BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS Observer senior reporter firstname.lastname@example.org
THE National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) has cleared 65 illegal dumps across the island in recent months, as it continues the campaign against rodent infestation and improper garbage disposal.
Addressing journalists at yesterday's Jamaica House Press Briefing at the Office of the Prime Minister in Kingston, NSWMA Executive Director Jennifer Edwards said the clearing of the dumps was part of the agency's concentration over the last few months on the management of solid waste.
"We have entered a programme to begin systematically to identify and clear mini-dumps [which are] part of the reason we have had rodent infestation. Unfortunately, oftentimes we clear today and by tomorrow they return, but we are persisting with the intent that we get the message across," Edwards told reporters. The NSWMA, she added, has dispatched enforcement and community relations teams into various communities to speak to residents about proper disposal and storage of waste.
In the meantime, she said over the last six months 1,600 tickets have been issued to persons who are in breach of the litter law , while another 600 have been taken before the court for breaches.
The NSWMA head, however, said the figures did not necessarily represent an increase in activities but were more the result of focused attention on particular offences such as urinating in public spaces and the illegal placement of garbage.
"A number of the tickets that were issued were to persons urinating in public spaces and for the illegal placement of garbage more than just the dropping of litter," she said. "The fine is still $2,000, unfortunately, for those offences but there are different rates for different breaches. For instance, if you tamper with a receptacle you can be fined up to to $1 million for those offences and tampering involves damaging it, removing it, or defacing it in any way.
"If you impede the collection or disposal of solid waste [and] if you block the roadway so we can't get to your collection there is a fine that is imposed again of up $1 million or nine months," she said. "We have not used the full extent of the law as we have really been trying to encourage compliance rather than going through the courts," the NSWMA executive director added.
Noting that some of the cases remain in the courts for a long time, further contributing to the clogged system, she said. "It's more effective if we get prevention."
In the meantime, she said efforts were being made to review the draft regulations for the NSWMA Act which have been long in coming. "That will allow us to increase the penalties but also take through the courts, in a more successful manner, some of the breaches we haven't been able to take," she added.
And the agency is yet to recover from the effects of a mysterious fire in December last year. The fire, which the police suspect was the work of arsonists, reportedly began some time after 11:00 pm on December 4 and was concentrated on the record-keeping sections of two separate floors. The damage from the blaze was contained because of the quick action of the fire department.
"The police have been investigating [but] the source of the fire is still very questionable; we have lost over $25 million worth of fixed assets and other assets and have lost a lot of records and that is going to have implications for our audits going forward," Edwards said.
"A lot of financial records were damaged; we have done an extensive programme of recovery and sorting documents which were burnt but some of them are not going to be of any benefit to us; some of them were extensively damaged. There is still a lot of work to be done and we are still uncovering effects of the fire to the infrastructure that were not initially identified," she said further.