A local non-governmental organisation is calling for stiffer penalties for litterbugs and illegal dumpers, following a national cleanup in which more than 38.9 tonnes of garbage were removed from the environment.
Project coordinator of Cleanup Barbados Ann Harding warned that if the volume of garbage accumulating in the country’s waterways is allowed to continue with impunity, the result could be a repeat of the 1995 drowning of De Great Carew.
“If you can fine people for not wearing a mask, surely you can fine them for illegal dumping,” Harding told Barbados TODAY.
“It’s easy for [dumpers] to throw garbage off a bridge, but it’s darn hard to pull it out and sometimes we give evidence to the police about who it is, and all we get out of that is that they make them go clean up some of the mess, but they need to fine them. These people are not going to stop until you issue fines. So the Future Centre Trust is really asking that you enforce the laws,” she added.
On April 23, 30 groups of nearly 300 volunteers hit the streets and covered 25 locations across the island with the clean-up campaign. At 1st and 2nd Street, Holetown, St James alone, they collected 70 bags of refuse comprising mainly discarded bottles and caps as part of the initiative sponsored by the Future Centre Trust.
The largest cleanup effort occurred at the site of an illegal dump at Bucks, St Thomas where over 66,000 pounds of garbage was removed with a team of 66 people that included the Barbados Defence Force, the Coast Guard, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and Jose Y Jose Liquid and Solid Waste Management Inc.
Harding said that people were once again dumping in a gully near Weston St James, which was the site of a deadly flood in 1995. She also warned that similar practices at major waterways like the Bucks Gull, Jack-in-the-Box Gully and Blackman’s Bridge were laying the foundation for similar events to occur in the future. The Clean Up Barbados coordinator added that in many cases, many of the same offenders are seen dumping repeatedly.
““Look at the people that got killed in Weston when the bridge broke…It was because of people throwing rubbish in the gully,” Harding said of the infamous ‘Carew flood’
“People don’t realise how serious this is… They drive the trucks up to the bridge on a gully and just dump it over the edge of the bridge. That’s certainly easy for them to do, but it’s not easy for us to pull it back out of there. And these gullies are waterways… and disasters can happen,” she added.
As part of the government’s policy approach Cleanup Barbados called for the introduction of an appliance register.
“The idea is that when an appliance comes into the country, you record its serial number and track who it was sold to so that when you find this thing in the gully, you can trace who it belonged to and we find lots of evidence in the gullies,” said Harding.
But she also called for incentives from state-owned organisations and private sector recycling companies to purchase items like coconut shells for compost to encourage healthy disposal habits.
“We want to see incentives given to people to do the right thing, not just fines, because some of the things like the coconut shells are a valuable resource. If you can fine people for not wearing a mask, surely you can fine them for littering,” Harding added.