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By Lisa Hamilton
Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, Nigel Dharamlall believes that leaders at the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) are making political the matter of solid waste management in Georgetown instead of utilising the financial resources at hand to do a satisfactory job.
He said the same during an interview with the Village Voice News on the Government’s efforts to reintroduce the Solid Waste Management Bill and to turn it into law for better waste management nationally. “We have across the country, especially in the Municipality areas, including the city of Georgetown, wanton littering and uncontrolled disposal of garbage and I feel that it is being pursued to make the Government look bad because City Council, in the last five years under APNU, had resources to clean the city and then, suddenly, when the PPP came into Office they have done nothing to keep the city clean,” Minister Dharamlall said.
I THINK IT’S DELIBERATE
Not long ago, on April 26, 2021, Georgetown Mayor, Ubraj Narine requested “immediate financial assistance” from Central Government due to the Municipality’s non-receipt of budgetary subventions pegged at 10 million dollars for 2020 and 30 million dollars for 2021.
In his statement, the Mayor said that the Georgetown Municipality is “suffering under the management of the Government of Guyana”.
Ubraj said that heads of organizations, the diaspora, citizens across Georgetown and those who visit the capital city all complain about the state of the city, especially where the collection of garbage is concerned and the rise of COVID-19 cases. Since the APNU/AFC government was in office, the Mayor said that the Municipality has not purchased any new equipment nor has it received any new equipment from the Government for the movement of garbage.
On the other hand, Minister Dharamlall’s position is that the Council needs no additional funds but should instead better manage what it has. “I don’t think it’s a valid concern,” he said, suggesting instead that City Hall support the completion of the forensic audit into the Municipality and state what it did with allegedly “over 14 billion” dollars collected when the APNU+AFC was in power.
Dharamlall said: “I’ve gone around Georgetown and I’ve seen the large piles of garbage all over the place and they have been cleaned based on my calls to City Hall and then the next 2-3 days it’s the same garbage mess across the city. So, it is obvious that there is a certain effort by some individuals to continue to damage the city by dumping garbage all over and I do not think that the City Hall is doing enough to curb the situation. I think they have the wherewithal, they have the knowledge, and they have the labour force as well as the enforcement to get Georgetown cleaned up and it is obvious that they’re refusing to do so and I want to think that they’re doing so because they think they will gain political mileage by keeping the city untidy. ”
If or when the Solid Waste Management Bill becomes law, he said that this legislation must cater to how Local Democratic Organs, including City Council, treat with solid waste management financially.
SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT BILL
On the matter of the Bill itself, as Guyana rapidly develops as an oil-producing nation, Minister Dharamlall reminded that more waste will be produced and, therefore, now more than ever, Guyana needs a reliable plan for the management of its solid waste.
“The Solid Waste Management Bill has been on the table for quite a number of years. It went to the former Attorney General and it sat there for five years without anything being done. Since we became the new Government, we have sort of dusted it off and we have to bring it up to date with the current circumstances of the country, including the new economic ventures that are being pursued and the transformation of the economy,” he said.
The Draft Solid Waste Management Bill 2014 dealt with littering, garbage collection, the management of landfills, offences and penalties for improper waste management, measures to encourage waste reduction, monitoring and compliance, and education and training. The Bill also provided for the establishment of a Solid Waste Management Authority responsible for effective management of solid waste in Guyana. It was not approved by Cabinet.
Minister Dharamlall said that soon consultations will begin on the Bill to make changes and improvements where necessary. Though no timeline has been set, the Minister said: “I don’t think that we should hurriedly do it because it’s a major issue in our country and we have to spend the time and the effort to make sure it is done properly.”
Until such comes to fruition, he said that Guyana possesses laws — though old — against littering and what is missing is “unfettered enforcement”. He emphasized that all Guyanese, including businesses, have a responsibility to keep the environment clean.