MONTEGO BAY, St James — It appears the honeymoon is over for the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA). The agency received lavish praise last November when St James received 10 new trucks, but now it is again being blasted for what critics said is a failure to efficiently utilise its resources.
At the most recent meeting of the St James Municipal Corporation, the criticism came from both sides of the room.
“I’m not happy standing here this morning to say this, but it is the reality. There have been efforts to reach out to get the areas clean and it remains the same. Promises were made that it would be done within 24 hours, [but] 48, 72, and even 90 hours after, it’s still dirty, still stink,” said Councillor Anthony Murray (Jamaica Labour Party [JLP], Rose Hall Division).
He maintained that the problem is the worst it has been for years and spoke of the need for the NSWMA to be proactive, especially within the context of a dengue outbreak and increased rainfall that transforms uncollected garbage into breeding sites for mosquitoes.
Councillor Michael Troupe (People’s National Party, Granville Division) also complained of a foul odour in Granville and a garbage-choked Retirement, where the landfill is located.
He chastised the agency for a recent logistical nightmare for an announced Friday collection of bulky waste. After he mobilised residents to bring out their items, Troupe said, the agency was a no-show.
“That was nonsense chairman. No trucks available Friday, Saturday, and Sunday,” he bellowed.
He said it was only a phone call from him that resulted in a truck being dispatched.
“They advertise that they are going to clean bulky waste and they give you a specific day, but if you don’t call, nothing happens,” he complained.
Councillor Arthur Lynch (JLP, Montego Bay South East Division) called on the agency to use a roving team to tackle the backlog and to get more contractors if necessary.
However, Councillor Dwight Crawford (JLP, Spring Gardens Division) leapt to the defence of the State agency. He insisted that it has been doing great work despite a shortage of drivers as noted in the report presented to the meeting.
“While we are here discussing all of the bad things that Solid Waste has not been able to do, we have lost focus on all the strides that we’ve made,” he said.
“We are coming from a place where we had more drivers than trucks. There were drivers sitting down out there looking for a truck to drive,” Crawford added.
He urged those bashing the agency to instead focus on getting the vacancies for drivers filled.
“The Government has now provided trucks for drivers to drive, so what you, Mr Community Leader, and all the community leaders across Jamaica, should be doing is encouraging people from town and country to come to Montego Bay because we have jobs here,” he told Troupe.
Crawford lauded the NSWMA for the work they have done in his constituency.
“Solid Waste has moved over 15 derelict vehicles from my community, for which I am grateful. So I am not going to sit here and discourage the solid waste workers that go there every morning at 5:00 am and work so hard to keep the place clean,” he said.
In response to the concerns raised, representatives of the NSWMA sought to assure councillors that they are moving speedily to have the matters addressed but pointed out that the situation has been partially exacerbated by residents’ actions.
“If Granville is stink, it’s not because of a lack of effort from Western Parks and Markets [a subsidiary of NSWMA]. You have called me on a number of occasions and we have been in there working continuously. I would like the councillor to sensitise his division and the people that are living in his division on their disposal practices,” urged public cleansing Supervisor Patrick Gilchrist who has direct supervision for that community.
“I have to clean Granville main [road] sometimes twice per week as a consequence of the waste that is being thrown there,” he added.
Speaking more broadly, he urged local representatives to help their constituents understand the importance of proper waste management.
“This is not only NSWMA business, we all have to take responsibility for our waste,” he said as he urged them to reach out if they need help.