Although there is almost universal access to water services in Belize, almost 90% of Belizeans have no access to sewage services, according to a report released earlier this month by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
“As for sewerage collection and treatment, only 11 percent of Belize’s population… has access to sewerage services, which include both wastewater collection and treatment”, said a recently released technical note published by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) titled, Water and Sanitation in Belize.
The technical note, which was prepared to support the policy dialogue between the IDB and Belize, adds that in rural areas, access to sanitation primarily involves the use of pit latrines and septic tanks. Connections to the sewer line have primarily been set up in Belize City, Belmopan, and San Pedro.
MedicForce of Almond, North Carolina, USA, has been helping to provide relief to some rural communities in Belize—but that technology has been limited to the building of more pit latrines.
MedicForce notes that they had built 3 pit latrines in 2013, and the goal for 2014 is to build 11 more with US$500 in materials for each latrine.
“The poorest communities face a formidable cycle of poor health and disease, often related to lack of running water and the most basic luxury, a latrine,” the mission said.
The IDB note, likewise, emphasized the need to expand and improve wastewater treatment and collection for the maintenance of public health; the safety and preservation of the environment; and continued economic growth and stability.
“One of the key challenges facing the Government of Belize (GoB) to improving the situation in the water and sanitation sector is that the country’s population of approximately 340,000 people is distributed across a large number of communities. Over one-third of the population lives in about 190 villages and communities, each with less than 4,000 inhabitants,” the IDB report said.
It said that BWS has approximately 10,121 sewage connections and provides wastewater services to 21% of its customers.
“This value is very low, and while it is similar to other countries in the region…, it is important to address the demand for sewerage as soon as possible as it poses risks to public health, clean water resources, and tourism,” the IDB note said.
It reports that in 2014, BWS plans to start construction on a wastewater treatment plant on the Placencia peninsula, which is funded by the IDB and the Global Environment Facility.
“This project will provide wastewater service to the second largest area of tourism growth, which includes 3,000 inhabitants and 7,000 tourists. Also, starting in 2014, BWSL plans to upgrade the wastewater treatment plant in Belmopan and expand the wastewater collection network, thus improving the figures for population with access to wastewater collection and treatment,” the IDB said.
“While BWS recognizes the need to expand and improve the sewer systems, it states in its BWS Business Plan Review Report 2010–2015 that the main focus is on water; this is due to the extremely high cost of sewerage services (BWS, 2009). Given the importance of wastewater collection and treatment in areas that rely heavily on tourism, BWS and the GoB should consider developing a strategy for sewerage collection and treatment,” it added.
In detailing policy options and recommendations to the Government of Belize, the IDB note said, “…the GoB should now focus on improving sanitation in urban and rural areas and on improving performance in the provision of water in rural areas.
“As for solid waste, major improvements are taking place along the Western Corridor and on the islands of Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker. However, there is still a need to improve the sector’s performance across the country, especially in the Northern and Southern Corridors of the country,” the IDB note said.