Diana Mahabir-Wyatt did the country a major favour when she was quoted in the newspapers as identifying political will as an essential ingredient to getting things done in this country. We behave like the comic character Wile E Coyote who thought he could break the laws of gravity. We believe we can talk, fail to act and still deliver a superior performing country.
The Beetham dump fiasco bears more scrutiny since it represents what is wrong with our country. Here are some facts: In 2010 SWMCOL identified that 75 per cent of all garbage is recyclable with 66 per cent of the total solid waste being household-generated. In 2005,daily per capita waste stood at 2.2 kilos but the Central Statistical Office (CSO) tells us that there was a 24 per cent increase in volumes from that year to 2010.
In December 2011 the parliamentary committee interviewing SWMCOL officials appearing before them noted that the majority of them had less than five months experience in the business. It was observed that there had been a lack of consistent record-keeping and statistics since 1980.
To our shame they pointed out that the Integrated Solid Waste Resource Policy was being formulated without input from SWMCOL by the Ministry of Local Government. Subsequently, the underlying report was submitted in February 2012. If we are to believe a minister’s recent statement, this report is yet to be acted upon.
In those discussions it was revealed that both the Guanapo and Forres Park landfills were to be closed (so much for the old talk in the last month). Finally the SWMCOL management told the committee they did not have funds for public education.
Under the EMA Act, that body is to develop and implement a programme of management for waste, develop rules to address waste handling and disposal of hazardous waste.
My point is that we know what is wrong, we also know what ought to be done but instead we stack our decision-making layers with people who are short of experience and technical knowledge and then we are surprised when things do not work.
We hire expensive consultants, shelve the reports and consider we have done something. Those, who are charged with responsibility for protecting our interests walk around after a tragedy more helpless than the average citizen. We see the danger but, like Wile E., we believe we can defy the natural laws.
As a society we face intractable problems—our children’s welfare, the environment, crime, health concerns—unless we change our approach to solving them. We have to understand that the referenced political will only appears when the people of this country get really annoyed about an issue.
How many children had to die before some kind action took place? We cannot depend on electoral changes to make our concerns known or to participate in the process of creating alternative ways of resolving our issues. The elected officials only wish to point fingers instead of creating collaboration, replace talent because they were hired by someone else.
We need to wake up and know that our future is not safe in anybody else’s hands, not the elites or the experts. We have to work at making T&T sweet again. Nothing short will suffice. The alternative is: a burning, smog-filled, unhealthy country, our seas poisoned, rampant crime and our food-producing capacity compromised.
Let us get those who have administrative power to obey our political will.