Thursday, December 30, 2010

Decades of neglect led to this Northern Ireland water crisis

Ruth Collins comments in the Guardian (UK): Witnessing thousands queue in the cold and dark over the past two nights to collect water from depots across Northern Ireland, I've found it hard to understand how things could have gone this far. One member of the public described it as "scandalous", a second as "unacceptable", while others are speechless as to how to describe the current water crisis that has left about 80 towns and 36,000 homes without running water. Understandably, the public are angry and want somebody to blame. However, the crisis reveals more than just a lack of a foresight, but also longstanding neglect.

Northern Ireland Water is the government-owned organisation at the centre of this "unprecedented" crisis. As the thaw descended, water pipes burst, reservoirs ran dry and water supplies were cut off as engineers battled to repair pipes.

…Scotland has now donated up to 160,000 litres of bottled water. Yet, when questioned in an interview why Scotland – which has, after all, also been affected by heavy snow and arctic temperatures in recent weeks – had not experienced similar problems, Liam Mulholland, the head of customer services at NI Water, claimed that "Scotland has had investment, whereas we haven't". It may sound obvious, but Mulholland's statement points to long-term neglect by direct-rule administrations in looking after Northern Ireland's water system and the infrastructure that supports it….

A water tower in Northern Ireland, shot by Kenneth Allen, Wikimedia Commons via Geograph UK, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

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