Photo: Dominica after the passage of Hurricane Maria in 2017.

(THE CONVERSATION) After hurricanes Maria and Irma hit last September, it took Puerto Rico until this June to restore water to most residents. Those living in rural and hard-to-reach mountainous areas waited the longest. In Dominica, where 80 percent of the population was hit hard by Hurricane Maria, water service was not restored to the most remote areas until April 2018, several months after the storm. Now, another hurricane season is already underway in the Caribbean. Our research on rainwater harvesting – a low-cost, low-tech way to collect and store rainwater – suggests this technique could be deployed across the Caribbean to improve these communities’ access to water both after storms and in everyday life. Limited water access in the Caribbean Even before hurricanes Maria and Irma hit last September, some Caribbean islands were unable to provide reliable clean water for drinking and washing to all residents. On many islands, the government utility-run piped water system either does not reach remote rural areas and other isolated areas or costs too much for low-income households. Traditionally, residents in such places have gotten their water from underground sources, such as springs, wells or in the upriver – and thus presumably clean – section of streams. Today, water pollution from a combination of domestic sewage, agriculture, food and beverage processing and manufacturing makes most groundwater unsafe to drink. Up to 85 percent of wastewater across the Caribbean is now discharged, untreated, into local rivers, streams, lakes or straight into the ocean, according to the Caribbean Regional Fund for Wastewater Management, an intergovernmental agency. Collecting, cleaning and storing rainwater Rainwater harvesting is an alternative way to obtain and store fresh water. By collecting precipitation that naturally falls on rooftops and sidewalks in a tank, this process turns water that would normally wash away into a resource for cooking, laundry, irrigation and even water-intensive manufacturing. (Photo: An example of a biosand water filtration system.) Rainwater, especially during the hurricane season, is free and plentiful in the Caribbean. Dominica can get up to 15 inches of rain a month in the fall. Puerto Rico averages 8 to 9 inches of rainfall a month from May to November. Once rainwater is stored in the tank – which can range from 200 gallons for household use to 600,000 gallons in an industrial setting – pipes are connected from the tank into people’s homes, gardens, or wherever they need it. The tanks must come equipped with a built-in filter to clean the collected rainwater, which may pick up various kinds of molds, bacteria and protozoa when it comes into contact with a rooftop. The tank we’re developing for Caribbean islands uses a biosand filter – a container layered with gravel and sand, about the size of a small cooler – to purify rainwater. As water travels through the sand and gravel bed, pathogens and particles are filtered out. This process occurs either mechanically – solids get trapped in the gravel and sand – or by predation: Good microorganisms, which naturally live in the sand, consume bad ones. Biosand filters remove up to 96.5 percent of bacteria and up to 99 percent of viruses from rainwater. By the time the kitchen tap is turned on, the water is clean and safe for drinking. Rainwater serves the world Rainwater collection, long used to serve livestock and farmers in rural areas worldwide, is an increasingly common response to water shortages in the developing world. From 2005 to 2015, the United Nations’ “Water for Life” program actively promoted rainwater harvesting as a potential solution to global water shortages. According to one 2006 U.N. report, for example, rainfall across the African continent is “more than adequate to meet the needs of the current population several times over.” The governments of Cambodia, Haiti, China, Thailand, India and Brazil have all deployed rainwater harvesting systems for households and industries to ease rural droughts and urban water shortages in recent decades. Brazil, too, has made remarkable strides in utilizing rainwater to make citizens’ lives easier. In 2003, a public-private partnership called Articulação do Semi-Árido Brasileiro launched “1 Million Cisterns,” an initiative aimed at providing 1 million households located in drought-prone parts of the South American country with easy-to-access harvested rainwater. (Photo: Jewel Fraser/IPS) Semi-arid regions like Pernambuco, a state in the country’s northeast, can go seven to nine months without rainfall. A 4,500-gallon tank – roughly the size and weight of a Greyhound bus – collects enough water during the rainy season that a family of four can live off it for three to four months during drier weather. By 2014, the program had reached its goal of serving 1 million Brazilian households. Challenges in the Caribbean Despite these global successes, very few Caribbean countries have taken action to implement rainwater harvesting on any significant scale. In Haiti’s Artibonite Valley, biosand filters are used to purify the water obtained from shallow ground wells. And the United Nations has helped develop rainwater harvesting infrastructure in southern Jamaica to facilitate some communities’ resiliency to climate change. We believe rainwater harvesting can work for more of the Caribbean. The funding model and equipment just need to be designed to meet the islands’ special needs. Most rainwater storage tanks in big international programs are made from fiberglass, other plastic or welded steel. Those materials can be expensive for families operating on a limited budget, as many rural Caribbean households do. Tanks made of cement and chicken wire Our design is made of ferrocement – a kind of thin, reinforced concrete widely used to collect rainwater in India. This construction style is affordable – especially if subsidized by small government loans – because it uses materials readily available in the Caribbean: cement, sand and water mixed together, reinforced with chicken wire and steel bars. The cement acts as a super glue, binding the particles of sand, rebar and chicken wire together into one strong, compact mass. This cheap, durable method is ideally suited for the Caribbean environment, too. The island region is susceptible to not just hurricanes but also earthquakes. The steel bars can withstand the shaking of an earthquake, while the cement is resistant to high winds. During particularly powerful hurricanes, Caribbean islands may even get so much rain that it overwhelms their aging water infrastructure, which simply cannot handle the volume and velocity of storm runoff. When people have cisterns, that excess rain goes to good use. We have now tested a model ferrocement rainwater harvesting system on the island of Grenada. With some tweaks to improve ease of construction – which are now underway – we believe it could serve island residents well. The government there has expressed interest in introducing rainwater harvesting to increase the reliability and accessibility of its municipal water systems. Our next stop for testing the ferrocement-and-biosand system is Dominica. And after that, we hope, the rest of the Caribbean will catch on. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article here:

