Against the backdrop of recent unsightly pile ups across the island, Minister of the Environment and Drainage Dr Denis Lowe Wednesday assured that the worrying situation was no more.
“The waste is gone,” said Lowe, who reported that the Sanitation Service Authority (SSA) was currently seeing “significant progress” in terms of its garbage collection in areas such as Pie Corner and Moon Town in St Lucy, as well as from Bridgetown to Speightstown, including Black Rock, St Michael.
While challenging journalists to move around and do the same level of extensive reporting that they had done earlier this year when the nasty pile-ups were most visible, Lowe reported that Highway 5, which stretches from outside the Prime Minister’s residence, Ilaro Court, at Two Mile Hill, St Michael as far east as St Philip, had been an area of major concern for the SSA.
However, the Government spokesman said when he drove through that area last night, the popular stretch of road was free of garbage.
At the same time, the minister criticized public commentators, who he said were intent on shaping public opinion but had not travelled the world like he had.
“I am still of the view that Barbados is cleaner on any given day than most of the Caribbean islands. I am convinced that Barbados is cleaner on any given day than New York City and I have pictures to show mounds of garbage in New York City, taller than I am,” Lowe told Barbados TODAY on the sidelines of the presentation of the NIFCA environment awards 2014/2015.
“Some may say you are comparing apples with oranges, but if New York City is a developed and financial fluid city, it has access to more resources and should collect its garbage,” he added.
The minister also took a swipe at the Opposition Shadow Minister of Environment Senator Wilfred Abrahams, who he dismissed as a complete waste.
“What he is talking is rubbish and he [Abrahams] should be collected,” said Lowe in reference to his political nemesis.
At the same, the minister sought to deny recent public claims made by Abrahams that Government was pursuing an “outsourcing” strategy at the SSA.
“I have not seen any garbage trucks in the port,” he said, while also refuting Abrahams’ contention that 15 compactor trucks had recently been imported into the island by a private entity with a view to taking on some responsibility for the island’s garbage collection.
Lowe, who recently returned home from Nairobi, Kenya, further sought to make it clear that there was “no intention to outsource any work”, pointing out that the National Conservation Commission and the Drainage Division were at this time rendering assistance to the SSA with the clearing of rubbish heaps.
The Member of Parliament for Christ Church East also pointed out that those same agencies had picked up some of slack during last December’s SSA strike.
Asked to comment on reports that the SSA only had 15 trucks in operation, Lowe argued that having studied the “demographics of the space”, 15 to 20 “sustainable operational trucks” could service the entire country with ease, even though he said 25 to 40 trucks would be “nice to have”.
At the same time, he revealed that positive indication had been received from Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs Chris Sinckler that funds would be made available in the coming weeks for the purchase of new trucks for the SSA.
Lowe did not say how many. However, he said the SSA had not only completed the tendering process, but had sent dispatch mechanics to different companies to look at what they had on offer.
“I think we are in a place where once the funds are there, we are in a place to place our order,” the minister told Barbados TODAY.
However, he acknowledged that the current fleet of SSA vehicles was afflicted by breakdowns; therefore “ you can leave the yard in the morning and by evening have to be towed into the yard, because something went wrong with them. That keeps throwing off the collection cycle and that is part of the challenge we face at the SSA.”
Nonetheless, Lowe assured Barbadians that once the SSA got past these hurdles they could expect regular collection of garbage, adding that he was currently getting hourly reports on the island wide collection of waste.