EDITORIAL: Landfill solution a must
The fire that broke out at the Mangrove Landfill on the dawn of this past weekend should cause Barbadians to sit up and think. In a small island, such a fire sitting atop, or close to some two million vehicle tyres is a possible major disaster.
That it turned out to be no more than a serious wake-up call is something for which we should be eternally grateful; and the first thing we should think about is ensuring there is no recurrence of such a fire. Without ascribing blame to anyone or any institution, it seems clear that we have to tighten up our act when it comes to the management of these sensitive areas.
A landfill is always going to be a source of anticipated disaster for those living within its catchment because stench will escape, and so will fire and its attendant noxious fumes if there is mismanagement or mischief of any kind.
Environmental pollution and serious health hazards, especially for those who suffer from respiratory ailments, are among the most important deleterious aspects of what might be called the collateral damage from landfill accidents.
The same thing is also true of the Bridgetown Sewage Treatment Plant, for any malfunction at that site also creates the problems associated with the escape of noxious fumes for all those who live, work and travel in the area. Especially because we are small and live cheek by jowl with these operations, our management of these facilities must be acute and up to date.
Project coordinator of the Green Business Barbados, Lani Edghill, spoke to this issue this past week when she took part in a panel discussion on the green economy. We agree with her general point that we should look afresh at our attitudes to recycling and waste management.
As we understood her point, she was calling for that re-examination to take place in our homes and in our businesses because, in spite of several recycling projects, there are still 1 200 tonnes of garbage going to the landfill every day. Attitudes and systems for the disposal of garbage must therefore be revised and changed.
She argued that a municipal recycling programme should be set up, in which Government needs to purchase trucks to collect recyclable material from households. This seems at first blush an acceptable idea, but householders will first have to be educated to separate the recyclable material from other garbage, with the former going to the recycling plant.
It is a trite point that the environment is important to our very existence, but so many of us seem to take it for granted that while none of us welcomes any disaster, such developments may be used to jolt the complacent out of their self-imposed attitudes. The location of the Mangrove Landfill ought also to remind us of how sensitive we must be to the personal discomfort suffered.
We are all in this together, and that includes the local residents near to, and downwind of the landfill; and those who are visiting us as tourists. They too will have been inconvenienced, with possible damage to the national tourism investment and effort, if these kinds of outbreaks continue – and tourism is our business!
It is for these reasons that we commend the public spiritedness and patriotic approach of those private sector companies, so often maligned, and their employees who broke their weekend relaxation to respond quickly and skilfully in a sustained effort to a matter of urgent national concern.
The dumping of 600 loads of mould from a nearby quarry meant that manpower and suitable mechanical equipment, including tractors with air conditioning facilities, had to be deployed because of the intensity of heat and noxious smoke.
But we agree with Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite that we need to discuss how to avoid a recurrence of these landfill outbreaks. This need is urgent, even as we may plan for the long-term changes in our waste management practices.