The Georgetown Solid Waste Management Programme will improve environmental conditions

Dear Editor,
We, at City Hall, wish to update citizens on solid waste management in the city of Georgetown. The council believes that if citizens understand the challenge of solid waste management then they would cooperate with our collective effort to improve conditions in the city.

For more than half a century, the Mayor and City Council has been providing waste management services to the citizens. In the early years of providing the service, horse-drawn carts were utilized to transport waste from households to the designated disposal area. However, covered trucks were eventually introduced and later compactor trucks. The council took the opportunity to build up low-lying areas with the waste generated.

In the latter half of the 1950s, an incinerator was constructed which served as a main disposal facility for general domestic waste as well as hospital and pathological waste, among others, until it fell into ruins in the 1990s and the chimney had to be demolished before eventually being taken out of service.

Land-filling has continued to be the main means of disposal for the solid waste generated by residents, businesses and industries in Georgetown and some of the neighbouring communities. The city was planned with a number of open spaces being provided for recreational purposes as well as the development of community-based facilities. Over the years, the council has utilized a number of these open areas as landfill sites. On such area is the current site being used for waste disposal, off Nelson Mandela Avenue, which is part of the land allotted for the Le Repentir Cemetery. This site which has been in use since 1993 was thought to be the most feasible location after most of the other large open spaces had either been previously used or were not available.

At the beginning of its operations in 1993 the Mandela site was really a demonstration landfill and was projected to be in operation for two years. Roadways were constructed, a drainage system established, the site was secured (utilizing the natural barrier provided by the drainage canals and the vegetation that surrounded the site, as well as by posting security personnel). Waste disposed of at the site was covered on a regular basis. It was expected that during this two-year period a new site allowing for a longer life-span of at least twenty years would have been identified and prepared for use a landfill. This did not materialize.

As a result, the council was forced to return to the Mandela landfill site after using another location temporally. As the situation at the Mandela landfill site deteriorated it began to affect residents in the neighbouring communities. Again as the serious nature of solid waste management became more evident, the authorities started an aggressive programme to address the issue. For example, they initiated several studies aimed at finding a viable solution.

Further, with the advocacy of the Georgetown Municipality the Government of Guyana was eventually able to secure assistance from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in financing a project for the environmental improvement of the Georgetown interim disposal site. As well as improving environmental conditions at the site, this project was aimed at the institutional strengthening of the council’s capacity to manage solid waste, and encouraging behavioural change among citizens and other waste generators regarding the management of solid waste. This project commenced in 2004 and the major components have been completed. Currently, the extension area that was prepared for use is being utilized to dispose of waste from Georgetown and some neighbourhood democratic councils (NDCs).

The projected two year time-frame for the continued operation of the site comes to an end shortly and the financial resources allocated under the project to offset the cost associate with the operation of the facility are exhausted. The Municipal Solid Waste Management Department is in the process of finalizing a programme for expanding the cost recovery measures at the Mandela landfill so as to sustain environmentally friendly operations there until the new disposal facility is ready to receive waste.

An area east of the Eccles, Haags Bosch, was eventually identified as the preferred location to site a landfill. It is against this background that the Georgetown Solid Waste Management Programme which was developed in 2003 and received IDB approval for funding in May 2006 is about to be launched. The general objective of the programme is to contribute to the improvement of the environmental conditions and quality of life of citizens. The purpose is to implement sustainable solutions to solid waste management in these areas. Generally, the programme aims to solve the challenge of solid waste disposal through the design and construction of a sanitary landfill at Haags Bosch with private sector participation. Specifically, it aims to strengthen the oversight capacity of the Municipal Solid Waste Management Department of the Municipality of Georgetown and improve collection logistics and cost recovery in Georgetown and the NDCs; raise public awareness within Georgetown and the NDCs for better management of solid waste among households, industries, commerce, etc; implement the Haags Bosch Sanitary Landfill Facility with the participation of a specialized operator from the private sector; provide resources to study and define technologies to treat health care and hazardous waste; implement a more efficient waste collection at the NDC participating in the project; and provide additional resources to rehabilitate and close the Mandela landfill.

In the meantime, the council is asking citizens to do their bit to keep their local communities clean and tidy at all times. Also, citizens need to take advantage of the way in which individuals can inspire and encourage one another to do good and to protect our environment.
Yours faithfully,
Royston King
Public Relations Officer
Mayor and City Council

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