MEMBER of Parliament for St Andrew Western Anthony Hylton says the residents of Riverton must be integral to, and benefit from any plans to close the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA)-operated dump.
Hylton was commenting on a recent announcement by the Government that the dump, and others across the island, will be decommissioned.
“It cannot be that it was the people of Riverton who risked their lives when it was a dump, but are going to be sidelined when it is upgraded to a proper sanitary landfill. The people of Riverton must be beneficiaries of any future plans for Riverton and about Riverton,” Hylton insisted during his presentation to the state of constituency debate in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.
“We must free our minds of the limitations we place on others — social and economic justice demands nothing less. Many doctors, lawyers, and professionals already come from Riverton, and more will come,” the legislator argued.
He said he is anxious to see the development of a modern landfill, and waste managed for productive purposes; however Riverton residents must be integral to that process.
“For many, it is the only work that they have known and the objective now should be to close the existing dumpsite for sound environmental reasons, build a proper landfill on the remainder of more than 100 acres of land already dedicated to waste disposal, and to develop a waste-to-energy industry that I have long argued for,” he said.
Hylton said the vast majority of residents welcome the planned upgrading of the dump and are willing to improve their knowledge and skills to align with the new technology, practices and processes which could allow them to continue to participate in the waste management process.
At the same time, he argued that Riverton is a deeply misunderstood community, pointing to its 60-year history in which many people sought refuge there after being forced out of their homes due to political conflict.
“They have made the dump their home and have converted it to their source of earning and a means of survival for many,” he said, noting that the majority of the people working on the dump do not reside in Riverton and that some come from as far away as St Thomas.
“For many Jamaicans it is simply a place where their garbage is disposed of but to which they will never go. The real people of Riverton are creative and resilient… they were among the first in Jamaica to engage in the circular economy, including the development of the scrap metal industry,” Hylton stated.
Riverton is one of eight waste disposal sites across the island which are managed by the NSWMA. In August, Prime Minister Andrew Holness indicated to Parliament that the Government is moving ahead with plans to close the dump which has seen numerous fires over the years, costing the country hundreds of millions of dollars.
The decommissioning of the dump sites form part of a major overhaul of how the country’s solid waste is managed.
He said the Administration had undertaken a comprehensive review of public sanitation, garbage collection and waste disposal systems, which have been a “perennial problem” for the country.