Guyana, the only English speaking South American country, has a land area of approximately 215,000 sq. km and is bordered by Venezuela on the west and northwest, Suriname on the east, Brazil on the south and southwest and the Atlantic Ocean in the north. Guyana remains primarily an agriculture and resource-based economy in terms of its production base, but its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is now more heavily weighted in an expanding services sector - combined services average 60% plus of the GDP in 2010. One of Guyana’s most valued natural assets is its forests: the national forest cover is approximately 87 percent of the country with more than 8 percent designated as Protected Areas (Guyana Forestry Commission, 2012). Moreover, Guyana is one of the countries with the highest biodiversity in the world, with 1,168 vertebrate species, 1,600 bird species, and one of the richest mammalian fauna assemblages of any comparably sized area in the world. Geologically, Guyana is part of the Guiana Shield. It is divided into 4 natural regions the: low coastal belt; hilly sand & clay region; interior savannahs; and forested highlands.
Guyana has a relative abundance of rivers as well as a substantial coast line. Kaieteur is one of the highest waterfalls in the world. Several rivers flow from south to north, forming spectacular waterfalls for potential hydro power initiatives. The country lies within the equatorial trough zone. Its weather and climate are influenced primarily by the seasonal shifts of this trough and its associated zone of rain bands called the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ).
The capital city is Georgetown and the total population is 804,000 (2014, World Bank).
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Current Issues and Challenges in Wastewater Management
(Sources: “Regional Sectoral Overview of Wastewater Management in the Wider Caribbean Region. Situational Analysis” prepared by UNEP-CEP/RCU in 2010; “Guyana. Monitoring the situation of children and women – A Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) prepared by the Bureau of Statistics, Guyana and UNICEF, 2006)
- Key issues in the water and sanitation sector in Guyana are untreated and poorly treated sewage due to a lack of wastewater treatment facilities, a low level of cost recovery and low levels of access.
- Despite increases in coverage, only about 13 percent of Guyana’s population has access to sewerage, according to the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Program (2006).
- Sewers only exist in the capital, Georgetown. Regions 7, 8 and 9 in the Hinterland show the highest share of population with no access to sanitation, each with more than 15 percent of the population without access.
- Almost all the people (98 percent) in Guyana use some form of improved sanitation facility. Amerindians, reflecting the geography, lie outside this norm with 88 percent using sanitary methods. Improved sanitation facilities include: flush toilets connected to sewage systems, septic tanks or pit latrines, ventilated improved pit latrines and pit latrines with slabs, and composting toilets (MICS, 2006).
- Pit latrines account for 52 percent of Guyana’s population use of waste disposal while 43 percent use flush toilets with connection to a sewage system or septic tank. Only 2 percent use pour flush latrine and less than one percent use ventilated improved pits. The use of flush toilets increases drastically with education and wealth respectively. In terms of the former, only 19 percent of those with no education use flush toilet while over 76 percent of those with upper secondary or post-secondary education use the same (MICS, 2006).
- Current sewage disposal practices appear to cause faecal contamination of surface water and unconfined groundwater sources. Pollution of surface and ground water also has serious impacts on fisheries resources in coastal and marine waters, which then enters the food chain for the human population. Water quality is also affected by discharge of waste from distilleries and surface runoff (pesticides). Agricultural runoff which ultimately enters the coastal zone may contribute potentially significant pollutants in the form of increased biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) and nutrient enrichment. Such pollution may have serious impacts on aquatic and marine life and any contamination of drinking water from this runoff would impact human health. Untreated industrial effluents discharged into nearby canals and rivers will affect the quality of these waters if not rapidly dissolved (NDS, 1997).
- Only limited water quality monitoring is done for drinking water sources (i.e., surface and ground waters) and limited testing is done of rivers and coastal waters as well.
- Health data show that the population suffers from environment-related diseases that are transmitted to humans from contaminated water, food, or soil. These include cholera, dysentery, gastroenteritis, typhoid, dysentery, gastroenteritis, infectious hepatitis and hookworm (NDS, 2007). 1998 health statistics show water-borne diseases are estimated to have risen more than fourfold over the last decade.
- As with other public services, an inadequacy of operating budgets has also troubled the water and sewerage sector. Yet there is abundant scope for recovering costs in this sector through the application of the appropriate charges. The prevailing picture is one of low water tariffs and low collection rates across the board for all uses of water.
- Guyana Water Incorporated has identified the following challenges faced by the company in the area of sewage disposal:
- Frequent blockage of yard and road sewer lines, resulting in overflows;
- Frequent loss of pump-motor assembly, resulting from unwanted solids that destroy mechanical parts;
- Unplanned down-time resulting from electro-mechanical faults at the sewer stations or from power outages;
- Inappropriate public behaviour – blocking inspection chambers, indiscriminate dumping of solids and non-biodegradable substances into the sewer system, illegal connection to the sewer system, vandalism – especially inspection chambers, manholes covers and sewer control stations;
- Release of industrial waste and high level of fat from restaurants into the system that results in blockages;
- Lack of education among sewerage customers as it relates to the use of the system.