The Ministry of Home Affairs can assist in combating Guyana’s solid waste problems by having the Guyana Prison Service use inmates to clear drains and clear away garbage, APNU MP Annette Ferguson said on Friday.
Many prisoners who are serving short terms and are not very dangerous can be used in the effort to restore garbage-filled towns to their former glory, she suggested.
The suggestion was just one of several proposed by main opposition APNU and its leaders at a news conference on Friday, where they urged government to improve the solid waste management in Guyana.
Last Wednesday’s flash flooding of the city and other areas has been blamed on drains being clogged with garbage wantonly discarded by citizens and unsuccessfully retriev-ed by the authorities responsible for keeping the drains free.
But this can be avoided if government crafts a Solid Waste Management Plan, which, unlike many of the past and/or existing initiatives, needs to target Guyana at large, as opposed to just the capital city, APNU said.
This plan, according to APNU Leader David Granger, should lay out clear targets, techniques and timelines for waste reduction, and must also set specific targets geared towards reducing, reusing and recycling solid waste.
He said APNU has already taken steps towards addressing the solid waste problem and government should become engaged in initiatives of its own. He was referring to the motion tabled in the National Assembly by APNU MP Volda Lawrence and subsequently passed.
Elaborating on this development, APNU MP Joseph Harmon explained that the “Resolution for the Restoration of Georgetown” motion has led to the setting up for four sub-committees, which are working towards the motion’s goals.
But since this initiative is just geared towards improving Georgetown, APNU acknowledged that it as well as several other government initiatives, including the “Pick it up Campaign,” are insufficient, considering that the scope of the problem spans every inhabited area in the country.
Reading from a press statement, Granger said, “Guyana has a gigantic garbage problem. Every part of the country, not only Georgetown, is affected by the garbage crisis. Knolls of rubbish have disfigured the urban and rural landscape. Builders’ waste, carrion, damaged vehicles, and discarded tyres encumber roadsides and sidewalks,” Granger read.
And the situation is only getting worse, he said, as townsfolk and villagers become more and more attracted to fast, fashionable foreign foods and apparel. This, Granger said, has increased both the volume and variety of domestic rubbish over the past two decades. He also noted that many citizens, including commercial establishments, toss their unwanted goods onto the parapets or into the canals or rivers.
Although the George-town municipality is responsible for solid waste management in the capital city, Granger argued that the responsibility of solid waste management should not be “shunted to regional and municipal bodies.”
But even where the municipalities are concerned, particularly Georgetown, Granger contended, many lack the capacity to do the work expected of them. Harmon said that the Georgetown municipality has no functioning vehicles to do its work and added that the two compactor trucks it was supplied with earlier this year are down and that they lack the capacity to fix them.
Meanwhile, Granger said the Georgetown municipality is at a disadvantage since the city’s boundaries have been extended although the municipality has not been given additional resources to cater to the additional areas. This reality has not been helped, he added, by the fact that the municipality is being prevented by government from creating other revenue-earning avenues.
Outlining what should be mandatory provisions of the plan, Granger said it must make use of the large quantity of vegetable waste generated every day by municipal markets, farms, restaurants, schools and the hospitality industry in towns and neighbourhoods. He said bio-digesters can covert such waste into “useful organic fertilisers for farming”. He also said that methane gas generated by garbage landfills can be saved and used as an alternative fuel source.
The plan must also mandate the selective sorting of re-usable waste discarded by households and business places since not much of Guyana’s households and commercial operators make a habit of sorting their waste before they put it out to be taken to landfill. Such sorting, he argued, can be encouraged by having industrial and commercial corporations offer incentives, especially since they are the ones who generate much of the nation’s garbage.
The importation of used tyres and other non-biodegradable products, which contribute to the volume of rubbish and the conundrums experienced in effectively disposing of them, also needs to be restricted, Granger said.
The success of the plan though, he explained, will require the government to effectively collaborate with the various municipalities and other local government organs, corporations, and the citizens in all target areas.
Granger told reporters that the government will need to work with these other stakeholders to promote the plan, as well as implement and enforce its provisions.
APNU has called for the setting up of several such plans, commissions and investigations, most of which, if not all, are yet to be addressed.
Government’s refusal to formulate this APNU-proposed plan will be at its own peril, said Harmon, who added that the initiative was thought up after considering the interests articulated by the people of Guyana. As such, he said, it is the people of Guyana who want the plan, not the APNU.
Granger was convinced that Friday’s call would spark government action as it has done in the past. He is of the opinion that several calls, including for investigations of boat accidents and the gastro breakout in Region One, have prompted the government to action, but that government opted to stay silent on such initiatives.