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Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,400
Marty Offline OP
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,p. For several days now, we've been receiving requests from environmentally conscious residents of Belmopan who raise complaints against the persistent open burning of garbage piled up at the dump site near the Belmopan Transfer Station.

As viewers may remember, how the country manages solid waste was changed entirely back in 2013. That's when the Solid Waste Management Authority launched a model program. The way it works is that the main dump sites were reorganized with the construction of transfer stations. The messy and environmentally unsustainable dump sites were transformed into temporary holding facilities, where the garbage was organized and then carted away to a new, state-of-the-art sanitary landfill, which was established at Mile 24 on the George Price Highway.

In the years that followed, the transfer stations have more or less been working as intended, but the facility just outside of Belmopan City continues to remain dormant, even though its construction was completed several years ago. One concerned resident called us to complain in the context that back in 2020, the Cayo District was devastated by forest fires, which were believed to have been caused by irresponsible management of smaller blazes. The dumpsite near the Belmopan facility reportedly has perpetual fires going, which continue to dump smoke on the nearby Belmopan residents.

Here's what businessman Ronaldo Logan told us yesterday about his daily encounters with the smoke coming from the burning dump site:

Ronaldo Logan - Belmopan Resident/Businessman
"From last year, I have been calling Solid Waste Management because I have to drive past there at least twice a day. And I am tired of seeing a brand new facility built. The thing is just collecting dust. They are paying the light bill. Someone is watching the place. I called Solid Waste Management the last time, the lady told me that she doesn't care. It's Miss Lumen. I told her, miss, I will actually say it on the news one of these days that you told me that you don't care. She told me to follow through. 'I don't care.' So, I called DOE, and I asked them, what are you all doing? They are blaming Solid Waste Management. They are blaming each other like a dog chasing its tail."

Daniel Ortiz
"What explanation are they giving you as to why that burning [of garbage] is being allowed, and the garbage isn't being disposed of properly through the Solid Waste Management Authority?"

Ronaldo Logan - Belmopan Resident/Businessman
"As I told you last year, I called them. They told me, 'Wait until the budget is read. When the budget was read for this year, they would have put that in as part of the expense. They said that it's 7 million. I told the lady, 'Miss, 7 million to you and me is a lot, but to the government, it's like you took a [strand] of hair out of a cat. She is insisting that it's a lot of money, but I told her that's not much, only 7 million. That's what got me going, they just can't use the thing. I know that things cost millions; we must have a succession plan. What are we going to do with those things? Did we just build them to collect dust? That is what got me going. Belize depends a lot on tourism. Everybody who goes south on the Hummingbird has to see that thing twice: when you go, and when you come back. We sell tourism, and we are selling green credits to the world, telling the world that we are going green, but yet we are burning garbage every day."

Daniel Ortiz
"Explain to us your conviction that you know for a fact that it's burning every day. The people responsible for that could claim that you're exaggerating."

Ronaldo Logan - Belmopan Resident/Businessman
"No man, I pass there every day, twice a day. I pass there in the morning and in the evening. Sometimes, I pass late at night, and sometimes, you can't even see the road. I know if you ask any Belizean who travels on that road, they could actually tell that smoke is on that road. Sometimes, you can't even see. They tell you that you can't do it, but they could do it. That's what I find rough because it's 'do as I say; don't do as I do.'"

The Dormant Southern Transfer Station

In our last segment we showed you the filthy smoke from the garbage burning outside Belmopan.

But, that's not the only place it's happening. We also got to speak with Chef Tim August from Dangriga, who had the same complaint about the Solid Waste transfer station near Dangriga. He gave us a similar account to Ronaldo Logan. Chef August says the transfer station near Dangriga is dormant, even though it was constructed several years ago. And once again, garbage is perpetually burning at the dumpsite near the transfer station.

Here's how he explained why the environmental impacts from the dumpsite are affecting his business model for potential growth as a restauranteur:

Chef Tim August - Dangriga Resident
"Every time I go on the Southern Highway, and I see that nice piece of investment, before, I used to give the government credit. But then, they invested so much money on something that needs to be utilized because, for example, I have a restaurant in Dangriga, and I would want to do more seafood and stuff like that. But because the current garbage dump is a breeding ground for flies and concas, I am not even encouraged to do. So definitely, I would like to see, if the people's money went into an investment like that, we need to utilize it. Hey, it will make life easier. I know that the fishermen have a big problem, too, because it's the same thing. You pass by their stalls, and there are flies all over the place because the garbage is not being disposed of in a timely and proper manner. The only thing you see there is security, and the grass getting high, and then right beside it, you see all that - The first thing the tourists see before they get into that tourism zone, which is Hopkins, Placencia, and now Dangriga, is the big smoke that they have to go through."

Daniel Ortiz "Where garbage is being burnt?"

Chef Tim August
"Where garbage is being burnt."

Today, we got a chance to speak with Chief Environmental Officer Anthony Mai, who told us that the matter has also been brought to their attention, and they have brought up the matter with the officials at the Solid Waste Management Authority.

Easier in the day, we reached out to SWAMA's Lumen Cayetano for comment, and a few minutes ago, Cayetano responded to our request saying, quote, "Operations of transfer stations Belmopan and Dangriga [are] to go out for tender shortly. Ministry of Finance has given a commitment to the Ministry of Natural Resources to provide the necessary financing to operationally both facilities. While the transfer stations are not yet operational, the management of the existing disposal sites is the responsibility of the local municipal authorities, within whose jurisdiction the disposal sites fall. The Ministry of Natural Resources through the Solid Waste Management Authority has been providing monthly support to the municipalities to assist with the proper management of the disposal sites." End quote.

