Cuba’s Man-made Water Crisis Persists

Paula Henriquez

The type of leaks that are common in a city with a water shortage.

HAVANA TIMES — A friend of mine lives in Central Havana where the conditions are more unsanitary than they are in any other neighborhood on the outskirts. The neighborhood is packed with immigrants who have come from different provinces; dirty streets are just as crammed; buildings are in a terrible state and people still live in them anyway; and most of the homes in the neighborhood suffer a serious irregularity in the drinking water supply…

And it’s this last problem that precisely bothers people, and my friend, the most. He tells me that he has spent the last two months waiting for this precious liquid and he’s still waiting. This figure might sound a bit over the top, but it’s true nonetheless.

The reason: damage to the water system in the higher part of Havana (read here from Capitolio up to the Cuatro Caminos district, which begins in the 10 de Octubre municipality) for many different reasons: breaks in tubes, drought, etc.

My friend says that he’s been told several times that these damages will be repaired soon, but months have gone by since the first time he was told this, maybe longer; and my friend and his neighbors continue on without being able to see light at the end of the tunnel.

f0041903When I asked him if they didn’t get water tankers (trucks that transport water) coming by, he told me that they do but that the prices used to go up every time they came. Prices? Increase? I said annoyed.

And of course then I remember that in Cuba, if you want to fix something fast or just fix something, you have to pay for it. It’s contradictory because this type of service is supposedly free, but just like everything else…  After the people who pay for their water, the trucks have to fill the tanks of numerous families where a vast number of neighbors form a long “queue” just so they can do this.

However, the story of Central Havana’s water supply doesn’t end there. When you walk along the city’s streets you can see countless leaks of drinking water. My friend tells me that this has become a common occurrence and I tell him that this phenomenon doesn’t just happen in Central Havana but in other municipalities across the capital.  Holes in a lot of the city’s water pipes mean that a large percentage of this scarce liquid is lost, a quantity of water that will never make it to homes in Havana whilst nobody does something to fix them.

And then it seems somewhat hilarious to see so-called “spots” on TV demanding that the Cuban people save water… While nobody talks about the leaks caused by public workers when they supposedly come out and fix tubes, streets, etc. and they remain in a poor state indefinitely a lot of the time,.

As a result, many habaneros and people from other parts of Cuba who live in this neighborhood find themselves hanging in the air between the drought and the government’s poor administration of this valuable resource. We’re talking about a neighborhood which because of its history, location and importance should be one of the most beautiful in Havana, one of the cleanest and most organized. But that’s not the case. Most of the time, only the facade matters here in Cuba, and in Havana our facade is the Capitolio… “Don’t even think about going around the corner…”

Paula Henriquez

Paula Henriquez: Since childhood I have been told I should be careful what I say in public. "Think before you speak, especially in front of others," my mother would say, and it was more of a plea than a scolding. Even today I hear her and I obey her, just that I do not speak, I write. Letters and words are my escape, my exit and daily catharsis, which printed on paper, revive me. And this picture is my refuge.

15 thoughts on “Cuba’s Man-made Water Crisis Persists

  • There comes a tipping point Carlyle and as I’ve stated time and time again the influx of US citizens to Cuba could precipitate that. Let’s hope so for the good of those suffering in Cuba.

  • Nidal, I mean really! Think Nidal. Cubans pay tax….an effective 95% tax. And Cuban’s can’t solve their problems because they don’t get the opportunity to do so. Only the Castro’s get to make any type of decisions that are of any consequence.

    Oh, look Nidal…another boat load of Cubans landed on Miami Beach. Apparently the free Cuban health care, housing, and education weren’t cutting it.

  • The grass is always greener on the other side ,
    I could be wrong about this point butt I believe from the way you complain about anything and everything that none of you had to get a blue collar job ,
    I happen to be the 43 year Master Automotive technician when ,
    Immediately after my accident I became as valued as trash in other words we live in America in an Expendable Society , we the blue color and some of the white color have last rites then slaves in the old days , The idea off a leaky water pipe causing so much problems is quite frankly episode ,
    I would love it if I got a chance to live in , if I ever had a chance to do so I will jump on the boat immediately .

  • Cuba’s requirement is for a regime clean-up! The regime has control but does not meet responsibilities.

  • I assume that the virtues you extol are those of the UK, for they most certainly do not apply to Cuba.
    I do not know of a single example in Cuba of anyone owning a water-supply system. I had thought that in the UK there were privatized water companies?