Jack Guy Lafontant

Haitian Prime Minister Jack Guy Lafontant resigned Saturday amid calls for him to step down after a failed bid to raise fuel prices set off protests and unrest that left seven people dead. Lafontant told Haiti's Chamber of Deputies that he sent President Jovenel Moise his resignation letter and the president had accepted it. Moise has not yet commented publicly. The prime minister's abrupt resignation came ahead of a vote on a motion of censure Lafontant, a first step toward asking that Moise name a new prime minister to form a Cabinet to handle the crisis. The prime minister is the second highest official in Haiti after the president. Lafontant was to answer questions about the July 6-8 riots that followed the government's attempt to raise fuel prices by up to 51 percent as part of an agreement with the International Monetary Fund. Dozens of businesses were looted during the deadly unrest. Instead, Lafontant (LA-FAH-TON) used the opportunity to announce his resignation, while in various parts of Haiti's small protests were held demanding the head of state step down. As the session began, chamber president Gary Bodaeu wrote on his Twitter account that the legislature "is at a crossroads in history; it must assume its responsibilities." He had earlier called the price hikes "untimely" and "inoperative." Lafontantsuspended the fuel prices increases after protests erupted last week but the disturbances continued and calls for the prime minister to resign grew, including from the opposition and some business groups. Lafontant, a 57-year-old doctor who took office in March 2017, had said the price hikes of 38 percent to 51 percent for gasoline, diesel, and kerosene were needed for Haiti to balance its budget. Government officials agreed to reduce subsidies for fuel in February as part of an assistance package with the IMF. The agreement also included increased spending on social services and infrastructure and improved tax collection in an effort to modernize the economy of one of the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere. Lafontant's replacement will be nominated by Moise and confirmed by the Senate. Get the latest local and international news straight to your mobile phone for free: Download the Loop News Caribbean app on Google Play Store: Download the Loop News Caribbean app on the App Store:

Less than two months after releasing enhancements to its Mobile App and Online Banking, CIBC FirstCaribbean has been named the Most Innovative Bank in the region at the prestigious World Finance Banking Awards presentedby UK-based World Finance magazine. The bank is the only Caribbean-based Bank to have been recognised at this year’s event. “We are delighted to have won this prestigious award,” said Trevor Torzsas, the bank’s Managing Director, Cards and Customer Relationship Management. “The award is a testament to our commitment and relentless efforts at leveraging emerging technologies to make banking easier for our clients.” Earlier this year, CIBC FirstCaribbean revamped its mobile banking app to include services that are built on Visa technology – namely, mobile location confirmation and “Freeze Mycard” service. These features were the first of their kind to be introduced within the Caribbean by a bank. Through the app, clients can also easily check their account balances, transfer funds between accounts or to other CIBC FirstCaribbean clients and pay bills, all from their mobile device. More recently, the bank launched an upgraded Online Banking system that allows its clients to bank online with the highest level of reliability and security. For example, clients can now schedule domestic and international payments online with stronger security through two-step verification and real-time alert features. According to Torzsas, new technologies play a vital role in allowing the bank to pursue its digital strategy. "Our success could not have been possible without our investment in technology. Technology remains one of our top priorities as a bank and it has allowed us to deliver on our promise of “banking that fits your life” by responding to client feedback and creating solutions that allow them to bank when and how they want. What is even more exciting is that our digital transformation has been well received by our clients who continue to engage with us more through these digital channels.” The World Finance Banking Award is one of the most respected accolades in the banking and financial services sector globally. World Financemagazine has been celebrating achievement, innovation and brilliance in banking and finance since 2007. For the latestnews, download our app at Android; and at IoS.

