The Riverton City Landfill or the Riverton Dump as it is affectionately called has been serving Jamaica for many years. Apart from the storage of solid waste, the Riverton City Landfill has also been responsible for filling the skies of the corporate area with smog at least once per year after fires. This doesn’t happen regularly however, it occurs often enough and results in a sufficient degree of damage to cause a slew of backlash and criticisms directed at the landfill’s managing authority, the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA). It therefore came as no surprise, that with the latest landfill fire occurring in March, complaints and concerns were once again raised about the landfill’s operations. In addition to the usual concerns and complaints, came renewed vigour to the debate that the Riverton City Landfill is operating without an environmental permit.
While this may be a shock to some, it certainly did not come as a surprise to the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), the agency tasked with the protection of Jamaica’s environment. The Jamaica Gleaner reports that the Chief Executive Officer of the agency, Peter Knight admitted to having knowledge of the landfill’s illegality and disclosed that the Agency had no plans to penalize the NSWMA because of the financial constraints they were currently facing. The article reports that Mr. Knight said that it was no secret that the National Solid Waste Management Authority was allowed to operate without an environmental permit and “that the decision not to demand that the company becomes compliant is ‘in the national interest’ “.
The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) has, in the past, demanded that the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) get its operations on par with the requirements before being granted an environmental permit, the Jamaica Gleaner reports. There has also been news of the submission to NEPA of an improvement plan drafted by the NSWMA that will be implemented subject to the Authority’s receipt of funding. However, there has been no action from either institution to this date.
With National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) being an enforcement agency, this seems odd. It is their job to ensure that the permits and licenses are checked and issued so as to protect not only the environment but the people of Jamaica who rely on the environment, especially with the recent addition of Article 13 (3) which guarantees the right to a healthy environment in the 2011 Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms. The standards set by NEPA to be met have no doubt been put in place in order to do just that, protect our environment and the people who live in it. The fact that the landfill is not up to standard is worrisome. The Riverton City Landfill is surrounded by a residential area which, as it is, automatically puts people’s lives at risk. How can this be in our national interest as Mr. Knight suggests? A country’s people are or in this case ought to be its greatest resource. This issue however, should come as no surprise with the track record of Jamaica’s statutory and governmental agencies. Once again, the people of Jamaica are left to fend for themselves while these bodies make decisions in the “national interest”.
© Gabrielle Muñoz 2014