The village of Hopkins is among the fastest growing tourism destinations in southern Belize. Hundreds converged in the village to enjoy the pristine beaches and cultural experience over the Easter holidays. But since Sunday, Hopkins has been without potable water. It has created a crisis and things are at a standstill. Schools, hotels and resorts have had to close down while the water pump is replaced. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.
It’s been two days since classes at Holy Family were officially set to resume following Easter vacation. Across the village children are spending the unforeseen leisure doing chores around the house while others enjoy a day at the park. Teachers sit together outside the classrooms chitchatting and catching up with their paperwork. The heat today is agonizing. The sun at high noon scorches the earth and the slightest movement stirs a dust cloud which forms a thin film of dirt on any available surface.
“The coastal community of Hopkins, a predominantly Garifuna populace of about two thousand, five hundred people, is a growing tourism destination; tonight however, its residents are facing a serious crisis.”
The village has been without running water for a little over forty-eight hours.
Ann Martinez, Principal, Holy Family School
“We had to suspend classes for these two days because we were having a water crisis in the village. It all began on Sunday evening when something went wrong with the pump and then we didn’t have any water in the village. So therefore we were not left with any other alternative but to cancel classes because we won’t be able to use the bathrooms in the school.”
The problem is extensive. Here at Joycelyn Osario’s home the laundry basket is full but there’s no clean water with which to do the washing. Likewise the commode is temporarily out of commission, filled to capacity with no water to flush. The drought is ill-timed.
Joycelyn Osario, Resident, Hopkins Village
“I’m on my day off and usually when I’m on my day off I would do my cleaning. I do my washing and do everything in my house but right now I can’t do nothing because [there’s] no water.”
The reason for the shortage, according to Macario Augustine, is a break in the existing water pump.
Macario Augustine, Chairman, Hopkins Water Board
“Our pump happened to burn which is natural for any electrical device to go and the system that we have here in Hopkins is not that of any system you can readily buy a pump at any store within the country. So we are fortunate enough to liaise with BWS and yesterday they were able to give us a pump and we installed it this morning and we are back to normal.”
While Augustine later demonstrated what appears to be clean, running water flowing from the towering reservoir, up to news time this evening many homes were still thirsty. On Monday, the management of Hopkins Bay, a local resort north of the village, took the initiative to pump and store water in two large tanks for distribution to the residents.
Ralph Bardalez, Project Manager, Hopkins Harbor
“I couldn’t resist but give some assistance. I was only supposed to give one load but we ended up giving two loads of water which was done until about ten o’clock last night.”
“And since there is no word at this point in time when this issue will be resolved, are you prepared to lend further assistance to try to relieve the situation somewhat?”
“We are here to try to assist the community in whichever way we can and we just need to be compensated with fuel and labor so some people can have some water in their households.”
In one home shortly before midday, a housewife is cooking with limited potable water. There is less than enough left for her family to drink from a five-gallon cooler. The nearby Chinese grocery store is also fresh out of its supply.
Back at Holy Family principal Ann Martinez tells me that a health inspector recently sanctioned the school from using water from the village reservoir.
“A month ago we were cautioned by the health inspector in the district that we must make sure that the children do not consume the water because they said that the water is contaminated.”
Augustine, on the other hand, says that the problem is due in part to the growing population of Hopkins but casually downplayed the gravity of the situation.
“Our system was not built for this population. It was built almost like twenty something years ago and it was built for a population of a thousand, five [hundred people] and today we are still using the same system so of course at times there are problems. But I must admittedly say that the problems are minimal. It’s not that there’s a scarcity of water on a daily basis, sometimes in the peak of the dry season yes we do have a problem with water especially in the dry season but other than that we always have water running. As a matter of fact if you can see the tank is always overflowing.”
Despite what Augustine says is a spilling over of water at the tank the problem has left the residents of Hopkins parched and frustrated. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.
It will take a few more days for the water reservoir to restore its capacity and until then a meeting will be held with the Social Investment Fund to discuss the construction of a larger facility.