After one week of much discomfort to residents in South Georgetown, the fire at the Le Repentir dumpsite has finally been brought under control.
At a press conference held yesterday, Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, Kellawan Lall opined that the situation could have been brought under control earlier, but was allowed to reach to the stage that it had, due to the lack of leadership at the level of City Hall.
“I have always maintained that the city had the resources to deal effectively with the situation. The question therefore is why the situation was allowed to happen, much to the discomfort and health risk to residents? I personally believe that there was a great lack of leadership and a certain amount of callousness and insensitivity applied to citizens.
A very simple solution was staring the Mayor in his face and yet he ventured into fantasies like bombing of the dumpsite,” Minister Lall said.
The Minister noted that City Hall was in possession of all the equipment on the ground, but refused to act and utilize the resources.
He explained that the municipality has the capability to prevent such fires and they had the capability to stop it, even when it got out of hand. What was missing, he said, is management of resources and the ‘will’ to get the job done.
“All this talk of not having money, shifting blame to the Central Government and things like bombing are symptomatic of the culture that prevails in the City Hall,” Lall noted.
According to the Minister, there is a need to have a permanent monitoring mechanism in place in order to prevent such fires from recurring and to put in place the necessary instruments to deal with such occurrences whenever they arise.
He noted that the Ministry is willing to assist the municipality if the need arises.
It was explained that all the equipment is still on site in order to monitor the situation over the next few days.
As a means of preventing a recurrence of the fire, Minister Lall said that he has now decided to allow the ‘pickers’ who frequent the dumpsite to assist City Hall in preventing vagrants and unauthorized persons from entering the dumpsite, and for there to be an alarm system for the municipality in informing them immediately of a fire at the site.
“I personally don’t appreciate this situation where they (City Hall) sit and allow a situation to get out of hand and do nothing. That is irresponsibility at the highest level, especially when you are putting people at risk,” Lall said.
Meanwhile, Minister of Public Works, Robeson Benn who was also present at the press conference expressed similar sentiments as Minister Lall, as he noted that had the situation been dealt with immediately, it would not have erupted into the kind of state it was in.
“The equipment was there before, and if attention was paid, it would have been managed better.
What is required as they go forward is that those who are responsible for the proper maintenance and attending of the dump, with respect to fires and other issues, simply do the work that they are supposed to do over the time that they were supposed to do it and that will take care of it,” Minister Benn noted.
He explained that in many cases, the workers were willing to get the job done but they were not being properly managed, as according to him, some of the excavator operators refused to work.
“That’s the kind of issue that is going on there with the lack of the management of workers at the lower level and providing them with the leadership where it is needed,” Benn said.
The Public Works Minister said that he disagreed with the suggestion made by the Mayor, as it relates to placing dynamite at the site with the intention of ‘blowing it up’.
“There was a suggestion made by the Mayor that dynamite be placed at the dump and blow it up… I guess by now all of us would have been covered in garbage in South Georgetown given the fact that this was a ring of fire all around the dump… this shows how out of touch with reality some persons at City Hall are with respect to what is going on on the ground.”
Meanwhile, both Ministers commended the hard work done by the firefighters in bringing the situation under control. They noted that the same work could have been done by the City Council workers, if they were properly led and encouraged.
The fire at the dumpsite first erupted sometime in early August, and resulted in the City Council deploying all necessary human resources and machinery to mitigate the problem. However, another fire of even greater magnitude engulfed a section of the site recently.
City Mayor Hamilton Green had reported that there was a likelihood that the fire could have been caused by a spontaneous combustion coupled with the illegal activities of scavengers.
There have since been reports that Government officials are doubtful that combustion was the cause of the fire.
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