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Región en Blanco y Negro

Golpeando al PIB

Saneamiento

Saneamiento

Por Xenia Cotón –

El saneamiento y su impacto en la macro y micro economía

En Panamá estamos trabajando junto con la Cooperación Española (AECID) para apoyar al MINSA en el aumento  del acceso a los servicios de agua potable y saneamiento a las comunidades indígenas de diversas zonas del país. En el 2011 comenzamos a trabajar con las comunidades Kuna y Emberá en la comarca Guna Yala al Sur del país. En la actualidad estamos elaborando los estudios y diseños para la zona de Ngäbe Buglé, al Norte en la Costa del Caribe. Ésta es una comarca más pobre y aislada todavía, con muchas comunidades únicamente accesibles por vía marítima o fluvial, con zonas escarpadas y deforestadas y con comunidades muy dispersas y pequeñas.

Cuanto más nos alejamos de las vías de acceso terrestres y más dispersas y pequeñas son las comunidades mayor es el costo de inversión en agua y saneamiento para los proyectos. Si normalmente la inversión en saneamiento en zonas rurales en la región per cápita no es demasiado elevadas si lo comparamos con las redes de saneamiento, en este tipo de proyectos la inversión por persona puede dispararse al trabajarse con comunidades realmente pequeñas y alejadas. Pero, ¿es rentable realizar esta inversión? ¿Por qué el gobierno panameño no duda ni un segundo en que es prioritario realizar estos proyectos?

Si nos fijamos en los recientes estudios que está elaborando el Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) del Banco Mundial en realidad la falta de acceso al saneamiento mejorado [1] supone para los países donde el acceso no es universal una pérdida importante del Producto Interior Bruto (PIB) anual.

Gráfica

Gráfica

Podemos tomar el ejemplo de otro país Centroamericano, Nicaragua, que tiene un 48% de población sin acceso a ningún tipo de saneamiento, y con otro 16% con acceso a saneamiento no adecuado. Según el WSP debido a estas carencias el país perdió en el 2009 un total de US$ 95 millones, es decir, un 1,5% de su PIB. Estas pérdidas se relacionan con diferentes gastos que el país debe afrontar por la falta de saneamiento adecuado, y que se reflejan principalmente en el sector salud, en el turismo, en el tiempo perdido por la población y en el tratamiento de agua (a mayor contaminación mayores inversiones en tratamiento).

Aunque este tipo de estudios no se han realizado aún en Panamá y las condiciones de acceso son notablemente mejores que las de Nicaragua, aún en las zonas rurales existe un alto porcentaje de población sin acceso a saneamiento o con acceso a saneamiento no mejorado (46% según el JMP) [2]. Es por ello que podemos suponer que Panamá también está incurriendo en pérdidas anuales de PIB ligadas a la falta de saneamiento.

Por ejemplo, en nuestro proyecto, a causa de la alta contaminación en coliformes de las aguas superficiales, éstas no han podido considerarse en algunos casos como fuente de agua, ya que el tratamiento requerido supondría una tecnología complicada y unos gastos de operación y mantenimiento por encima de las capacidades de las comunidades beneficiarias. Es por ello que algunas de las fuentes de agua seleccionadas se encuentran a varios km de la población aunque ésta contaba con un río mucho más cercano, lo que ha encarecido la inversión. Pero además, ésta contaminación está afectando a la población económicamente ya que las enfermedades diarreicas y parasitarias son recurrentes, lo que implica pérdida de tiempo para trabajar o producir y para trasladarse a los puestos de salud así como gastos para pagar los tratamientos.

Teniendo en cuenta este análisis resulta más claro entender que para el MINSA y el Gobierno de Panamá sea prioritario seguir invirtiendo en saneamiento rural, sobre todo en las áreas rurales e indígenas más vulnerables, ya que las ganancias económicas para el país resultarán mayores anualmente que las inversiones que estamos realizando para aumentar el acceso, aunque éstas pudieran parecer caras a primera vista desde un punto de vista comparativo.


[1] Según el Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) el saneamiento mejorado se define como aquella infraestructura que separa higiénicamente la excreta del contacto humano.

[2] Según el JMP, solamente el 54% de la población rural de Panamá tenía acceso al saneamiento mejorado en 2011.
Esta columna originalmente fue publicada en el Blog Volvamos a la fuente del Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo BID.

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