Garbage collectors afraid to go into East PoS
Sanitation workers with the Port-of-Spain City Corporation are fearful to enter communities within ‘hostile’ east Port-of-Spain for garbage collection due to intimidation.
Dale Agarrat, Transport Foreman II with the Port-of-Spain City Corporation, told a Joint Select Committee that warring gangs have left workers fearful for their lives, causing the City Corporation to contract waste collection for those areas within the municipality.
Agarrat appeared before a Joint Select Committee on Finance and Legal Affairs on Friday along with representatives from the Ministry of Rural Development and Local Government and other Municipal Corporations, as the Committee conducted an inquiry into the waste management policies and initiatives of the State.
Responding to a question posed by JSC member Taharqa Obika regarding the garbage dumped in the middle of the road from a garbage truck during the protest that ensued following the February killing of East Port-of-Spain resident Akile ‘‘Christmas’’ James, the Transport Foreman II said there is not much that can be done in a situation such as that.
He noted that the truck driver in question had been charged by the police for his role in the events that day, but said there was little the City Corporation could do in that instance.
“There is little that we can do because you have to understand that the East Port-of-Spain area is a hostile area in most cases… why a lot of it is contracted, we have workers in some instances who work within particular areas or live within particular areas where they can’t venture or go even, for instance, Upper Gonzales may be at war with Lower Gonzales, and over the years it is much (more) difficult to have our workers going to these areas without being threatened.
This would have led to us having to contract East Port-of-Spain area to what it is presently. But we have little we could do in relation to what transpired that couple months back. The most we can do is monitor it and report it, and hope that it can be resolved in a particular way.”
Questioned further by Obika on the possibility of increased security measures to ensure the safety of contractors, Agarrat said there was no consideration for heightened police presence around collection time.
Asked by Committee Chair Sophia Chote whether there was contractor intimidation at play to ensure that contractors from the East Port-of-Spain communities would secure contracts for garbage collection, Agarrat denied that this was the case.
Chaguanas Mayor, Gopaul Boodhan, in his closing remarks, however, expressed concern over the existence of a “garbage cartel”, contractors with contracts across several municipalities. He urged the Committee to do what it could to ensure efficient garbage collection to the satisfaction of burgesses.
The Committee also heard of challenges experienced by Corporations in terms of collection of waste from pluck shops and street vendors and the need for regular scavenging.
In some corporations where fish vendors and coconut vendors operate, waste consisting of fish scales and guts and coconut shells left in drains and along the side of the roadways encourages the growth of rat and cockroach populations.
Chairman at the Tunapuna/Piarco Regional Corporation Paul Leacock said the situation is so bad that one of his burgesses was attacked by a rat.
“We at the TPRC are very concerned when it comes to scavenging and health issues. We note, for instance, we had an incident of a rat actually attacking a person in the Bangladesh community and those things happen when the population grows too large… we require clear initiatives that will deal with scavenging in a timely manner.”
He added that the Corporation looks forward to being given the authority to carry out some of the functions needed in the municipality.
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