Tue | Nov 20, 2018

'Environmental ZOSO' in Riverton - Vaz vows to use strong measures to clamp down on illegal burning,but JET not impressed

Published:Saturday | March 10, 2018 | 12:00 AMArthur Hall/Associate Editor
Illegal burning of tyres in Riverton and surrounding communities only one aspect of a longstanding and worsening air pollution problem - JET

Stunned by the level of hurt being caused by persons involved in the illegal burning of tyres around the Riverton City dump, Minister with Responsibility for the  Environment Daryl Vaz has vowed to introduce a zone of special operations (ZOSO)-type approach to deal with those involved in the illicit activity.

But watchdog group Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) has expressed concerns that the proposed action by Vaz will only be, at best, a short-term fix to a decades-old problem.

"The police are on board, the soldiers are on board and the major stakeholders are on board. The time for action is now; the time for talk has passed," Vaz told The Gleaner following a meeting with stakeholders on Thursday.

"Residents are being affected, schools, business places, everyone is being hurt by this environmental nightmare," said Vaz.

He added that he has instructed Peter Knight, the chief executive officer (CEO) of the National Environment and Planning Agency, to coordinate among government and other stake-holders for the development of short- and medium-term plans of action, as well as have immediate consultation and intervention with the communities that are most affected.

Vaz said he will also be meeting with colleague ministers Karl Samuda, Ruel Reid and Dr Christopher Tufton with a view towards bolstering a government-wide involvement and support for the planned interventions.

"I will be preparing a Cabinet submission on the challenges and interventions necessary. The submission is to be accompanied by a plan of action, including budgetary support," declared Vaz.

 

ONLY ONE ASPECT

 

In the meantime, Suzanne Stanley, CEO of JET, argued that while the meeting on Thursday was heavily focused on addressing the illegal burning of tyres in Riverton and surrounding communities, this is only one aspect of a long-standing and worsening air pollution problem in the area.

"JET maintains that the air- quality issues in Riverton and in communities along Spanish Town Road and the Mandela Highway can only be solved by removing the economic incentive for Jamaicans to be on or near the dump and relocating them to areas where these activities can be properly regulated," said Stanley.

"It is illogical to be discussing air quality in the area and not address the poor management at the Riverton dump. No tyres, plastic bottles or scrap metal should be sent to Riverton - an alternative site for a properly managed landfill must be identified. These recommendations were made from as far back as 2012," added Stanley, as she argued that there are also many legislative and enforcement issues which need to be addressed as it relates to Riverton and its environs.

arthur.hall@gleanerjm.com