The Caribbean Regional Fund for Wastewater Management (CReW), a four-year project that began in 2011 and is financed by a special arrangement that involves the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Governments of some Caribbean countries, will host its first regional workshop in Belize City, Belize, 18 - 19 September 2012 to introduce the concept of revolving funds.

Revolving funds are among the more flexible, innovative and effective financial management mechanisms that can provide sustainable financing for the development of much needed wastewater treatment facilities, costly propositions for regional governments struggling to maintain those that already exist.

A 2009 UNEP report entitled "Assessment of Wastewater Management in the Caribbean" found untreated domestic wastewater had severe consequences for coastal ecosystems in the Wider Caribbean region. This has resulted in: increased fish mortality and negative effects on commercial fisheries; declines in coral reefs estimated to cost the region up to US$870 million by 2050; threats to human health, and threats to the tourism sector.

Belize is one of four participating countries in which GEF CReW is piloting financing mechanisms that can be used to provide sustainable financing for environmentally sound and cost-effective wastewater management. US$5 million of GEF CReW funds are being provided directly to the government of Belize as a capitalization grant for the Belize Wastewater Revolving Fund (BWRF) to establish a regional sewage collection, treatment and disposal system for the Placencia Peninsula. This is the first generation project of the BWRF which will provide zero or below market interest loans for eligible wastewater treatment projects.

The Ministry of Finance is the pilot executing agency for the BWRF. Eligible projects include local wastewater projects that advance the obligations of the Cartagena Convention's Land-Based Sources of Pollution (LBS) Protocol, the only legally binding regional agreement for the protection and development of the Caribbean Sea. The LBS Protocol entered into force in 2010, committing signatories to making major improvements in wastewater management.

The workshop aims to provide participants, who come from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and utility, finance and environmental sectors in CReW's thirteen participating countries (Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Panama, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago) with a broad view of the operation of revolving funds with particular reference to the experience in developing countries.

It will also assist the pilot countries in the operation and design of their own national funding mechanisms to be developed under the GEF CReW Project, and, promote a network of expertise that could facilitate the replication and/or development of similar funding mechanisms in other non-pilot Caribbean countries.

Martin Baker, an environmental lawyer, with extensive experience in the planning, financing and operating of water, wastewater and other infrastructure projects in Latin America, Asia, Eastern Europe and the Gulf States, will lead the workshop. Peter Shanaghan, team leader of the National Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) Program for the Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water, United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) will share their experience in operating revolving funds. Paul Marchetti, an economist and executive director of the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST) since 1988, will share practical experience in maintaining, replenishing and growing revolving funds.

The GEF CReW Project aims to provide sustainable financing for the wastewater sector; to support policy and legislative reforms, and; to foster regional dialogue and knowledge exchange amongst key stakeholders in the wider Caribbean region.