Barbados desperately needs change.
This change has nothing to do with upcoming general elections but everything to do with the vexing problem of illegal dumping, a nasty practice some of us have refused to scrap.
All the preaching, teaching, advertising and legislating has somehow managed to evade the indifferent among us that our beautiful island should not be treated so shamefully, like some sort of free-for-all landfill.
Yesterday, this media house discovered that some of the waste emanating from the faulty south coast sewage system was being dumped on the premises of a stalled hotel project at Hastings, Christ Church.
An unmarked truck was seen pumping the waste on the premises of the incomplete H Barbados boutique hotel and the impact was visible – the green grass has turned brown and even black in some areas.
Last week, a resident of Lower Burney caught a man dumping old appliances and furniture on unoccupied land, which was owned by the National Housing Corporation.
The video, which was widely circulated on social media, triggered immediate action from the authorities and 24 hours later, the man, his employer and another worker were forced to clean up the illegal dump site as an environmental officer watched their every move.
That response was heartening, but the offender should have been slapped with a severe fine to send a strong message to illegal dumpers.
These are just two recent instances, but the volume of waste that is being dumped on our roads, drains, gullies, beaches and abandoned lots boggles the mind.
The Sanitation Service Authority has designated spots for disposal of specific types of waste and most of us know how to get rid of our refuse.
Yet it appears that whatever we don’t need, we are prepared to just dispose anyhow or anywhere we like and it is a depressing sight all around, more so for those living near these illegal landfills.
These trash piles attract rodents, mosquitos – the carriers of unwanted diseases.
Moreover, our cash strapped Government is left with the clean-up bill.
Worse yet, when residents and volunteers invest their time and effort to clean up various spaces across the island, mere days and weeks later, garbage returns.
We really need to get a handle on this problem.
Isn’t the embarrasing stench on the south coast that has captured international headlines enough to persuade us to handle our garbage responsibly?
While we continue to point our fingers at authorities past and present for the long running sewage crisis, Barbadians have to share some of the blame.
Head of the Barbados Water Authority’s Wastewater Division Patricia Inniss has repeatedly told us to change our ways, revealing that some of the blockages in the system have in fact resulted from our bad habits.
“…Pumps were severely blocked by rags and other ‘extraneous debris’ which caused the $130 000 piece of machinery to stop working and have also compromised other pumps. To this end, the largest pump [ten inch] is currently not in use after clumps of towels and other materials choked the equipment and have even made their way into the impeller.
“Barbadians now have to realize that a paradigm shift needs to occur. You cannot put anything in the sewer lines, which does not belong. We cannot continue with blocks, breaches in the force main and then extraneous matter in the sewer line. Every tourist, business person, householder, has to realize you are going to play a part in whether we succeed or we fail and that is across the board,” Inniss said.
The time has long passed for us to clean up our act.
And it’s not for the Government alone to fix.
Of course authorities must enforce the law and enforce the harsh fines and prison terms on unconcerned offenders.
However Barbadians generally have to come to terms with the reality that we generate our own waste and it is our responsibility to properly dispose of it. The practice of reduce, reuse and recycle still works.
Illegal dumping and littering are simply bad for our health and the environment and we have to put a stop to it.