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The penalty for being poor

The lyrics of Shadow’s “Poverty is Hell” have been reverberating in my head like the proverbial bass man since January 26.
Three incidents happened about the same time: a violent interaction between a Beetham resident and two armed policemen, a face-off between the peers of the original protagonists and 12 fires in the Beetham dump.
Initially, there was uncertainty about the cause of the fires but as the gravity of the fires grew so did the purported clarity of the link between the three incidents. A hint was turned into a belief, the residents got blamed and proposals bandied about. Coincidence equated causation.
It is advocated that the Beetham residents set the fires maliciously because of their interactions with the police. But did they? Or are they paying the price for being poor? We have been inconvenienced and put at risk for a range of illnesses so we need to find a bogeyman to blame.
Spontaneous fires are a major risk in landfills. In the US there is an average of 8,300 such fires annually. In Finland there were 380 fires in 633 landfills during the period 1990-1992.
There are two types of fires in landfills: surface and sub-surface. In the former, recently buried or un-compacted refuse can give rise to fires that can be deliberate, accidental or spontaneous. However, sub-surface fires are found deep within waste piles and the sole cause is spontaneous.
Is it not strange that we are not told how many fell into which type? That would help us gauge whether the Beetham residents could be responsible.
In spite of aerial tours, there is no disclosure of the sites of the fires which would help establish whether they were connected or not. We forget the presence of squads of armed policemen and army men on that Sunday. Did they or did they not lock down the dump? How could miscreants get past them to light fires? When did the agitators leave the confrontation and go to set fires to the dump?
We who drive past the Beetham know our experiences over the years. Do we know that the major cause of spontaneous sub-surface fires is poor landfill management? Will increased security prevent this?
A senior minister warns that SWMCOL cannot pay any fines for mismanagement so is it that the Beetham residents will have to pay the costs by the damage to their already tarnished reputations? They were advised by a disaster relief official that everyone has family all over the country so they could leave their homes if the smoke was too much for them!
Poverty is real tears!
The proposal to move the dump is to transplant our woes behind a curtain. It will still exist (check the Guanapo dump and its effect on the river) plus we will have a new problem of unemployed Beetham residents with all the attendant possibilities. Thankfully the British High Commissioner (“Down in the dumps’’ Express, February 4) has told us what we don’t wish to hear: modern societies recycle! They make money off the refuse generated.
The Beetham residents have a right to fear change based on the unprovoked innuendo of a senior minister that they will choose to riot. Poverty is full of disrespect from others.
The problem is neither the dump nor the residents. It is us and it has been the SWMCOL management over the years.
We threw “Charlie’’ away and never progressed to recycling. The management has never moved to segregate and proactively manage our ever-increasing refuse. Meanwhile, the most potent and yet unanswered question from a resident is “why would Beetham set the fires and then they can’t work for the whole week?”
Noble Philip
via e-mail
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