Water Supply in Times of Crisis in Mayari, Holguin

By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez

The Mayari, Holguin dam.  Photo: Elder Leyva / Ahora.cu

HAVANA TIMES – Cuba’s public water supply is one of our society’s most chronic problems, that has endured and spread in recent decades. It is in a critical situation nationwide, but I will only talk about what is happening in Mayari, Holguin, which is my town.

This valley is abundant in water. That’s why a huge dam was built between the two mountain ranges, Nipe and Cristal, to carry this valuable fluid to Camaguey, via the well-advertised East-West Bypass. You would think that such infrastructure would first benefit those of us who live nearest to it, even more so if you bear in mind the role gravity plays in supplying water to the valley.

However, over a decade after the dam was opened, benefits are minimal. Only a small fraction of arable land is irrigated and the local population hasn’t seen any improvements to their water supply. Which, by the way, continues to come from the same traditional wells it always has and has always been insufficient for many reasons: a lack of electrical pumps, of electricity for pumping, quality motors and tanks.

Now, in times of more severe crisis, the situation has got a lot worse as a result of greater restrictions on electricity consumption in the Aqueduct and Drainage company (which is called Holagua here in Holguin, but should rather be called Adiosalagua). The town’s water supply is insufficient and for the first time, people are wandering the streets with bottles in hand. Not to mention things are a lot worse in rural neighborhoods.

For example, in Guayabo, a rural town which has an aqueduct that was donated by a German NGO over 15 years ago, there are still homes without water even with this infrastructure in place. Just imagine, if local water supplies weren’t enough when the electricity supply was stable, when water was being pumped three times a week for five-hour periods, now it is only being pumped twice a week… a lot less.

It was residents eternal complaint to their representatives, which has been cast aside all these years. “It’s worse than ever now,” Yurina says, “we don’t even get a single drop anymore. And we are using stream water for everything, except for drinking water, which we have to go looking for a long way away from here. We are scared because they have found three giant African snails in the river and people say they are really dangerous,” she says worried.

Kenia, like many others, has also been experiencing the same thing for months now: “We have a new-born at home and knowing that the water in the stream is potentially dangerous, we still have to use it. There are pigsties further up, we don’t know if the water is contaminated or not. People bathe their horses, feed their animals and then, there’s the problem of these snails. All of this just to save some kilowatts!!! I think it would be a lot worse if someone were to get sick, it would cost the State a lot more and the suffering would be worse.”

The energy saving program is part of the government’s strategy to tackle the current crisis, labeled by the population as “a new Special Period”. However, more than this, it is a restrictive program to limit energy consumption and carriers. An imposed savings program which isn’t based on logic or better efficiency indicators, but on limiting production and stopping basic services.

The fuel deficit is the result of a lack of chronic liquid funds in the Cuban economy, which depends on revenue linked to politicking and ideology, not on our real national strengths; and also on the crackdown of the economic embargo by the US’ current administration, led by Donald Trump, which was driven by the Cuban government’s ties to Nicolas Maduro’s dictatorship in Venezuela.

Our country had very beneficial supplies that it has lost and now it finds itself forced to buy crude oil at market prices, without credit and navigating Washington’s threat to oil tanker ships and companies.

However, when it comes to water, which is essential, people are forced to find alternatives, which seem to be a lot more expensive than the kilowatts the government is saving. In the case of rural neighborhoods, there is no other alternative but to go to streams and rivers where the risk of contracting disease is higher. And in cities, they end up using more water tankers, which is a lot more expensive, there’s no doubt about it.

It would be worth Diaz-Canel’s advisers time to sit down and reflect upon these economic details and about the hardship they are causing the Cuban people by limiting the water supply. Another disaster to add to the already distressing struggle to survive in an anomalous country, where almost nothing, or nothing, works as it should.

Osmel Ramirez

I'm from Mayari, a little village in Holguín. I was born on the same day that the Vietnam War ended on April 30, 1975. A good omen, since I identify myself as a pacifist. I am a biologist but I am passionate about politics, history and political philosophy. Writing about these topics, I got to journalism, precisely here on Havana Times. I consider myself a democratic socialist and my main motivation is to try to be useful to the positive change that Cuba needs.

3 thoughts on “Water Supply in Times of Crisis in Mayari, Holguin

  • The matters I recorded above Denis Gendreau are factual. You may have noted that Latin American countries having experimented with socialism (some verging on communism as practiced in Cuba) and are increasingly abandoning it.
    The Castro brothers Cuba has gone its own way now for sixty long weary years – and I have lived there for more years than you have. Incompetence, inability to operate reasonable public services and inability to operate supply management systems or productive industry are self-evident. In a country that is a natural outdoor greenhouse, they cannot even produce sufficient tomatoes! A country that constantly decries the US and holds it responsible for its own inadequacies and failures even purchases most of its frozen chicken from the supposed US “enemy”.
    It is all to evident that the embargo (the blockade ended following the USSR removing its nuclear weapons – those which Fidel Castro personally sought to have used in a first strike against the US) has failed. For the communist regime is still firmly in place practicing repression and denying any of the normal freedoms enjoyed in the capitalist countries and is still able to import from its allies – China, Russia, North Korea, Vietnam et al.
    Socialism is in practice a failure. Both China and Vietnam have abandoned it in favour of capitalism. Only the diehards like North Korea and Cuba stick to the Stalinist version – and the consequences are there to be seen by all other than the will-full blind.
    No doubt in response you will trot out the same old stuff about medical services and education – and what else?
    Castros’ Cuba has never “gone its own way” but has required one sugar daddy after another – being unable to self sustain. Now with Venezuela in meltdown and failure, they are dependent upon credit from China – which practices financial colonialism, Yutong coaches, Geely cars etc. and rice from Vietnam.
    Rather than imagining what might be Denis, face the actual reality of what is! That is what Cubans are compelled to do under totalitarian rule.
    As Plato observed: “They deem him their worst enemy who only tells the truth.”

  • You are wrong wrong and wrong again. I have knowned Cuba for more than 30 years and been leaving there for 6 years now, I have seen the change and efforts being done over there, they got over two major hurricanes Last year in less than 6 months while Porto Rico a US sponsored country is still strugling to get over it. You wont find any where else in Latin America a country that is more prepare and ready to face chalenges and this with all the obstructions, blocade and sanctions applied with no valid reasons. Let Cuba go its own way and you will see the résults and this to the despleasure of the US Who dont want to see a socialist country succeed.

  • After sixty years of communist rule, Cuba’s infrastructure continues to crumble. Through July, August, and September in western Cuba there are daily thunderstorms with the streets flowing with water in streams. Although during the rest of the year, there is ample rainfall, but there is a lack of collection systems. Even when it is dry, many of the streets have water running down them from leaks – I know of one that has been running for ten years. When inevitably the water supply ceases, tankers deliver minimal quantities of water – which although claimed to be potable, is risky to drink unless boiled first – if there is electricity!
    Under the communist system, the favoured gather to talk, plan, talk, plan, talk, plan and present excuses for the failure of the plans to reach fruition. Their time would be better spent, repairing the obsolete services systems and constructing collection systems.
    There is little hope of improvement, for after all, how much progress has Cuba made in the last fifty years after the initial spurt of enthusiasm. Osmel Ramirez sums it all up very neatly a: “country where almost nothing, or nothing, works as it should.

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