Garbage extracted from a drain n Tudor Street in the City.
Image: SSA-Barbados

Environment officials are working tirelessly in the trenches in the fight against illicit dumping, which has the potential to cost Government millions of dollars and erode substantial progress made toward environmental sustainability.

And with some 100 tonnes of garbage, ranging from food containers to large appliances, found lodged in Bridgetown drains earlier this year, Environment Minister, Dr. Denis Lowe, is calling for an all-out war against this scourge from all quarters, including the church, school, community, Government and private sector.

According to him, the problem in Barbados has transcended the issue of surveillance and enforcement, to become an endemic practice within society.

"At the end of the day, a society must police itself. And I think the problem we are having is more than just an act that violates the law – it is a habit that, unfortunately, has taken root in our society.

"Adults have become the perpetrators of this unfortunate behavior, and children mimic the behavior of adults. So you are not going to be able to correct it unless you are able to get the message across. It can’t just be enforcement by legal means, it has to be engraved in the consciousness of people in the society that this is a hazard to environmental well-being and to the country’s image,"???? Minister Lowe maintained.

On this score, he emphasised that neither the problem, nor its solution, should be viewed as the purview of Government, but as the responsibility of all Barbadians, including the church.

"At the end of the day, we cannot say that it is the Government’s responsibility alone, neither can we say that it is the private sector’s; it is every citizen’s remit to ensure that these things are addressed.

"Why can’t a church do a campaign where it uses the pulpit a Sunday morning to talk about these lifestyle issues??? It will talk about sex; it will talk about promiscuity; it will talk about money and those things, but what defines us as a society the church simply will not address," Dr. Lowe challenged.

He also underscored the need for a sustained educational programme in primary schools in an effort to cultivate desirable habits in young children.

"We have to get into primary schools and start a sustained programme where we persistently work?? with our students – not only in terms of getting the message across, but in getting them to develop the habits that would not give rise to this kind of behavior, because it is very sad,"?? the Minister?? explained.

Not discounting the role of enforcement, however, the Environment Minister observed that the problem had always been the capacity to enforce the provisions of the law.

"We appreciate that in order to be able to police illegal dumping there will have to be more surveillance and some system where persons doing surveillance have the power, if not to arrest, at least to issue citations…that will then lead to police investigations and arrests, where necessary," he said.

Alluding to the state of the island’s gullies, the Environment head noted that one campaign would not be enough to have them cleared, because of the extent of the problem.

He, therefore, underscored the need for a national campaign to highlight the services being offered by the Sanitation Service Authority, particularly within communities known for high incidences of illegal dumping.

On the matter of recycling, Dr. Lowe lauded the work of the Solid Waste Project Unit, which has a remit to roll out a comprehensive sustainable recycling programme. He, however, noted that further investment in additional tools was necessary to not only show persons the way, but to "get them on the right track".

Suggesting, for example, that each single primary school be outfitted with a recycling package that included bins for separation purposes, Minister Lowe stressed the need for an accompanying incentive or reward system for students’ recycling efforts, as well as for the development of additional tools to help propagate this message.

Reflecting on a recent visit to Singapore, in which he saw streets devoid of litter; and a police officer only once in 10 days, Dr. Lowe pointed out that while Singapore’s order is often attributed to its stringent laws, there was something to be said about the mindset of its citizens – and this must become an ingrained part of the consciousness of Barbadian society.

With Government spending in the region of BDS$ 5 million annually, "simply to keep the drains clear," he concluded:??"We have to take an aggressive position against this [indiscriminate dumping], or else we will end up spending millions in corrective care, when we can perhaps spend a few hundred thousand [dollars] in corrective care… beautifying Barbados simply cannot be a theme only; it must become a practice."

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