Water ministry, Epsas preparing utility consultancy tender

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Bolivia's water ministry and state-owned water utility Epsas, serving capital La Paz and neighboring city El Alto, are still in the process of preparing a tender to hire a consultancy firm to define the structure of a new water utility, an official from the water ministry told BNamericas.

Epsas was created to take over potable water and sanitation services in La Paz and El Alto for a six-month period after French-controlled concessionaire Aguas del Illimani (AISA) was expelled in January 2007.

However, the firm completed two years of operations on January 4 and the structure of the new utility has yet to be determined, an Epsas official told BNamericas

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The water ministry is working with the Epsas board, which comprises officials from the governments of La Paz and El Alto, and civil neighborhood groups (Fejuves) from both municipalities. National government authorities are also involved in drawing up the tender rules and defining a schedule, the ministry official said.

In the meantime, Epsas continues to carry out water and sanitation works, mainly in El Alto, where the population continues to increase tremendously, said the Epsas official.

The firm also continues to seek external funding to keep expanding and upgrading services, the official added.

When asked about an article published in Bolivian paper El Diario that stated a tender would be launched for the creation of a new utility to serve El Alto alone, both officials said the story was based on speculation, as the final structure regarding service provision for both cities has not been decided.

Upgrading and expanding water services in La Paz and El Alto is of strategic importance to maintain Bolivia's political risk at a relatively low level, as water issues have been the main cause of political unrest in the country during the last few years.

Among the countries that have offered financial support to improve water and sanitation in La Paz and El Alto are Canada and Japan, while multilateral financial entities include the Andean Development Corporation (CAF) and IDB.