The drought vs. the self employed
Due to the intense and prolonged drought affecting the country, one of the worst in decades, authorities have decided not to grant more licenses to private car washes, and to begin to reduce the water supply to those that have more than one. A source at the National Institute of Hydraulic Resources (INRH) told this reporter that, because of the critical situation, plans also call for the indefinite closing of as many pools and ornamental fountains as possible.
The measure, which has not been covered by the press, came as a shock to Carlos, a self-employed worker who had planned to engage in this activity, with capital from Miami, but is now eagerly seeking a locale to set up a café. "It's always the same old story: those who first bear the brunt are the self-employed, but the enormous number of leaks that throughout the city are not fixed, and that's where the most water is lost," he says, exasperated.
Since the middle of this year the government crackdown on the construction of illegal pools and the expansion of car washes has been constant. INRH Director Inés María Chapman explained to the National Assembly in July of this year that "an inspection had been carried out in Havana, and we found good and bad practices in the industry (car washes), which we need to address to put an end to the violations." She did not provide details, however, regarding what those irregularities were.
In September the Cuban television journalist Lázaro Manuel Alonso, in comments on the use of water, attacked car washes, condemning them as the biggest wasters and stating that measures ought to be taken against them.
The official statistics, however show that the main cause of the waste and squandering of water is, in fact, the poor condition of Cuba’s pipes and conduits, which cause half the water pumped to be lost. One of the INRH specialists indicated, at the Round Table held on 8 October dedicated to the issue of the drought, that in the Cuban capital alone more than 600 leaks are reported every day, caused by the poor condition of the country's piping.
This comes in addition to the information provided to DIARIO DE CUBA by the Cuban-Spanish joint venture Aguas de La Habana, which stated that the foreign wing of this company, created in 2000, proposed solving the limited volume in the residential sector and modernizing the capital's pipes and conduits in order to charge the residential sector for that service in a differentiated manner, thereby being able to raise the wages of Aguas de La Habana workers. "But the INRH objected, arguing that the water charges should be applied in an equitable fashion, and they would take care of the repair and modernization of the pipes. But all they’ve done so far has been to destroy the streets, and the situation remains the same," he says.
The volume of water in the residential sector currently amounts to a meager 9%, and there are no indications that this situation will improve in the short term.