Against a background of the current public furor over the environmental fall-out from the recent fire at B’s Reclying metal dump in Cane Garden, St. Thomas, the minister of health yesterday assured Barbadians of better regulated and managed recycling and solid waste ventures in the future.
John Boyce was making his contribution to the debate in the House of Assembly on the Government’s proposed acquisition of 16 acres of land at Vaucluse, St. Thomas for the establishment of a waste-to-energy plant.
Boyce agreed with an earlier suggestion from Opposition MP for St. James Central, Kerrie Symmonds, that while all members supported a recycling industry, there was need for it to be properly regulated.
The Cabinet minister acknowledged that in a small country such as Barbados, almost anything that was done, would affect others.
“We have to set up areas in which this kind of operation can be properly and fairly managed. We have to protect our people, we have to protect our residences,” Boyce added.
For the Opposition, he said, “to come in here and behave like if nobody ain’t say anything to the people”, they should be condemned.
“To go out on the street and organise protests, walk up and down Barbados, just because the House wasn’t meeting, so they had nowhere to vent, so they go out there and try to create chaos, in a land where people clearly understand the challenges we face, the reports made it very clear, there was no threat in terms of health hazard as a direct result of the fire at Cane Garden.”
The former minister of transport and works told the Lower Chamber that all arrangements were made to evacuate persons who may have felt threatened.
“The health services were opened and the hours were extended where necessary, to make sure that those who were asthmatic would have been treated, either at the polyclinics, or at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, if required,” argued Boyce.
He emphasised that the situation following the B’s fire was properly handled.
“If we are talking about a serious recycling industry in Barbados, as if we are talking about any other serious area of development in Barbados, we’ve got to be fair and recognise our limitations,” pointed out the health minister.
“We do not have these wide open spaces where we can necessarily locate these industries which have the potential to have these kinds of impact; but at all times, we must make sure that there are properly and adequately mitigated.”
He said the Government was concerned about the situation at Cane Garden, and that was why his administration introduced the Precious Metals and Second Hand Metals Act, which dealt with the handling of metal waste and precious metals generally.
He observed that the scrap metals and cash-for-gold schemes had gotten out of hand, where people were being deprived of substantial portions of their properties, made of metal.
“Arrangements are in place to make sure that these metal-handling plants are sited in areas which would have less potential, or the least potential, of impacting on any adjacent neighbourhood.”
The health minister agreed that all the players, including the MPs for St. Thomas and St. James Central – constituencies surrounding B’s Recycling – had to recognise their role in this environmental issue.
Boyce asked all Barbadians to embrace the “green economy” thrust of Government, especially considering that the country could not continue depending on imported fossil fuel, particularly given its high cost to the island. (EJ)