EDITORIAL: A 'waste' of time

During the CBC TV 8 Evening News on Monday, April 18th, 2016, a report by a journalist showed what occurred after a team from the Environmental Health Unit spotted a truck dumping illegally on a St. Thomas site. Environmental Health Officer Ryle Rock, when interviewed for the report, stated that the Ministry of Transport and Works was contacted and the owner of the vehicle was ascertained. The owner was then called and instructed to clear the area. When asked about whether or not further action will be taken against the culprit, Mr. Rock reportedly said that once the offenders comply with the order to clean up where they dumped, then that’s the end of it.

Now, most viewers at the beginning of this report might have been eager to watch ‘justice’ unfold as the culprit was obviously caught red handed, by environmental officers to boot, and with cameras present as well. It would have been the closest thing to being there yourself to make sure that things get done and get done right! However, that fire most likely died down by the end of the segment with many left wondering at the actual effectiveness of the actions taken and the implications for this country in the long term.

Though very careful to explain exactly what steps were taken to the eventual clearing of the site, and the responsibility placed on the shoulders of the culprit to clear the area, the environmental health officer did not outline a deterrent given to prevent that individual from committing the same offence in the future. The name of the person who owned the truck was withheld, so there is no public scrutiny because no one knows who was responsible. There were no fines enforced or court proceedings pursued. All that was required was that the culprit do what he was originally supposed to do, take the waste to the landfill.

This scenario is not unique. In the past in other sections of the press there have been cases reported where persons were caught in the act of dumping illegally and at least one instance where the police were brought in to supervise the clearing of the area. In all of these cases, there were no reports of further action being taken.

In this most recent incident, Mr. Rock warns culprits to stop dumping illegally, ensuring that the ministry will be checking to ensure that it comes to an end. “Illegal dumping is a scourge here in Barbados,” he says, adding that “We want to send out a message to the general public to do the right procedure with regard to dumping and getting rid of waste on a whole.”

Unfortunately, the message that is being sent out here is that offenders will be given a slap on the wrist. It is called “illegal” dumping for a reason. It is illegal. There should be no question as to whether persons are fined, or prosecuted for repeated offences. Just as other crimes are punishable by law, this should be no different. The message that is being sent here is that a person who smokes marijuana or steals a radio should be identified and charged, while other offenders of the law are given the option to make it right – for the moment.

Tourism is Barbados’ No. 1 money earner. We cannot afford to have our beautiful natural landscape destroyed at the hands of a few negative elements. Government departments and law enforcement officers need to get tough on illegal dumpers and stop paying lip service to legislation.

Barbados Advocate

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