A wave of negativity surrounds the idea of wastewater. It has a bad reputation for the hazards it poses to human and environmental health and the negative impact it can have on our economies. However, when treated, it creates opportunities for greatly improving our quality of life. By looking beyond the surface of wastewater challenges, we can delve into the value of wastewater as a precious commodity. It improves access to a sustainable and safe supply of water- important if we are to increase food security and sustainably generate energy thereby alleviating poverty.
In order to address this stigma around treated wastewater and to improve management practices in the Wider Caribbean region, the Global Environment Facility funded the Caribbean Regional Fund for Wastewater Management (GEF CReW) Project in 2011. This project is co-implemented by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the United Nations Environment (UN Environment), in an integrated and innovative manner to reduce the negative environmental and human health impacts of untreated wastewater discharges. At the regional level, it has catalyzed a unique partnership between the IDB, UN Environment and the Secretariat for the Cartagena Convention. At the country level, project implementation is further supported by partnerships between wastewater utilities, Ministries of Environment, Finance, Health, Education, and local communities. The project works with 13 countries within the Wider Caribbean Region (WCR) and has provided sustainable financing options for the wastewater sector, supported policy and legislative reforms in the wastewater sector and fostered the regional dialogue and knowledge exchange amongst key stakeholders in the WCR.
Some of the project activities aimed at addressing key capacity constraints within legal, institutional and policy frameworks by improving skills and knowledge for policy formulation, planning and financing in water, sanitation and wastewater management at the national and local levels. Tools were developed to improve and strengthen the legislative framework for wastewater management, including improving compliance with obligations of the Cartagena Convention and its Protocol on Land-based Sources of Pollution. The project looked at wastewater as a resource and educated people on the opportunities to connect with nature through improved wastewater management practices. The project also implemented Sustainable Financing Mechanisms (SFMs) in Belize, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. This undertaking broadened the knowledge base needed to understand the success factors, benefits, and lessons learned in the implementation of these pilot projects.
The CReW has successfully raised awareness of the importance of wastewater management in the Wider Caribbean Region, increasing the level of interest within countries to investigate innovative financing mechanisms linked with strong supportive actions to increase capacity to meet national and regional legislation and agreements.