-assures council is working to avoid health crisis
A month after garbage collectors suspended their services to the city, Georgetown Mayor Hamilton Green yesterday said he was “very satisfied” with the efforts of council workers to address the garbage pile up and that the council is working to avoid a health crisis.
“The engineer’s department and solid waste departments are working beyond the call of duty and I am very satisfied,” he said at a news conference at City Hall.
The Mayor and City Council (M&CC) has reached all but five wards since it took over the collection of garbage in June. On June 21, the three contracted garbage collectors suspended their services after City Hall failed to pay $75 million owing to them.
Green yesterday maintained that the Council’s ability to settle its debt has been hobbled by its failure to collect outstanding taxes. “The major problem is our failure to collect money…the bottom line is we need money to carry the Council,” he said. Green added that up to yesterday morning, City Council has not been in receipt of the second and third quarter taxes due and payable to them by the government. Efforts to contact the Finance Minister were futile, he said. According to Green, if the city receives those payments, the $69M owed by GNEC and the money owed by the Milk Factory in Kingston then the council will “be in a comfort zone,” since it will be able to pay its debts.
Director of the Solid Waste Management Department Hubert Urling said that his department has been able to meet most areas except five wards, which includes North Ruimveldt. It is expected that these areas will be reached within the next two days, Urling said. Currently, he added, capacity building within the departments at the City Hall is being done. “We want to move to the stage of fortnightly collection,” he indicated. Particular focus for collection is on in the main commercial areas, including the abattoir, hospitals and municipal markets.
Since the M&CC took up the collection of garbage after the collection suspension it has faced wanton dumping as persons sought to deal with their accumulating garbage. Last month, M&CC said that over 200 mini-dumps had developed throughout the city. Wanton dumping, however, plagued the M&CC even before the suspension. Additionally, enterprising persons who have started collecting garbage for a fee are reportedly dumping in empty plots of land, alleyways and recently at the entrance to the M&CC dumpsite.
Urling said that there is no specific monitoring of the private collectors to ensure that they take the garbage collected to the dumpsite. But he stated that the M&CC relies heavily on reports by residents. There are officers in the field tracking the situation too, he said.
for a crisis
Meanwhile, City Hall says that it is working to ensure that a health crisis does not develop in light of the indefinite suspension of garbage collection.
While the Mayor did not specify what is being done when asked, further inquires revealed that Council is currently involved in a spraying exercise while an education awareness programme is to be launched next week.
Public Relations Officer Royston King said that workers from the City Council’s vector control unit have been spraying potential breeding grounds for mosquitoes as well as garbage heaps in sections of the city to reduce the spread of cockroaches, flies and other pests that breed in such conditions. Environ-mental Health Officers are also visiting yards and advising persons on proper disposal of their garbage.
King added that next week the M&CC will be issuing health advisories on proper handling of garbage and water storage and use in relation to garbage as well as launch a public education awareness programme in relation to the crisis.
Also speaking at the conference was President of the Guyana Local Government Officers Union Andrew Garnett, General Secretary of the Caribbean Congress of Labour (CCL) Lincoln Lewis and chartered accountant Christopher Ram, who all condemned recent statements made by Local Government Minister Kellawan Lall on the garbage situation. Lall has been heavily criticised for stating that he would be glad if there is a health crisis in Georgetown, since it would be a good reason to remove the Council.
Lall has stated that his ‘tongue-in-cheek’ comment has been misquoted and misrepresented.
Garnett said a health crisis in the city would have far reaching implications for the country and called the minister’s statements “outrageous, scandalous and irresponsible.” Lewis said if the council was dismissed then “I’ll march with the GLU whenever the decision is made to send workers home…this nonsense has to stop!” Ram said that the crisis facing the city is not unique to Georgetown. He said that he has been associated with the Council for over a decade and can attest to some of their struggles.
He pointed out under the Environmental Tax, which was introduced in 1998, monies are being collected to go to a special fund but noted that $5B has been collected under the tax “all of which has disappeared into the consolidated fund.” He said this could have been used to address the situation.