NRPB, GEBE sign $11.6M accord to strengthen water, electricity network | THE DAILY HERALD

The Managing Board of utilities company GEBE with VROMI Minister Miklos Giterson and NRPB Director Claret Connor as the subsidiary agreement is signed. Standing are World Bank and NRPB project team members.

PHILIPSBURG–The resistance of St. Maarten’s electricity network and water supply to natural disasters is expected to be “greatly improved” thanks to the signing of a US $11.6 million (M) subsidiary agreement between utilities company GEBE and the National Recovery Programme Bureau (NRPB) on August 20.

The agreement is for the execution of a Water and Electricity Resilience Programme of the National Recovery Programme Bureau (NRPB) and GEBE.

In the coming years, NRPB and GEBE will collaborate to put the remaining overhead electrical cables underground, upgrade transformer stations and replace analogue electrical meters with digital meters, NRPB said on Sunday. Damaged water tanks will be rebuilt with increased capacity, and pump houses with pump and equipment will be built. Additional equipment will also be replaced.

“This grant money generously provided by Dutch taxpayers, has allowed us to genuinely build in the elements of resilience and long-term development into the recovery of our island,” NRPB Director Claret Connor said in a press statement.

“Following Hurricanes Irma and Maria, within record time many residents were comforted with the return of water and electricity. This new programme will finish what was started in 1995 after the passing of Hurricane Luis, and we will be able to place those remaining low-tension electrical cables underground as well as make other significant and much-needed upgrades to various substations, etc.”

The signing of the agreement marks the start of US $11.6 million worth of recovery activities, including US $3.1 million for improvements to the electricity network and US $7.9 million to increase the resilience of St. Maarten’s water system.

“I am extremely satisfied that we have progressed to this stage as NV GEBE remains highly vulnerable to challenges caused by climate change. By moving the remaining low-voltage cables underground they will no longer be vulnerable to wind and flying debris. Our water distribution system will be strengthened with the repairs and the addition of new water tanks,” Minister of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure VROMI Miklos Giterson said.

“A great deal of my time as minister has been spent ensuring that the physical infrastructure of our island is ultimately strengthened, and this project brings us one step closer to that goal.”

During the brief signing ceremony, GEBE Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Kenrick Chittick thanked the government of the Netherlands, the World Bank, the government of St. Maarten and NRPB for the opportunity to fully restore the country’s water and electricity distribution network.

“The company was able to make a number of enhancements on its own in the aftermath of the hurricane. We are happy that, in addition to the repairs to come, a portion of the already completed repairs will be retroactively financed by the Trust Fund as well. Revenues of the company have been affected by a significant drop in demand as a result of the economic shock caused to the economy by Hurricane Irma, which in turn has weakened the company’s financial viability. With this programme we will now be able to do much more than we would have been able to do on our own,” Chittick said.

The Water and Electricity Resilience Programme is part of the Emergency Recovery Project of the Trust Fund. The St. Maarten Recovery, Reconstruction and Resilience Trust Fund is financed by the government of the Netherlands, managed by the World Bank and implemented by the National Recovery Program Bureau on behalf of the government of St. Maarten.

Source: The Daily Herald