EDITORIAL: Toughen dumping response
TODAY we compliment Minister of Health John Boyce for his prompt, personal and direct response to the complaints of residents of the St Stephen’s Hill area about dumping that has been taking place in their backyard.
While it is still unclear whether the disposal of various types of waste at the site is illegal, what’s without doubt is that it has been a serious nuisance to residents for a considerable period. And were it not for the dumping of some type of awful smelling sludge that attracted flies by the thousands in recent days the matter would probably not have come to a head today.
While we wait to hear from the authorities exactly what the dumped substance is, and whether it poses any threat to the island’s underground water supply, the decision of Minister Boyce and his permanent secretary Tennyson Springer to visit the area and see the problem for themselves must have brought comfort to the residents.
What we would have wished to see, as well, was the presence of Minister of the Environment Dr Denis Lowe, since his ministry is responsible for the operation and/or oversight of legitimate sanitary landfills, and the national collection of waste – and it is clear to even the blind among us that illegal dumping is a growing problem across the country.
It is also clear that unless those in charge are prepared to take a tough stance in the face of this growing threat to the health of the country, it will escalate. And the leadership must come from the top – Minister Lowe must be seen in no less a light than his colleague in the Ministry of Health demonstrated on Tuesday.
We believe this is absolutely necessary because Barbadians of all walks of life must have confidence in the system to report perpetrators, because no matter how much focus is placed on education the problem will not be solved if those responsible are not held accountable for their actions.
As the entire Royal Barbados Police Force and the eyes of every member of the health inspectorate cannot adequately cover the island, catching perpetrators and deterring would-be illegal dumpers require the involvement of all civic-minded Barbadians.
But we could not make this call without also again admonishing Government to relook the tipping fee it introduced last year. While we remain firm that this imposition cannot be raised as a credible justification for illegal dumping, it cannot be ignored that there is a clear correlation between the fee’s imposition, the reduction in waste going to the Mangrove Pond Landfill and the sudden and widespread appearance of garbage piles in cart roads, gullies and overgrown lands all over the country.
We understand the rationale for the imposition. Garbage has to be processed after it is disposed of by householders and business operators and someone has to pay; attaching the tipping fee applies a portion of the cost directly to the persons for whom the service is being provided. But that does not mean the approach to the fee and the funding of the cost of processing the garbage cannot be re-examined if we are satisfied that the current system is fuelling increased illegal dumping.
For the sake of our national health we trust Government will see the wisdom of revisiting the matter very early in 2016.