Garbage disposal: Who cares anyway?

The fatigue and tedium associated with having to continually focus public attention on the problems of garbage collection and disposal in the city and its environs is outweighed only by the importance of getting on top of the problem. Truth be told there are too many important things that are riding on a cleaner city to ignore the need to continue to keep the matter in the public eye, though one can perhaps be forgiven for thinking that the issue of garbage collection and disposal allows for far too much publicity for the government and municipal officials whose responsibility it is to manage this particular matter, but whose downright incompetence in the execution of their duties has become an acute vexation to the citizenry as a whole.

Some of the anomalous circumstances that attend the garbage collection and disposal issue, which we have already commented on, include the perpetuation of corrupt practices inside City Hall that crimp the efficiency of the waste disposal regime; the sterile and pointless political gamesmanship ensuing between state and municipal officials and the cynical manner in which this theatre is imposed upon us. The barefaced insensitivity of urban businessmen who poke themselves in the eye by dumping their garbage in the very city where they trade; the indifference of the private sector umbrella organisations that simply refuse to raise their game in demanding a better-kept capital and a central government that behaves as though it simply couldn’t care less about the city and its garbage problems, also compound the issue.

Last week we were treated to one of those GINA press releases that specialise in making news out of nothing. This particular one told us that two ministers, the City Mayor and sundry government and municipal officials had travelled to the Haags Bosch waste disposal site to distribute bicycles to waste pickers and that Guyenterprise would be supporting government “to bring greater public awareness on the issue of solid waste management and disposal in Guyana.”

We take that to mean that urban Guyanese will once again to be given instructions on just how to deal with the issue of garbage disposal though we sincerely hope that those executing the programme take account of the fact that at least half of the problem has always had to do with the inefficiency of the solid waste collection and disposal regimes, whether these fall under the Georgetown municipality itself or under the NDCs in outlying areas.

The truth of the matter is that while the citizens wouldn’t mind a capital that benefits from an improved waste collection and disposal regime, we have become sufficiently tired of wishing and hoping for such an eventuality and simply refuse to make it a big deal any longer. Even if it is not particularly to our credit the fact is that we have learnt to endure our garbage.

Rather than as a genuine shame and outrage, garbage exists to feed the political agendas of the various constituencies, whether those  comprise groups that seek to decry the City Council or to accuse the government of starving the municipality of funds or, perhaps, to tell off the commercial sector for the indiscriminate dumping of its mountains of cardboard and plastics. In all of this there is really no evidence that any of the constituencies care enough to do anything meaningful to address the problem.

That is why there is every likelihood that public cynicism on the issue of garbage disposal may well have long reached a point where isolated public awareness programmes that do not go much beyond the creation of catchy posters, television commercials, radio jingles, celebrity garbage retrieval gimmicks and pick up as you go fun walks will not cut it. We need to begin with a collective will, a genuine mindfulness of what our city has become and a preparedness to recognise that saving our capital is an infinitely more urgent matter than playing out our differences. That is the same as saying that however much our diplomatic envoys call for local government elections – and those are of course long overdue – a change of administration at City Hall is by no means a panacea for a better-run capital.

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