Retirement dump relocation key as MoBay set to expand city limits
Roughly 25 mainly international firms have expressed interest in participating in the bidding process to manage the island’s solid waste under a proposed public-private partnership (PPP) programme, which will see Jamaica embracing industry best practices compliant with international standards.
The Sunday Gleaner was unable to reach Lyttleton Shirley, chairman of the enterprise team mandated to manage the Government’s ambitious waste-to-energy project, for comment. And Richard Munroe, manager of the PPP & Privatization Division at the Development Bank of Jamaica, which is overseeing the reform of the waste management programme, declined an invitation for an interview.
But a source intimate to the ongoing discussions said the focus is on establishing a more sustainable solution to manage the approximately 1.5 million tonnes of residential and commercial waste generated annually, with the implementation of waste-to-energy technology, and the establishment of sanitary landfills.
“The work includes mapping the entire island, and the due diligence is about 80 per cent complete because there has been a challenge finding suitable land in St James, but a plot has now been identified and discussions are ongoing,” the source said. “But one thing is certain, the Riverton and Retirement landfills will be decommissioned.”
The Retirement landfill in Montego Bay, which is frequently plagued by fires, has been a source of bother for the St James Municipal Corporation (StJMC), which has also struggled to manage issues arising in the unplanned communities at the edge of the city.
Informal settlements began popping up as a result of the proliferation of new tourism jobs in the 1960s, amplified by the rural-to-urban pull of the lucrative business process outsourcing (BPO) sector in recent times.
The local authority reportedly purchased the Retirement property in 1974 to expand the city of Montego Bay and facilitate the relocation of the municipal dump, the cemetery, and the abattoir. It had also commissioned a development plan for the 1,800-acre property, but this was never made public.
MORE SPACE NEEDED
Now with the Montego Bay urban centre saturated, there is a heightened demand for residential and commercial space, with approximately 82,867 of the estimated 300,000 residents in St James living in the parish capital.
Trevion Manning, director of planning at the StJMC, said work is under way to expand the boundaries through Ironshore in the east and towards areas such as Cornwall Courts, Porto Bello, Granville, and concluding at Reading to the west.
“This would now be considered the city of Montego Bay, because if you turn off the coast, you will realise that it gets rural very quickly based on our terrain, which is to our disadvantage,” said Manning, an urban planner with over 20 years experience.
With the BPO and tourism industries’ demand for additional workers, the need for affordable housing increases, and Manning sees the Retirement property as a crucial part of the build-out.
Community activist O. Dave Allen, the founder of the Retirement Development Trust, says Retirement is best positioned for the expansion of Montego Bay, given its proximity to the urban centre and the easy access to social amenities.
“Retirement has the possibility of providing 6,000 housing solutions with reservation for commercial and industrial purposes as well as preservation of green areas and open spaces,” Allen told The Sunday Gleaner.
But he is concerned about the negative impact of Friendship, a squatter community located on lands near to the Estuary Housing Scheme and the municipal dump.
“Currently, the property is overrun with squatters and serves as a cover for criminal activities, which undermines the growth prospect of the area,” he said.
An official at the Housing Agency of Jamaica revealed that housing development is prohibited in the area now occupied by squatters.
“NEPA (the National Environment and Planning Agency) had instructed that no residential development should take place at Friendship because the land is contaminated due to the close proximity to the dump,” the official told The Sunday Gleaner. “But when we visited the community and advised the residents of the health implications, they ignored us.”
There are no such concerns for Retirement, whose development is being hindered by lack of funds, the official revealed.
However, Allen is of the view that the Government should review the management structure of the defunct Operation Pride to ensure development control.
“If they leave these properties loose as they have, people will squat, but the Government needs to act now because it reflects very negatively on us,” he said.