  • With beliefs like yours Nidal, you ought to move to Cuba where the regime will welcome you, being short of supporters.

    I am glad to be assured that there is “more to life my friend than conveniences.” because their is certainly a major shortage of public conveniences in Cuba.

    When you speak of problems in Cuba “not going to get solved overnight” you can multiply that by 57 x 365.

  • Water privatization in Cuba began in January 2000 when the socialist government of Cuba created a mixed public-private company to manage the water, sewer and stormwater drainage system in 8 of the 15 municipalities that make up the country’s capital Havana. The government avoids the term privatization, despite the involvement of two foreign private companies as key partners in the mixed company. The company operates under a 25-year renewable concession contract. It serves 1.25 million inhabitants in the municipalities of Old Havana, Central Havana, Cerro, Plaza de la Revolución, 10 Octubre, La Lisa, Playa, and Marianao, which together are home to 60 percent of Havana’s population. The company, called Aguas de la Habana, has a capital of 8 million USD and is owned by the Cuban state through the National Institute for Water Resources (INRH), the Spanish private company Aguas de Barcelona (Agbar) and the Spanish family firm Grupo Martinon. The contract foresees that ultimately the entire population of Havana will be served by the company.[1]

    …However, as of 2010 progress was apparently slow, as water distribution losses are still estimated at 50% in 2010 and more than 100,000 inhabitants suffer from intermittent supply.[6]

  • Your conclusions are a bit superficial. Many countries have the state in control of such things as roads, water system, hospitals etc. The UK for example. On the whole this works well – hospitals are maintained to a good standard, new ones are built, water systems are maintained and fixed in a timely manner. I’ve never known the water to be off for more than a day. When I was in Cuba last time the water in the barrio where I was staying had broken, however the rental where I was staying was fine. When I asked the reason why I was told “Snr Castro (the owner) is a very rich man. He has bought his water pipe”. What you are getting here is creeping privatization by the back door. Something I would have thought you and the rest of the Conservatives on this site would be jumping up and down with glee about.

  • The problem here that you all making it as if Cuba is Hell on Earth which is further from the truth ,
    there is in United States of America place which is much worse than you all could imagine especially in the south ,
    read about cancer alley read about the Michigan water contamination,
    Why doesn’t any of your comment about the higher level of Education that Cubans achievecan over American,
    what about the free guaranteed health care for everyone ,
    there is more to life my friend then conveniences ,
    If I cannot pay my taxes to the county for one year they will throw me in the streets my house would be sold from under me to pay off their damn taxes , can you tell me how many Cubans get thrown in the streets for not paying their taxes,
    come on get realistic , yes there is problems in Cuba like everywhere else except it’s not going to get solved overnight only those with good intentions getting together and caring for one another can solve the problems ,

  • For those of us whose homes are in Cuba, the leaking water pipes are not funny, but knowing that nothing will be done to repair or improve them leads to giving a sad smile, a shrug of the shoulders and the well known resigned comment: “Es Cuba.”
    Your second paragraph is rather confused. LaunchIng such an attack upon Paula Henriquez for recording reality is indicative that you yourself are not suffering similar governmental incompetence. Maybe your own wooden water pipes don’t leak?

  • I have come across information , this is something I was not aware of before which is that April 15 1961 CIA bombing of the airport at San Diego to Cuba ,
    This infrastructure that you all making fun of is an infrastructure that had to survive under some of the most brutal inhumane embargoes in human history keep in mind that there are certain parts of the US that use water pipes made out of wood ,
    Prior to the Great people’s revolution in Cuba Havana was called the whorehouse for the Americans ,
    In other words a city which has been damned if they do or they don’t I think if you shut the hell up and leave them alone things would be fine ,

  • I want to read how the Castro sycophants who comment on this blog try to blame leaky pipes on the embargo. Go ahead, give it a shot

  • The leaks are not confined to municipalities in Havana. The years of neglecting infrastructure have resulted in water wastage through leaks, potholes in the streets, collapsing buildings and hospitals with broke windows, missing door handles and crumbling walls.
    This is a consequence of the state controlling everything – which in turn is communist practice. To endeavor to lay the responsibility for the evident incompetence at the door of others is so much hogwash. It is a stupid system.

  • Time for a change in Government

  • This story reminds me of a child with a messy room or a student flat in which no one wants to do the washing up. Communal living comes with its own set of responsibilities.

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