Latin America needs US$19.6bn in water treatment plants, IDB expert says

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Monday, October 14, 2013

Latin America needs to invest US$19.6bn in waste water treatment plants to increase its coverage and reduce the pollution of rivers, lakes and seas and prevent diseases, an IDB expert told BNamericas.

With only 15% coverage, it is the biggest challenge Latin America faces in the water front, even larger than the need to expand drinking water access or sewage systems, Jorge Ducci, IDB’s water and sanitation leading economist, said.

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Among Latin America's largest economies, Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela are well behind the trend, followed by the Caribbean and Central American countries. Only Chile has achieved full coverage of water treatment plants, followed by México, with 60% coverage, after investing heavily in the last six years, Ducci said.

“Investments have fallen behind in this issue,” Ducci said. “Take any city with over one million residents in Latin America and I am sure that you have to put money there,” he added.

“The large volumes of water that are dumped into the sea, as well as into rivers and lakes are a huge source of pollution. That is still the biggest investment challenge,” Ducci said.

The IDB’s expert said the reason is the lack of private financing as companies find it unattractive and risky to invest in a business with high uncertainty and low returns.

According to the UN, 90% of deaths caused by diarrhea are related to the consumption of polluted water or the lack of sanitation and it is the second cause of death worldwide among children under age 5.