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

  • August 19, 2016 at 7:21 pm

    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.

  • July 27, 2016 at 3:55 pm

    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.

  • July 27, 2016 at 8:45 am

    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 .

  • July 26, 2016 at 11:50 am

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

  • July 26, 2016 at 11:48 am

    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?

  • July 26, 2016 at 11:43 am

    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.

  • July 26, 2016 at 8:41 am

    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]

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