At least two Government ministries have promised “full investigations” into an illegal dumping scandal on Crown land, which is reportedly contaminating a natural watercourse at Bath, St. John and infuriating members of the local Rastafarian community.
Hours after the release of a viral social media video highlighting the issue, authorities have also announced that the “temporary storage facility” used by the Ministry of Transport and Works, the National Conservation Commission (NCC) and other government agencies will be closed and handed over to the Rastas for agricultural use.
Authorities were however adamant that government employees were not likely to be involved in the illegal dumping of appliances and other discarded material as was alleged on social media.
The video, which was taken by a man now identified as Anthony Ras Levi Burrowes, alleges that old washing machines, fridges and stoves were being dumped from government land onto a nearby spring.
In a Barbados TODAY interview on Thursday, Ras Levi explained the spring is a source of water for drinking, washing and irrigation on 40 acres of land known as Alkebulan. He explained that after confronting the government workers, the farmers were informed that their employer sanctioned the dumping.
“We addressed the situation while the truck drivers were there, we showed them the debris. At no point did they deny dumping the debris and as a matter of fact, we even realized after that they were coming with bobcats and backhoes and pushing the debris over the cliff into the water source,” Ras Levi revealed.
“If a coconut vendor leaves a dozen coconut shells at the side of the road, he is charged and is before the courts and these guys are contaminating one of the few water sources in Barbados. This is criminal,” he added.
The Rastafarian leader further declared that the only viable solution was for Government to “bring their heavy equipment” and clean up their act.
His calls prompted a swift response on Friday afternoon from a high-powered team of government officials including Minister of Transport, Works and Water Resources Ian Gooding-Edghill, Minister of the Environment and National Beautification Adrian Forde, Minister of Agriculture Indar Weir and Member of Parliament for St. John Charles Griffith who is also a Minister in the Ministry of Water Resources.
While admitting the area was being used as a “temporary storage facility” for supplies like marl and mill material, Minister Gooding-Edghill denied that any other materials were being placed at the site with the permission of his ministry.
“I don’t know who is responsible for the appliances so I can’t tell you…The Ministry of Transport, Works and Water Resources does not place appliances on this site,” Gooding Edghill, contended.
“As a result, the ministry will immediately launch a full investigation to ensure it does not happen again and to ensure that those responsible are held accountable in any way possible.
“I will also let you know that with immediate effect, there will be no dumping by MTW personnel at this site. The ministry will commence the clearing of this site today and it is regrettable that debris including appliances was dumped in this location, which clearly has been causing discomfort to the residents in this area and particularly the Rastafarian community involved in agriculture,” he added.
The ministers were however at pains to explain how persons other than government workers were able to gain access to the site that is protected by two wooden gates. Minister of the Environment Adrian Forde explained that some of the dumpers may be discarding waste at a nearby bridge outside of the site that leads into the water course, while others may have found ways of entering between the times the property is used by the government trucks.
“The other ministers could speak to who has the keys and the times that the gates are open and that sort of thing, but I can assure you that the only thing that the NCC brought is rocks and tree trimmings,” said Minister Forde.
“In between the time of the trucks coming and leaving, those persons find a way to get into the place. I am not sure that we are going to catch the suspects… but we will be installing cameras from as early as tomorrow [Saturday].
“We are not going to allow illegal dumping and illicit disposal of garbage to destroy what is a natural oasis over here,” he added.
In a brief statement, Minister of Agriculture Indar Weir explained that the entire area had been earmarked for the production of figs, bananas and plantains and it was therefore unfortunate that illegal dumping had taken root.
“I am pleased to note that Minister [Gooding-Edghill] has taken the necessary steps to bring this to a closure and this entire place will now be cleared and returned to its rightful uses… to make sure that we do what is right by the people of Barbados and what is right by the Rastafarian community,” he said. ([email protected])