by Roy R. Morris
Cane Garden, St. Thomas residents say they support the recycling efforts of B’s Recycling. They also acknowledged on Saturday that the company had done much to aid in the cleaning of the country.
But, following a protest against operation of the entity in their backyard over the weekend, they remained adamant that it “has to move” – entirely out of St. Thomas.
Member of Parliament for St. Thomas, Cynthia Forde, who led the march, told Barbados TODAY: “Let me make the point that the residents all understand that it is critical that we keep our environment clean, especially the gullies, and we all support greening/recycling, but it must be done in a manner that does not expose neighbours to other risks.
“So whenever you hear ‘We are raising foreign exchange’, ‘We are employing people’ or ‘We are clueing the gullies’, we supported it all along, but if the way it is being done exposes people we harm we will speak out.
“We are standing on that principle: Do it the right way and it must not be at the expense of anybody’s health… What we are seeing is a resistance from management…, who I thought would have been bold … and respectful enough to say ‘We have made some mistakes, but moving forward these are some of the things we will done. Come and talk with us and let us know your concerns so that we can work together’.”
During the protest march, which was escorted back and forth beside the recycling plant by a police contingent, about half a dozen individuals stood on the sidelines with counter messages such as “Reduce, Reuse, but don’t Refuse B’s”, “Imagine, a country free from waste all because of B’s Recycling” and “Recycling puts food on my table”.
Describing the group as persons supported by the company, Forde added:
“The morning session tuned out well. We had over 70 people who turned out to lend their support. We had a very peaceful… We believe this is a couple steps closer to us achieving our goal, which is to see better operations in this community if that is to happen, but more so for the dump in particular to be located somewhere else.
“And the residents are saying not in St. Thomas. I am not saying that, but the residents are – and they are the ones with the voices. My position is that once there is proper regulation of any business, and it conforms with all of the laws, I have absolutely no problem. That is where our difficulty is.
“A lot of people here will tell you how they are feeling as a result of the pungent odour that is emanating from the area where the fire occurred; and you can see that the mountain of soil that was there has already been removed and the tyres and so extracted; and of course that speaks to the contaminants being released into the atmosphere; and even now my lips are burning again.
“But I don’t live here. I want to be in solidarity with those who do. My exposure was only for a new minutes, but what about the residents who have to endure that all day, all night now in an environment where they invested so much… So that is a start, and over the next few days and weeks we will continue to pursue steps to secure our rights.”
Among the protesters was George Hurley, whose home is located just a few metres from the scene of last month’s fire. He revealed that his wife had to be sent to the United States for medical test because of severe respiratory challenges that were made worse by the fire.
Each day, he said, he is still forced to walk around his home wearing a respirator because of the odour still in the atmosphere since the fire.
Another protester was Yvette Waithe, who pointed out tat even though she lived upwind of B’s, she was caught in the smoke from the March 25 fire when she went to Sharon Primary School to collect her granddaughter.
Since being overwhelmed by the smoke, she said, she had suffered respiratory difficulties and found it extremely difficult to talk.
Meanwhile, Forde blasted the minister and top brass of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of the Environment for failing to even acknowledge the invitation of residents to meet with them.
She said while officials at the Ministry of Home Affairs had called to say Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite was out of the island, the two other ministers had not responded to their invitations.
She thanked the head of the Department of Emergency Management, Judy Thomas, “for at least showing up” and the Commissioner of Police for explaining his inability to attend, as well as the officer from the Town and Country Planning Development Office who is responsible for the area.
“No one else has paid us the courtesy of letting us know what is happening…,” Forde told Barbados TODAY after the march.
“The only persons we have been seeing and those officers who are duty bound on a weekly or monthly basis to be in the area and those are the two leading officers from the Warrens Polyclinic… So it looks like we are people in no man’s land … and people think that we are stupid or that the matter does not require urgency.
“We believe that they will see, based in our demonstration here this morning, by our walk and our placards, that we have a voice and we will keep our voice being heard by the Government and by the authorities who are supposed to be managing the business, as well as anybody else who seems to believe that you should live and accept what you have…
“We have rights, we have feeling, we have our health to protect – and there is nothing that can beat good health… We are going to demand respect and we are going to work toward having clean, fresh air in the environment we invested in.” firstname.lastname@example.org