(CNS): The premier has admitted that tackling the waste-management problem in Cayman is the biggest and most important infrastructure challenge that his government faces, but claims that it is making real progress. In a government-made TV programme about the improvements at the George Town dump (a.k.a. ‘Mount Trashmore’) and the investment in equipment, Alden McLaughlin spoke about the hurdles to addressing the overall problem and dismissed the idea that closing the dump and moving it was ever going to be a real solution.
Because of the time it has taken to develop the policy position and find a way to implement a long-term permanent, sustainable solution, the Progressives had fought a hard public relations battle to persuade the people that government is addressing the issue, McLaughlin admitted.
“One of the greatest challenges for my administration has been dealing with the public perception that all we have been doing is revisiting old reports that have been prepared and essentially spinning wheels and doing nothing,” he said.
McLaughlin explained that just tackling the dump alone was not enough and it needed a much more complex comprehensive solution. In the end, the goal for government is to cut the amount of waste people generate in the first place and find other ways to deal with the garbage generated other than dumping it in a hole in the ground.
The ‘dump’ has proven a source of frustration for successive governments because all previously proposed potential solutions have been costly and beset with challenges. Since taking office, the PPM’s starting policy position was that they wanted to tackle the landfill where it is and did not support the idea of moving the dump.
Although the Dart Group, which has wanted to see the George Town landfill closed for many years because of its proximity to its property, offered land in Bodden Town for a new landfill, this was by no means a genuine solution, the premier said.
He has stated on many occasions that his party rejected the Dart proposal because all the billionaire property developer was offering was a land swap with a lined pit. All the rest of the infrastructure would still have needed to be financed.
In addition to the significant opposition in the district to a landfill opening there, most waste management experts warn against moving dumps except in extreme circumstances. Having the dump so far away from where the bulk of the garbage is generated would have also created environmental challenges presented by taking garbage so far from its source.
Once it fixed on a policy to reduce, reuse, recycle and recover via waste-to-energy, government has crawled towards the end solution, which it is expecting to tender early next year. In the meantime, it has been working on upgrades at the dump and investing in the necessary resources and management improvements. The garbage is now properly compacted and covered, which has eliminated fires at the dump and resulted in overall smoother operations at the site.
“It is one of the biggest issues from an infrastructure standpoint that the country has to deal with,” McLaughlin said. “It is very challenging, not just because of the technical issues but because of the finance structure that has to be developed to deal with this. Many administrations, I would not say have ducked the issue, but they have not been able to resolve the issue.”
McLaughlin said that the project will be a long way from being completed before the end of his government’s term, and asked for patience because what government delivers has to be fit for purpose, affordable and last for at least the next 25 years.
See GIS Spotlight about the dump below: