Jamaica must benefit from solid waste divestment — McKenzie

BY HORACE HINES
Staff reporter
editorial@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, September 15, 2019

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RETIREMENT, St James —Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie says the reason for the long wait for the announced privitisation of the nation's solid waste management operations is due to the Government's insistence that the move will benefit the nation.

In 2016, Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced the appointment of an enterprise team to identify a preferred waste-management provider for the divestment of the Riverton landfill.

The nine-member team, chaired by Lyttleton Shirley, was charged with managing the process of establishing a waste-to-energy system in Jamaica and the contracting out of the solid waste collection and solid waste management of the country.

Holness said the move by the Government will see the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) moving towards a more regulatory role.

Last year, following fires at disposal sites across the country, the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) joined the call for the fast-tracking of the divestment of the country's solid waste management operations, but, McKenzie argued that “there is no quick fix to the problems that we face at our landfills”.

“Let's say that divestment does not happen overnight just like that, it takes time. And as a Government we want to be clear that whatever decision we make on the divestment is one that will be of benefit to the people of Jamaica. So those who are saying why is it taking so long...we know it is taking long but we want to be very, very careful in what we are doing,” McKenzie explained.

He added: “We are looking to relocate at least two (landfills). It's going to take a lot of money. The divestment team met with the chairman about two weeks ago, looking at how advanced the question of the divestment has taken place.”

He was speaking at the Retirement dump in St James, where he outlined a raft of initiatives put in place to reduce fires at the facility, some of which have been frequent in recent times. The latest outbreak in July left large swathes of Montego Bay blanketed by smoke over two days.

McKenzie announced that repairs were being carried out to some 1,500 metres of the roadway at the facility to guarantee easier access to the disposal site and to the active cells at the location, by way of:

• the creation of a designated cell to house tyres only,

• installation of pipes throughout the site to facilitate the transportation of water,

• installation of three fire hydrants at separate points across the landfill,

• installation of a 28,000 water tanks,

• the provision of a brand new dumper truck to be based at the facility to assist in the daily covering of the site,

• the placing of a response team on site to check the facility on a daily basis, and

• the provision of over 100 truckloads of top soil will be made available for covering.

“We not saying that what we are doing will answer all the concerns but at least it is going to put the organisation in a much better position to respond,” McKenzie noted.

He further stated: “For years this disposal site has been a bone of contention in St James and in the neighbouring parishes...the smoke nuisance and all the unnecessary things associated with fire. Some of them were set deliberately and some, based on the location, would happen naturally. The cry of the residents has been loud, the criticism of the Government hurts,” McKenzie outlined.


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