Take a walk on the wild side today and venture into the foul streets of this city. The Mandela dumpsite having gone past its expiry date has long been one big stink. It now encroaches on Le Repentir Cemetery, which also has its own problems after being ignored for decades; but that’s another column. This one is to state the obvious – the city stinks.

We all know why there is a foul odour at practically every turn, but for the benefit of those who should be doing something about it, it bears repeating. The official explanation is that the contracted garbage collectors have suspended their services until a debt of $75 million owed to them is paid. However, the underlying problem, which will not go away if and when the $75 million is paid is that there have been decades of poor administration of the city and its resources. Add to this political spite and official apathy and the result is what we are dealing with today.

Itinerant garbage collectors are now fleecing those city residents, who are still trying to keep their surroundings clean. Truck owners and dray cart drivers have seized the day. They trawl city streets emptying garbage bins at prices that range from $500 to $1,000 per bin depending on the area they are working in. (If they feel the city ward is an affluent one the price is $1,000.)

The residents from whom they collect the garbage assume that it was going to the Mandela dump, but instead in many instances it was being dropped off in the vicinity of the landfill. When City Hall wised up to what was occurring and sent members of the Constabulary to halt this practice, those collectors who chose not to go all the way to the landfill found other means of garbage disposal. Residents have been complaining that persons have been brazenly dumping refuse at the Hadfield Street end of D’Urban Park. Some of the more unscrupulous collectors have been discarding their loads at ‘convenient’ street corners, giving rise to a new meaning of recycling garbage – taking it from one part of the city to another. If nothing else, there is ingenuity in their deceit.

To date, more than two weeks into this latest crisis, apart from the lame ‘we’re doing all we can’ from City Hall, there has been no word from the people who were elected to run this country. Yes, the current Mayor and City Council (M&CC) team was elected to manage the city, but the mandate given to that body expired a long time ago and it has only remained in place by default mainly through deliberate foot dragging by politicians. However, it appears that in their haste to blame city officials for mismanaging the capital, those in central government appear to have conveniently forgotten that Georgetown is also a part of Guyana. Therefore, the people elected to run the country – and their mandate has not run out as yet – ultimately hold the final responsibility. The stink leads to their doorsteps. The buck stops with them.

There has to be something seriously wrong with our elected leaders — who though they may not live in Georgetown, come here to work every day — that they can drive through streets overflowing with filth and not move to do something about it. Regardless of how dark the tinted windows on their vehicles are, they have to be aware also that the stop-gap measures meted out every other quarter or whenever the contracted garbage collectors down tools are not enough. There needs to be a long-term plan that will put an end to this putrid situation developing ever so often. How can our President be placing emphasis on environmental issues on the international stage when he and his government operate from a capital that at present must be one of the foulest, if not the foulest in this hemisphere? Isn’t this hypocrisy?

It is time for the government to stop the finger pointing and work with the M&CC to clean up the city now; and to put in place a plan to keep it that way. Resources will be needed and monitoring of those resources must be stringent, but it is necessary and can be done. It’s time to end the current violence against the environment; the possible backlash could be an epidemic of extremely severe proportions that would be way more expensive.

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