were not paying their bills on time, but there were also complaints about its reliability. Today, not just Maskall, but all of the Old Northern Highway villages except for Bomba and Boston are connected to the upgraded system, a total of over three hundred homes, for just under a million dollars.  News Five’s Aaron Humes was there and has this report.

 

Aaron Humes, Reporting

Just under two years after groundbreaking, residents of Maskall, St Ann’s, Santana, Corozalito and surrounding areas now have access to a state of the art water system that will more than meet their daily needs. It was an occasion for celebration, especially in Maskall, where residents have tired of being the butt of jokes for lacking this basic necessity.

 

Student of Maskall Village

“You have no idea of the relief that this new water system has brought to our community. It was not easy to have had to endure several years with little or no water at all in this community. Many times we were forced to fetch water from the wells that were not even monitored by the Health Department. At some point in time, the school was even forced to fetch water from the river to ensure that its doors would remain open for the children in our community. One of my friends that goes to high school in Belize City told me once, that his classmate would tell him, “Boy, I done know you neva bathe today because I hear on the news that Maskall out a wata.”

 

…but not anymore. Two tanks, one over ground and one underground, will contain an estimated capacity of twenty thousand gallons each. The Maskall system is directly connected with the existing system based in Santana. The responsibility to keep it that way will be handed to a new regional water board with representatives of villages from Maskall down to Lucky Strike and Rockstone Pond which are on a separate system. Area representative Edmond Castro says bills will be a little higher, but the quality is worth it.

 

Edmond Castro

Edmond Castro, Area Rep., Belize Rural North

“I believe that it’s about fifteen dollars for flat rate; what is flat rate, how many gallons, I’m not sure, but most people up here used to pay ten dollars, now its fifteen dollars; you have your meter and over x amount of gallons you pay a fraction of a cent per gallon or something like that. But I think a system like this helps the community; if the community needs to expand the water system, they will have enough money that they can expand the water system on their own, rather than relying on the government as a responsibility to come and do it for them. They will be able to manage their own system, expand to other areas in the vicinity, and I think that it will work best for all the residents here.”

 

Native son Castro recalled in his address to residents that he well remembers the bad old days when trips to the nearby rivers and ponds were in order. He said that makes it important to keep this precious resource safe, a view echoed by neighbouring St. Ann’s Village chairman and water board member, Ian Enriquez.

 

Ian Enriquez

Ian Enriquez, Village Chair, St. Ann’s

“Water is a necessity and it’s something everybody benefits from, so I can’t see how anybody can complain about that. In every aspect, water plays a role because more people come and live in the rural areas now, and good supply of water is an necessity. So that aspect, from a bigger view of things, I can see how water [is] that important in Maskall now, especially [being] the biggest village in this area.  We have a fairly new system all over, so it’s just for us to take care of it, cherish it and make sure that it lasts as long as it could last before we need another system.”

 

Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.

 

Funding was provided by a Caribbean Development Bank loan and counterpart funding from the government. The water project was implemented by the Social Investment Fund.

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