Channel 7

Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,400
Marty Offline OP
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Solid Waste Manager Has The Other Side of The Story

Last night, we showed you two concerned citizens: one from Belmopan and the other from Dangriga Town, who say that the garbage dumps near their community burn through the day and night. They are especially pained by the eyesore and the volumes of smoke smothering their communities, because two brand new garbage transfer stations are sitting dormant right beside the burning dumps.

Those transfer stations come under the jurisdiction of the Solid Waste Management Authority, and yesterday, we attempted to get a comment from SWAMA's, Director, Lumen Cayetano. Unfortunately, she was unavailable, but today, she granted us an extended interview via Zoom.

During that conversation, she explained that the Belmopan and the Dangriga Transfer Stations are not the only facilities that are dormant, even though they are completed. She outlined that these facilities are among six countrywide that will be brought online in the next few months:

Lumen Cayetano - Director, Solid Waste Management Authority
"Mr. Ortiz, under Solid Waste Management Project #2, another six transfer stations were constructed. These are located in Corozal, Orange Walk, Belmopan, Dangriga, Punta Gorda, and Placencia. We have gotten a commitment from the Ministry of Finance to start with a phased approach to bringing those facilities on stream. The first two out of the six that we will phase in are the transfer stations in Belmopan and Dangriga. So, we will be bringing those on board incrementally. The transfer stations were completed in 2020, for the most part. Those types of facilities need to be commissioned, as they refer to it, whereby you test them for their practicality, functionality, and there's also what is called a defects liability period associated with that type of installation. So, those were commissioned in 2020. Financing the operations of those transfer stations is not necessarily an issue because we currently benefit from the environmental tax. The current operations that we run, the facilities constructed under Solid Waste Management Project #1, those are financed by the government fully through the environmental tax. So, there are funds available, but where the challenge lies is with the operational model that is to be used in order to bring those facilities on board. If you may recall, back in 2013, when we first started operating the transfer stations constructed under Solid Waste Management Project #1, those facilities were being operated by a firm, PASA Belize Limited. Those facilities were constructed under a design, build, and operate scheme. So, the same contractor that designed built, and also operated those facilities. So, that was a modality that included an operation function within it. But, with these new transfer stations that have been constructed these were constructed in lots, and it was only design and construction. There was not an operational component attached to this new project that was undertaken."

So, what is the hold-up for these six transfer stations? According to Director Cayetano, the expense to run them is very high, so the government had initially decided to bring them online in a phased approach. Here's that part of our conversation.

Lumen Cayetano
"These facilities are very expensive to operate, and if you know the payment for services where the waste management is concerned, it's little to none. So, the government in itself has to fully fund the operations of these facilities. There aren't any user fees currently being charged, which would build a component of sustainability into the operation of these facilities."

Daniel Ortiz
"So ma'am, what do you say to the residents of these communities for the six transfer stations that have to be phased in when they're saying, look, we have a garbage problem? Why are these things dormant? The common-sense reasoning is, if we built it, we spent money on it, let's us use it now."

Lumen Cayetano
"Clearly, there is a need to revisit the thinking because, as you rightly mentioned, we all want to get those facilities up and running. So, a decision has to be taken. The proposed model is to phase them, but if that is not the most reasonable model to operate on in the eyes of the public, then a decision will have to be made."

Daniel Ortiz
"And who would have to make that decision, the government?"

Lumen Cayetano
"That would have to be an executive decision that would have to be made. Those decisions are not made at my level. As a technocrat, I offer guidance. I offer technical support and advice to my ministry where these matters are concerned."

But, as you saw last night, the two concerned citizens expressed the very same frustration. They think that if the facilities are completed and ready to be utilized, then why are the authorities allowing their community's garbage problems to persist?

You'll remember that Ronaldo Logan specifically called out Director Cayetano by alleging that she dismissed his concerns, saying, "I don't care." We asked Cayetano about that, and she insisted that Logan misquoted here by failing to explain the context of her comment correctly.

Here's how she made the counter-allegation that he became impatient and aggressive toward her and her staff because he didn't like the explanations she dutifully provided:

Lumen Cayetano
"What that resident failed to mention clearly is indeed, he called the office on numerous occasions. He spoke to a number of members of my staff, and he pretty much intimidated and tried to bully my staff. I spoke to the gentlemen. As we are speaking right now, I gave him the information I gave him the information. If you noticed, he quoted a figure in his interview. Clearly, he spoke to me, and clearly, I disclosed information to him. So, he misquoted me. He misquoted the 'I don't care.' He took that out of context. Indeed, there was an 'I don't care,' but that came after he bullied me and he threatened that he would go to the media. So clearly, after I had given him all the information that I had on hand, I am a technocrat. I don't decide what gets spent, how it gets spent, and all of that. My minister and my ministry go based on my recommendation and the best advice that I offer. So, when he threatened to go to the media, I told him, well, if that is what you want to do, sir, then I don't care because, at this point in time, I have given you the best information, to the best of my knowledge, that I have in my possession. People may be of the view of that we're not taking the situation seriously, Daniel, but it is in my best interest to ensure that the environment is protected, to ensure that waste is managed properly. And I have an obligation to ensure that those are done. So, I can reason with the frustration. I can understand the perspective, the point of view where the facilities are sitting there not being used. But, we can offer a commitment that those facilities will start to come on stream within the next 3 to 6 months. One of the things that need to be born in mind as well using these facilities, and bringing these facilities live requires a tendering process. It's not you wake up and you assign the operations of the facility to anybody. They need to be suitably qualified. They need to be able to have the cash flow to manage and operate these facilities. They're coming on stream. I just appeal, and I ask for people to be patient with us. And within the wider context of waste management, there are challenges everywhere."

Again, the Director insisted to us that the transfer stations should be operational in the next few months.

Channel 7

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