Thu | Oct 22, 2020

Letter of the Day | Leverage the $1.3-billion clean up campaign

Published:Thursday | November 14, 2019 | 12:16 AM


What great news! The Government has announced a grand national clean-up campaign to the tune of $1.3 billion that will see gullies, drains, verges, and so on, all across the island, getting a much-needed cleaning. This makes perfect sense in light of the dengue epidemic that rages on, taking innocent lives. The cleaner our surroundings, the less chance we give the vector of the virus –that dratted mosquito – to survive and flourish. Plus, the island is dirty – plain and simple. This is a very good thing. It’s a huge undertaking and will be implemented by the National Works Agency in collaboration with the National Solid Waste Management Authority, with guidance coming from the Ministry of Health and Wellness. I applaud this.

This initiative provides the perfect opportunity to start to really tackle our garbage problem and our culture of nastiness. Somewhere along the way, we lost pride in our environment. We dump and litter indiscriminately. No doubt, inefficiencies on the part of the State in collecting and disposing of garbage reliably and predictably have aided and abetted our terrible attitude towards managing our own waste. Tackling cultural change is a complex and not at all easy, seamless endeavour. But this grand clean-up, announced by no less a person than the prime minister himself, to be executed via a multiagency approach, could be the starting point in addressing our culture of nastiness.

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I sincerely hope that there is a component of this project for public education. You see, if we simply clean up without seeking to engage hearts and minds around our garbage problem, in a few weeks post-clean-up, we are likely to be right back where we started! I suggest that a ‘big deal’ be made public about the expense and the rationale for this project. Do this repeatedly. Come up with simple, catchy communiqués that stress the need for the citizenry to play their part. Do this in the schools and on public transport, in particular, posters, essay competitions, radio jingles. Use the local government structures across the island to get this message out at the community level. Make noise, be visible, be clear, be consistent with the messaging about maintaining cleanliness going forward.

If we neglect a public education campaign as part of this project, we run the risk of having to spend another $1.3 billion mere months down the road, and we would have thrown away the benefits to be had from a clean, orderly environment.

Kelly McIntosh