General Information

At just under 165,000 km2, Suriname is the smallest sovereign state in South America. Most of its population lives on the country's north coast, where the capital, Paramaribo, is located. Situated on the Guiana Shield, it mostly lies between latitudes 1° and 6°N, and longitudes 54° and 58°W. Suriname is situated between French Guiana to the east and Guyana to the west. The southern border is shared with Brazil; the northern border is the Atlantic coast.

The country can be divided into two main geographic regions. The northern, lowland coastal area has been cultivated, and most of the population lives here. The southern part consists of tropical rainforest and sparsely inhabited savannah along the border with Brazil, covering about 80% of Suriname's land surface.

 The economy is dominated by the mining industry, with exports of alumina, gold, and oil accounting for about 85% of exports and 25% of government revenues. Agriculture, livestock and fishing are also important.

The capital is Paramaribo and the total population is 544,000 (2014, World Bank).

For more information see:


Current Issues and Challenges in Wastewater Management

Drain, Paramaribo, Suriname
Untreated effluent, Paramaribo, Suriname

 (Source: “Regional Sectoral Overview of Wastewater Management in the Wider Caribbean Region. Situational Analysis” prepared by UNEP-CEP/RCU in 2010.)

  • The kinds of wastewater which are produced in Suriname’s largest city, Paramaribo, are: rain water run-off that is contaminated through contact with the surface; domestic waste water; industrial waste water, and; wastewater from hospitals and mortuaries.   The Ministry of Public Works is responsible for the collection and discharge of household waste as well as the discharge of rain/storm water in the city of Paramaribo. Since both types of water run through the same (combined) system of open canals and pipes, operation and maintenance influence its effectiveness with regard to the protection of public health. Discharge of rain water and sewage of the city occurs mainly on the Suriname River (CEPIS et al, 1998).
  • Wastewater from the city of Paramaribo drains indirectly to the river through the Saramacca canal. There, main sewers are laid in a South-North direction and convey the water on the Saramacca canal. Drainage via the Saramacca canal is problematic since this water is not only used for drainage but also serves as a water transport route. Part of northern Paramaribo is drained directly into the Atlantic Ocean through pumping stations (CEPIS et al, 1998).
  • Greater Paramaribo has a population of approximately 294,000. The area of Greater Paramaribo is served by 25 sluices and/ or pumping stations. Part of the domestic sewage (faeces and urine) is treated in septic tanks. The effluent of the septic tanks is collected in the street sewers. According to Bureau of Public Health and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), 86 percent of the houses have a septic tank. The remaining 14 percent have pit latrines. The remaining portion of the domestic sewage, sullage, resulting from personal washing, laundry and from the kitchen enters the street sewer untreated (CEPIS et al, 1998).
  • The occurrence of flooding and inundation in Paramaribo and other places in the coastal plain is common, and creates potential health problems especially in urban areas.
  • The building code for Paramaribo recommends a standard septic tank/ filter bed design for all buildings. In general, it has been shown that where design specifications are followed, the level of treatment is satisfactory in the removal of solid matter and floating material and stabilization of organic waste including pathogenic organisms. However, some defects can be noted in the design and operation of this treatment system: the joints may leak, leading to possible contamination of surrounding soil. It is suspected that due to lack of surveillance sometimes no septic tank bottom and no filter bed are applied. The Bureau of Public Health has no control on the construction and functioning of the septic tanks. The filter bed drains into the public sewer or ditch. During heavy rain, the water may back up. Thus the rainwater can be contaminated with wastewater which has received little or no treatment (CEPIS et al, 1998).
  • Both septic tanks and pit latrines are emptied periodically at the home owner's expense by privately owned suction tank trucks. These trucks discharge their content into the Suriname River. Due to the fact that the location of the discharge is close to the city public slaughter house and next to the flour mill, this practice creates health hazards. There is no data on the quantity of wastewater that is being discharged daily or on its composition.
  • Lack of safe water in some areas, particularly in the interior, deprives the population of the necessary hygiene conditions needed to maintain good health. On the coastal areas, the contamination of piped water during its distribution is putting the health of the population at risk. In some poor urban areas with lack of sanitation, the spread of water-borne diseases is common during the rainy season (CEPIS et al, 1998).
  • Consequently, issues regarding wastewater which are affecting the country are as follows:
    • An integrated approach towards water, sanitation and hygiene is lacking;
    • There are few  laws or policies governing wastewater management;
    • The public health sector is not involved in the introduction of water distribution services in villages in the interior of Suriname;
    • While environmental education is included in biology at secondary school and taught at university level, education about handling and maintenance at the distribution site is not linked to the installation of septic systems;
    • The existing environmental health surveillance system is inadequate;
    • Project design in the water and sanitation sector is taking place in a predominantly technical, more or less, blueprint mode which is not an effective tool for encouraging participation of communities; and
    • Lack of proper sanitary behaviour is a more fundamental problem than the availability of facilities in the Hinterland. There is not enough understanding of the complex interaction of cultural and other factors that influence this behaviour.
    • The problems found in Paramaribo are representative of those found in the rest of the coastal area, especially Nieuw Nickerie, Moengo and Albina.
    • The long-term national development plan indicates the importance of the environment but wastewater management is not prioritized in it.
    • Suriname lacks technical standards for wastewater discharge and effluent limitations.
    • There is no legislation that comprehensively regulates the water supply and sanitation sector as a whole. All the applicable laws in relation to the sector (responsibilities) are assigned to several ministries, making enforcement very difficult. The existing legislation regarding the health and environmental issues of the water supply and sanitation sector is vague and more than 50 years old.
    • Most of the institutions of the Water Supply and Sanitation Sector in Suriname are weak. They are affected by lack of the necessary financial means, lack of sufficient qualified personnel and clear legislative direction. Most of them offer services which are not self-sustaining.
    • The current limitation of financial resources is a major constraint for the future development of the Water Supply and Sanitation Sector. This situation is linked to the economic difficulties of the country. At present, there is limited financing and limited government financial resource allocation to the sector due to the fact that wastewater is not yet recognized as one of the main sources of water pollution.

 To address the aforementioned challenges and issues, the sector needs strong and effective coordination and cooperation between the main government institutions of the water supply and sanitation services (the Ministry of Labour Technological Development and Environment, SWM, Ministry of Natural Resources, Ministry of Public Works, Ministry of Regional Development and Ministry of Health.)

LBS Status

The Government of the Republic of Suriname has not yet submitted documents of accession to the LBS Protocol. 

Key Documents

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More Resources

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What is the CReW?

The CReW is a four-year project that began in 2011. It is funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and implemented by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Our Location

Project Coordinating Group

Caribbean Regional Fund for Wastewater Management
c/o Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)
40 - 46 Knutsford Boulevard
Kingston 5
Jamaica, W.I.

Phone: +(876) 764-0815


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