The government yesterday announced plans to “fix the problem” at the overflowing Mandela Landfill, while slamming the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) for poor management.
“We’ve been asked by his Excellency the president [Bharrat Jagdeo] this morning to fix the problem and we will fix the problem,” Works Minister Robeson Benn announced, in the midst of a steady stream of trucks offloading garbage and the foul air at the facility. Benn was accompanied by Local Government Minister Kellawan Lall during a site visit to the landfill yesterday.
Prior to the ministerial visit, social activist Mark Benschop had blocked the entrance to the facility to prevent dumping in an already overflowing site. Benschop, and columnist Freddie Kissoon who visited the site, were subsequently arrested and are in police custody. Benschop had held a similar protest only a week ago.
When Benn and Lall arrived at the site a few hours after the protest, they said that they were there to assess the situation and see how their ministries could be of assistance. The only reference to the protest came from Benn, who said, “We’ve heard again here that there was a blockage of a public roadway. The Roads Act is clear about this issue; no person can create any situation which will develop into the blockage or the movement of traffic along a public roadway. The Roads Act is clear about that and I want to request the police and the persons responsible for the security of the dumpsite to make sure that that doesn’t happen.”
The landfill, which has outlived its life span, has been encroaching on Le Repentir Cemetery for some time. In a move to address the situation, the garbage was allowed to be stacked some two meters high. Recently, following the overflowing of cell three at the landfill, it was announced that cell two would be partially reopened as a solution to the lack of storage space.
The facility is managed by the Solid Waste Department of the M&CC.
Standing just inside the gate of the access road to the site, Lall said he and Benn had come to the conclusion “that the City Council cannot manage this location and we are here to help. We are going to make a proper assessment of what needs to be done. Our initial conclusion is that the contractor cannot handle the situation and secondly we need to bring in additional equipment to deal with this situation.”
According to Lall, the ministries will make available heavy-duty machines as early as today at the site. It was noted that the equipment on site, two bulldozers, seem to be having difficulty pushing the garbage into the cell that was reopened, creating a backup of garbage along the access road through the Le Repentir Cemetery entrance.
Lall stated that the contractor at the site—Crawl and Wheelers—cannot handle the capacity of garbage being brought in, thereby necessitating his ministry’s intervention. “We are trying to find a solution because apparently the contractor here can’t really get the garbage out to the pit so Minister Benn and I are trying to see what else can be done,” he said.
The crisis at the landfill has gone on for years and the city has argued that it does not have the resources to properly manage. Further, the new landfill being built by the state at Eccles has been delayed many times.
Lall also stated that reopening the Mandela Avenue entrance to the landfill is under consideration to make access to the pit easier. But he lashed out against the M&CC for its poor management of the site. “I keep saying the thing is not managed properly. I don’t think they lack the resources. They have a lot of resources but [it] is management of those resources…,” he said.
However, in an invited comment, Director of the city’s Solid Waste Department Hubert Urlin explained that his department is trying to cope with the situation as best as it can but he pointed out that the landfill had reached its limit long ago. Added to that, Urlin said that finance is the biggest limitation his department faces in properly managing the site. Recently, he said, two bulldozers were acquired to deal with the increase of garbage anticipated during the holiday season. However, he noted that the department still has limited resources such as proper security; there is only one security guard manning the site.
Meanwhile, neither minister seemed sure that the new landfill at Haags Bosch, behind Eccles on the East Bank of Demerara, will be opened by its contract date next month. In November last year, a $9,729,822 contract was awarded to BK International and Puran Brothers Disposal Service for the construction of the landfill. The contract stipulated a construction period of 12 months and an operation period of 10 years. It is expected to be opened on January 15, 2011.
Earlier this month, Government Engineer Walter Willis said that works at the site were behind schedule as rain was making earth work difficult. Yesterday, Lall said that they were “trying to speed up the works” at the site. “There are issues with the new landfill site coming in place but we have spoken with the Ministry of Local Government, spoken with their unit, which is dealing with that new area,” Benn added.