Dump fires threaten Jamaica's growth

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

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It is becoming increasing obvious that the State is unable to properly manage and operate landfills.

The latest evidence of this incapacity was presented to the country between last Saturday and Monday this week after a fire at Retirement Dump in St James left large swathes of Montego Bay blanketed by smoke over two days.

We were not surprised, therefore, when the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry reported on Monday that it has received reports from residents of immense discomfort and ill health, ranging from asthmatic attacks to swelling in the eyes.

Indeed, our report in yesterday's edition related the complaints of Mr Aubyn Green, a resident of Montego West, and several residents who said that the smoke was cause for grave health concerns.

“I have been under siege from smoke that has blanketed the community since just a day or so short of a week. The smoke has triggered my sinus headache, resulted in severe burning of my eyes and all of that. I have to be locked up inside the house,” Mr Green complained bitterly.

Another resident, who lives in the Porto Bello area, also expressed anger about the smoke.

“It's terrible, we can't live like this; the smoke is killing us,” the resident said.

The Chamber, in a statement on Monday, said it was made aware that “at least one business would be shutting temporarily to avoid the inherent dangers of the fumes”.

As we reported, last weekend's fire and smoke pollution was not the first in St James. Readers will recall that last year July heavy, harmful smoke from a fire at the same Retirement Dump left residents in several communities in the Montego Bay area — Bogue Village, Pitfour Retirement, Porto Bello, Granville, and Montego West — choking for almost two weeks.

The cause of that fire, the country was later told, was the work of arsonists.

What is particularly disturbing and frustrating about this is that people living in Kingston and St Andrew, as well as Portmore in St Catherine, are subjected to similar torture, almost annually, when the Riverton Dump is, in most cases, deliberately set alight.

At last check, the enterprise team charged with identifying an investor for the privatisation of the island's dumps is scheduled to complete that process by October this year. We hope the team meets that deadline and that its recommendations will ensure the implementation of an efficient waste management service that will rid the country of the politically tainted system that now exists.

Everyone knows that the fires at these dumps are not accidental. They are basically set by individuals who are genetically connected to both political parties that use the dumps as troughs from which political pork is distributed in the form of work to transport dirt used to help put out the flames.

Any country serious about growth and development cannot continue this way. The social, economic and health dislocations caused by these fires will only set us back. We must put a stop to this madness.

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