“If there is a stench coming from the Le Repentir dumpsite, in my opinion it is coming from City Hall,” said Minister of Public Works, Robeson Benn, when he commented on the state of the burgeoning city dumpsite yesterday.
Given the inability of the municipality to manage the facility properly, Government was recently forced to assume control of its management a few days ago. And this move Minister Benn attributed to the fact that some persons have been shirking their responsibility.
“Clearly people are making mischief; some other people are not taking hold of their responsibilities with respect to management of critical sites in the city and I am not only speaking of roads, I am speaking about market places and the dumpsite too.”
Benn asserted that the existing problem at the dumpsite is mostly one which stems from poor management, adding that the state of the dumpsite should have never occurred, even without the equipment that Government recently added to aid the management of the site.
The recent intervention by government was regarded by Benn as one which has yielded fairly satisfactory progress thus far. He revealed, too, yesterday that plans are moving apace to ensure that the current dumpsite is closed by the end of next month even as measures are put in place to have garbage taken to Haags Bosch, aback of Eccles on the East Bank of Demerara.
But according to City Mayor Hamilton Green, the Georgetown municipality has not been given any official word from the Government that the dumpsite will in fact be closed next month. He said that he has been advised that the site will be closed for the holidays and that early January may not be possible.
“This means that the municipality will remain burdened with the task of maintaining a dumpsite that is really a tragedy.”
Additionally, Green revealed that it appears as though some persons are attempting to throw the entire blame on the municipality. Previously, he said that the municipality was informed that the current dumpsite would have been closed by the middle of this year and that the contract awarded to Puran Brothers would have been accelerated to close the two cells at Le Repentir and clean the site before handing it over back to the municipality. However, improvement and expansion of the cemetery remains a challenge to the council, Green lamented.
It was in recognition of the diminishing capacity of the dumpsite and the fact that it was encroaching, that a request was made to Government, Green said, to utilise a piece of land on the East Coast of Demerara.
“We know the dumpsite is full and I knew of this other land space…but we heard that a friend of the Government has bought it. We have since started looking at a strip of land east of where the cemetery ends where burial was done some 50 and 60 years ago, but that would call for a lot of investment, because we would have to cut roads and drains…”
The state of the dumpsite, Green admitted, has caused the Le Repentir Cemetery to become a disgrace in itself.
“If we can’t pay staff and pay NIS where are we going to get money to look at a cemetery?”
According to Green, he has been pleading with the administration for assistance for a long time to help address the dumpsite problem even as he reiterated that the Council is short of money and equipment to help itself.
“We lack the money and machines…This is what the public should know.”
At present there are two extra bulldozers and excavators which the Government brought in the day after Social Activist, Mark Benschop and Kaieteur News Columnist, Freddie Kissoon, were arrested for obstruction while protesting the deplorable situation at the dumpsite.
“If you go back to (Minister Kellawan) Lall’s statement that he would be glad if there is a health crisis …it has to be seen in that context,” Green recounted. He pointed out that when it was realized that they would not be getting the Haags Bosch site at the time they had expected, the Mayor met with Minister Lall and impressed upon him that they did not budget for that reality. He said that it was explained at that time that with the then impending Christmas season there would have been an onslaught on the dumpsite.
The council would not have been able to adequately handle the situation, given its limitations.
The dumpsite, he said, ought to have been closed years ago, but is still open through no fault of the Mayor and City Council of Georgetown.
Director of Solid Waste Management, Hubert Urlin, at a recent press conference revealed too that during the Christmas period there is usually a 20 to 25 percent increase in the quantity of waste received. For this reason, he said that measures were put in place to increase the amount of equipment available at the site in terms of bulldozers to be able to push the waste for a couple of hundred feet in order to have it reasonably accommodated at the site. However, work in this regard, Urlin emphasised, remains a challenge.
According to Mayor Green, the municipality has over the past few weeks been doing all within its financial and other capabilities to maintain the dumpsite, which is currently in a precarious state but at some level of sanity.
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