Mon | Sep 28, 2020

Editors' Forum | Abandoned - JET says state agencies have given up on clean air for Mandela Highway, Spanish Town Rd

Published:Sunday | October 8, 2017 | 12:00 AMPetre Williams-Raynor

The Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) has accused the authorities of giving up on clean air for the communities around Spanish Town Road in the vicinity of the Riverton City Landfill and for persons travelling along the Mandela Highway.

More than six months after Peter Knight, head of the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), pointed to the Spanish Town Road corridor and Portmore as areas where Jamaica's air quality is bad and deteriorating fast, nothing has been done to address the illegal practice of the open burning of tyres and other harmful activities in that area.

"The fact is that the whole corridor out of Kingston, Spanish Town out to Mandela, all of that has multiple air-quality impacts. They have thrown up their hands. Both NEPA and NSWMA (National Solid Waste Management Authority) have thrown up their hands at the burning of tyres that takes place every single week of life," said Diana McCaulay, chief executive officer of JET.

McCaulay was speaking at a Gleaner Editors' Forum last Thursday, where JET shared

the findings of its recently published report, Review of the Legal and Policy Framework for Air and Water Quality in the Island of Jamaica.

"There is burning on what used to be called 'Moe Lands,' which is now being dumped up for business on the northern side of the Mandela Highway. Every day of life there is cane burning. There are people just burning trash, so that whole corridor has got really bad air quality," she added.

Dr Anthony Greenaway, main technical researcher and contributor to the report, agreed.

"What we found out when we were reviewing the (air quality) standards is that the air-quality standards have accompanying regulations and a guideline document as to how to implement them. It is very good. If they would just do that, it would work nicely," said Greenaway.


More could be done, says NEPA


The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) is adamant that it has not thrown in the towel with regard to the many illegal activities affecting the air quality on the stretch of Spanish Town Road leading to the Mandela Highway in St Andrew.

"When we are notified of a burning incident, then the Jamaica Fire Brigade is contacted, and if we need to go, then we go, and if other security measures need to be in place, then that is done," Anthony McKenzie, NEPA's director of environmental management and conservation, said during the Gleaner Editors' Forum last Thursday.

"But it is certainly not 'given up', and we have had discussions with the NSWMA, and, of course, we have a monitoring station (for air quality) there. So we do get the information," he added.

McKenzie conceded, however, that there is some way to go to solve the problem, which has, in the past, been made worse by fires at the Riverton City garbage disposal site.

"There needs to be greater control and engagement of the communities around that area in terms of that activity," he said.