Starbucks will eliminate plastic straws from all of its locations within two years, citing the environmental threat to oceans. The coffee chain becomes the largest food and beverage company to do so as calls to cut waste globally grow louder. While plastic straws account for a small percentage of the waste that ends up in oceans, they've become a flashpoint. A week after its hometown of Seattle banned plastic drinking straws and utensils, Starbucks said Monday that by 2020, it will be using straws made from biodegradable materials like paper and specially designed lids. The company already offers alternative straws in Seattle. Other cities, like Fort Myers Beach in Florida, have banned plastic straws. Similar proposals are being considered in places like New York and San Francisco. The push to ban plastic straws gained traction after a viral video in 2015 showed rescuers removing a plastic straw from a sea turtle's nose in graphic detail. The issue of waste more broadly is coming up in company boardrooms. In February, Dunkin' Donuts said it would eliminate polystyrene foam cups from its stores by 2020. McDonald's shareholders voted down a proposal requesting a report on plastic straws in May. But the burger chain recently said it would switch to paper straws in the United Kingdom and Ireland by next year, and test alternatives to plastic straws in some U.S. locations. McDonald's also said this year that it would use only recycled or other environmentally friendly materials for its soda cups, Happy Meal boxes and other packaging by 2025. One reason big chains say it will take time to change may be the difficulty in securing adequate supplies. Imperial Dade, a foodservice and janitorial supplies distributor based in New Jersey, says it's seen a huge spike in demand for alternative straws in recent months. "Our biggest challenge is trying to locate alternative sources so we can satisfy the demand," said Laura Craven, the company's director of marketing. Craven also said she's starting to see more awareness about the need for exemptions for straws that bend, which people with disabilities and others may need. Starbucks says it expects an alternative it has to work in that regard. While plastic drinking straws have become one of the more high-profile environmental issues, they make up only about four per cent of the plastic thrashby number of pieces, and far less by weight. Straws add up to about 2,000 tons of the nearly 9 million tons of plastic waste that ends up in waters around the globe each year. The advocacy group 5 Gyres notes that the top five biggest sources of single-use plastic are plastic bags, water bottles, to-go containers, to-go cups and straws. The strawless lids will begin to appear in Seattle and Vancouver Starbucks this fall, with phased rollouts within the U.S. and Canada next year. A global rollout of the strawless lids will follow, beginning in Europe where they will be used in some stores in France and the Netherlands, as well as in the United Kingdom. For the latestnews, download our app at Android; and at IoS.

The Judicial Administration in an advisory on Thursday said that court business operations at Kirk House would be closed until further notice. The temporary closure is due to technical difficulties which the office is seeking to resolve as quickly as possible. Until then finance operations, all registry operations, Summary Court and criminal Grand Court cases will take place between the main court building and the George Town Town Hall.

The Ministry of Education and the National Youth Commission feted 12 young Caymanians at the Proud of Them, youth recognition initiative, celebration held at George Town Yacht Club on July 11, 2018. The Round 9 recipients hail from Stake Bay in Cayman Brac, George Town, and Bodden Town and range from 11 to 21 years of age. Recipients were nominated and recognised for outstanding contributions in the categories of academics, sports, career, culture, business or community service. Tya Bovell (17), Culture; Rasheem Brown (18), Sports; Trevor Carmola, Jr. (11), Academics and Community Service; Anissa Hoyte (17), Academics; Zolla Jones (14), Community Service; Taneil Lee (21), Academics, Culture, and Community Service; Zachary Moore (15), Sports; Deija Myles (17), Academics, and Community Service; Keanu Oliver (17), Academics, and Community Service; Gabriela Ritch (17), Academics; Julius Smith (15), Academics, and Community Service; and Janelle Smith (18), Business. Each awardee received a Proud of Them recipient certificate and a $500 cheque. They were congratulated in speeches by the Minister of Education, Youth, Sports, Agriculture & Land (EYSAL), Hon. Juliana O’Connor-Connolly; the Head of the National Youth Commission, Reverend Donovan Myers; and past Proud of Them recipient Chanelle Scott. Chairman of the Proud of Them Committee and Master of Ceremonies, Acting Chief Officer of EYSAL, Joel Francis, introduced the senior officials including the Ministry’s Acting Chief Officer, Cetonya Cacho. Mr. Francis, who helped set up the recognition initiative in 2012, read out the bios of each honouree, which will be released shortly. “Your commitment and achievements are where the future hopes of our country rest,” said the Minister in congratulating the recipients. “Some of you have overcome adversity, many of you challenge yourselves to do more and all of you inspire others to try harder and give more. Having already achieved so much, we know that you can and will continue to excel. We are in awe of your inspiring stories and by the many qualities that made you stand out from what was a highly competitive pool. Over the coming weeks, your billboards will be put up and your profiles will be made public. In these ways, the wider community will come to know of you and learn of the diverse ways that make us proud to have you be a contributing member of our community at such a young age,"she added. Scott, spoke of the pivotal role becoming a Proud of Them awardee had in reinforcing her academic goals. “The award in itself does not end when you come off the billboard,” said the 18-year-old, Li Po Chun United World College, Hong Kong, graduate. “You will forever be an ambassador for this programme and expected to carry out the level of excellence you were nominated for,”she added. Reverend Myers spoke about “the tremendous journey” the honourees were advancing on and wished them every success in their future goals. The round’s youngest recipient, 11-year-old Trevor Carmola Jr., certainly proved that childhood is no barrier to being a leader. Honoured for community service and academic achievements, he said, “I was very surprised and happy to find out I was recognised for this award. I enjoy school and the leadership roles I’ve taken up there and in places like church and the cadets. What I’m most proud of is fundraising for childhood cancer and donating 22 inches of my hair for children’s wigs,” he added.


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