Work on a proposed landfill at Windsor Forest, in Region Three, has been halted after farmers and residents raised concerns about its potential impact on the environment.
Among the concerned Windsor Forest, West Coast Demerara residents is cash crop farmer Mohammed Rasheed, who says the landfill will pollute the waterways that run through the farmlands and which are used by the animals.
He said he has been spearheading the lobby against the project with the chairman of the Neighbourhood Demo-cratic Council (NDC). He said that he lived on the West Coast all his life and he has farmed rice, livestock and now vegetables there. Over the years, he said, he has gained in-depth knowledge of the environment and has the most pertinent perspective to validate his claims of the negative environmental impacts of the proposed landfill, which he said would change the topography of the area and may hinder farming.
Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Local Government Collin Croal told Stabroek News that a landfill has to be built in the Region Three as part of the government’s Solid Waste Management Programme being implemented in the region. Towards this end, he said that a site at Windsor Forest had been initially identified for the landfill after the examination of two sites in the region. He further stated that they went ahead and constructed a bridge and an all-weather access road to the earmarked site, after which ownership issues arose, forcing them to move the site further back into the farmlands.
The road was extended but more work still remains to be done, according to Croal. Croal said that shortly after another hindrance to the project arose with some residents, especially farmers raising their concerns through the Nouvelle/La Jalousie NDC, after which they filed an appeal to the Ministry of Local Government. This, he explained, prompted a visit to the community and site by the Minister of Local Government Norman Whittaker and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), who consulted with the NDC Chairman and the concerned farmers. The decision coming out of the visit was that all work will be halted until the EPA completed its assessment on the environmental impact the landfill will have on the farmlands and water streams of the community. Croal made it clear that they are not moving ahead until all concerns are addressed.
When asked to indicate the estimated cost of the endeavour thus far and the expected cost for the entire project, Croal said he was unable to provide those figures. He referred Stabroek News to Regional Chairman Julius Faerber, who was unreachable up to yesterday afternoon.
Point person for the assessment from the EPA, according to Croal, was Geeta Singh. But when she was contacted, Singh said that the authorised person to speak to the media was the Director, Indarjit Ramdass, who subsequently stated that permission for him to speak to the media has to come from the Ministry of Natural Resources.
Meanwhile, Manager of Pooran Brothers Disposal Services Limited, Kaleshwar Pooran, confirmed that after the residents and farmers raised concerns over the landfill, the company was instructed by the Ministry of Local Government to halt construction as all stakeholders’ concerns are addressed. To date, the manager said, that they are in the dark as to what is going to be the outcome and he hopes that some light can be shed on the issue soon.