WATER

Panama 2017 | GREEN ECONOMY | B2B

Though an uphill battle to make sustainability as important as profit, the long, hard fight has already begun in the water-treatment industry.

Daniel Boersner
DANIEL BOERSNER
Director-America
Biwater
Sergio Castillo
SERGIO CASTILLO
Chairman & Founder
Eco BCG

What is the importance of LATAM?

Daniel Boersner The region is important as there is a major gap in Latin America between the water needs and the existing infrastructure, especially in sanitation and wastewater treatment. Potable water coverage is adequate in some places, less so in some, and nonexistent in others; overall, however, there is potable water in some shape or form. On the sanitation and wastewater treatment side, however, virtually nothing has been done. In places like Chile and Mexico, it is extremely advanced, but smaller countries, especially in the Caribbean, have virtually no sanitation. Coverage is probably around between 5-10%, and everything goes into rivers and the sea. This has to be addressed quickly. Having said that, on the water treatment side, there is also a big issue as a great deal of the network infrastructure is old, there is a great amount of leakage and waste of potable water that has been treated, pumped, and costs money. Where people lack water services 24 hours a day, it is mostly because they lose the water rather than do not have it. Therefore, the challenge for this region is to catch up with the water and the non-revenue water and sanitation. There is a huge amount of investment required, and therein lies another problem: How can we bring that up to speed, as we cannot charge that development of infrastructure on the backs of end users as tariffs? The social and economic fabric will not allow it.

Sergio Castillo Our key efforts have been to strongly link environmental with financial sustainability because we know that around 95% of entrepreneurs and managers understand they need to do something for the environment. The problem is that only 5% of them are willing to invest in environmental programs alone. Given the situation, we understand that businesses want to improve their use of resources in an efficient manner so we need to have something that is also financially attractive; if not, they will listen but never invest. There are others who only think about opportunities in the short run. Having competitiveness as a working guide, we established offices in the US, Mexico, Panama, Colombia, and Chile and work with dealers and representations in other countries. Mexican and Colombian entrepreneurs and industries think about being as competitive as the US. Most Panamanians, however, are just starting to move toward the competitiveness concept. We have our company headquarters here because we know the market is changing and because Panama has a well-known financial advantage in terms of tax management. We thus work a great deal with Mexico, Colombia, Chile, and the US. To orient and therefore facilitate our work, we have prepared a listing of every company that allows us to know what they do so we can get in touch and offer our technological solutions. We do not offer something that is not financially and environmentally suitable to them. Agriculture is an important division, and here we are moving toward precision agriculture and production strength farming with the use of better water for animal intake to reduce the use of antibiotics and drones needed for monitoring crops.

What other countries are in need of your service and where do you focus your attention?

DB My sights are on El Salvador and the Dominican Republic, which have severe problems not so much with water supply and production but wastewater treatment. In El Salvador, when we install wastewater treatment plants, the difference will be significant because their rivers have turned black, and this is the source of all kinds of illnesses. That is also the case in the Dominican Republic; there are some smaller towns that simply have no wastewater treatment whatsoever. Operation and maintenance is always a problem and there is unfortunately a culture here of building something but not maintaining it because other things can be built with the maintenance budget. There is no culture of maintenance, though some people are trying to change that.

SC Beside services oriented to energy efficiency and water treatments in food, beverages, and other related industries, Eco BCG has a strong participation in the region's agriculture sector. Precision agriculture uses drones to obtain health images from agriculture activities to identify timely problems related to water usage, insects, illness, and nutrition, among others, and therefore identify the required treatment for that precise site. We have created strong alliances with international organizations and NGOs, public and private agricultural organizations, and large agriculture producers. We have also installed water treatments in shrimp industries to prevent Vibrio attacks and chemical contamination in shrimp larvae production. Both the use of drones and water treatment have proven to be financially and environmentally attractive.