Last update: 06-Dec-2013 4:49 am
Friday, December 06, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Govt to close landfills
While the Dominican government charges, fines and sometimes imprisons scavengers for entering landfills, Local Government Minister Dr Suruj Rambachan said T&T will try to utilise our pickers in the best way possible. Speaking on Thursday about the introduction of a solid waste integrated resource policy, which Cabinet recently approved, Rambachan suggested that T&T could consider another country’s laws in framing our own legislation. He also spoke about the closure of the country’s four landfills, which he said would not happen overnight. What was hampering the landfills’ closure, Rambachan said, was the fact that the country had failed to develop a proper garbage disposal system.
The landfills’ closure was being handled by chairman of the Solid Waste Management Company Ltd (SWMCOL) Nalini Sooklal and Minister of the Environment and Water Resources Ganga Singh, Rambachan said. Of the four landfills, Rambachan said Forres Park was the most worrying. “It is worrisome because there are several villages surrounding it where the people have been affected, especially the school in Spring Vale. This poses a very serious problem for me as there are a lot of social issues involved.” Rambachan said on a weekly basis he got complaints from residents about health problems and the stench emanating from the Forres Park dump.
Rambachan: No charge for waste disposal on citizens
Rambachan said he was also not in favour of the Beetham Landfill being located a stone’s throw from the capital city. He said he had been trying to push Planning Minister Dr Bhoe Tewarie to make a decision with respect to an investor, who had the capacity to manage and reduce the size of each dump, especially Forres Park. Several proposals from investors, Rambachan said, had been received. “Interestingly enough, they continue to come in. It is a good sign,” Rambachan said. While converting waste to energy sounded good, Rambachan said the whole process involved management supervision.
Asked if there were plans to consolidate the four landfills, Rambachan said this task would not be easy. “We need geographic distribution of the garbage. We are trying our best in order to see how something close to that can happen,” he said. Asked if the Government intended to introduce legislation to stop pickers from entering the landfills since it posed a threat to their health and lives. Rambachan said it was not about legislation but how they could be utilised with the separation of garbage. Told about Dominica’s laws, Rambachan said, “all of those things will be looked at.” It is estimated that 3.3 pounds of waste is discarded by a person each day. While admitting that waste collection was an expensive exercise on the State, Rambachan said he did not see citizens paying for the collection of their garbage in the near future. Instead, he said he had envisioned citizens separating waste to make it easier for recycling at the dumps.
Ministers, stakeholders talking about waste management
Alison Awai, SWMCOL’s communications specialist said: “The Government is presently reviewing options for better management of waste in keeping with the recently-drafted integrated solid waste resource management policy for T&T. At this time we can indicate that there are inter-ministerial discussions taking place between the relevant ministries.” “It is anticipated that through this high-level collaborative discussion that a decision will soon be forthcoming,” Awai said. While SWMCOL, Awai said, had tried to discourage scavenging, she was unable to say how many pickers relied on the landfills to earn a livelihood. Since its establishment in 1980, SWMCOL, Awai said, had closed 21 of its 25 landfills.
She said SWMCOL and the Government were presently engaged in ongoing discussions with regard to the exploration of alternative systems to better manage municipal waste which may include transfer stations and material recovery facilities and/or an integrated waste management facility. Amrita Maharaj-Dube, corporate communications officer of the Environmental Management Authority (EMA), said the authority was in the early stages of drafting rules to address solid waste management.
“This initiative aims to transform waste management policies and procedures in this country by adopting international best practices for properly disposing of waste and reducing the burden on our landfills. It is intended that non-hazardous materials be sorted by category and either recycled or disposed of accordingly,” she said. Maharaj-Dube said this technical process was being supported by a multi-stakeholder committee comprising officials from SWMCOL, Tobago House of Assembly (THA), Water and Sewerage Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (WASA), the American Chamber of Commerce and representatives from civil society groups. The EMA hopes to have the rules completed by December. Maharaj-Dude said the decision to close the country’s landfills was a matter of national governance.
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