Local gov’t renewal needed to tackle environmental woes

- APNU

Local government elections and effectively functioning local government bodies are needed to address several environmental problems, including solid waste management, air pollution and marine litter, says main opposition APNU.

The government has been struggling for years to enact legislation and to take other measures to combat various environmental issues but these efforts have failed for a variety of reasons, including poor enforcement.

But yesterday the opposition coalition suggested that these measures have not been and will not be effective until local governing institutions are properly established and equipped with the necessary resources to fulfil their mandates. For this to be done, local government elections must be held.

This is according to APNU Chairman David Granger and Vice-Chairman Dr Rupert Roopnaraine, who made the coalition’s position clear during a press briefing yesterday morning.

According to Granger, “local government elections will unlock the energies of the masses,” which is exactly why he said President Donald Ramotar needs to assent to the four local government bills, passed two month ago, in a hurry. “We want to see those bills assented to,” he said.

Though several government officials say that the bills are not needed to hold local government elections, they are still crucial towards effecting local government reform, which both government and opposition had agreed on as a prerequisite for new elections.

Although the bills were passed in the National Assembly on August 7, the President has not indicated whether or not he will give his assent, even though he and his government say they are anxious to have local government elections.

Despite the more than two-month lapse though, Granger told Stabroek News he is optimistic that Ramotar will assent to the local government bills before the government attempts to host local government elections.

Meanwhile, Roopnaraine said addressing Guyana’s environmental issues requires the full democratic participation of the people in the areas which are affected. Despite the implementation of several laws and initiatives aimed at improving the environment, Guyanese continue  to litter their surroundings, including their roads, alleyways and even their waterways. Addressing marine litter, Roopnaraine noted the large amounts of refuse which lined the seawalls after the once traditional Sunday night limes, as well as the amount of litter which washes up on the shores of the seawall daily.

All of this, he said, is a result of the disregard with which people treat their environment.

He argued that the existence of local governing organs in the various communities translates into having an authoritative body close to home which may be better capable of reaching the minds of the people in their communities than central government initiatives, thereby curtailing many of the environmental blights the party alluded to.

Unfortunately, Roopnaraine said, the local government structure, which he described as central to solving solid waste issues, has collapsed. As a result, unkempt drains, and huge piles of garbage in places they ought not to be continue to blot the landscape.

Further, it is the mandate of the Municipalities and Neighbourhood Democratic Councils to manage solid waste disposal in their jurisdictions, however the inefficient execution of these responsibilities has prompted the Local Government Ministry to contract out these responsibilities to private operators. Change in these areas, APNU argues, will only come after local government elections are held, and the relevant local governing organs properly instituted.

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