The kudos and self-adulations for passing a National Conservation Law had scarcely dropped from the lips of Cayman Islands leaders when the country’s signature environmental disaster reared its beastly head in the form of flames and billows of poisonous black smoke.
Although the government insisted on expediting the Conservation Law through the Legislative Assembly before the New Year in order to fulfill campaign promises, the reality is protection of unspoiled land was never one of the top issues of the spring election.
The PPM’s sweep of Bodden Town – which cleared an easy path to parliamentary majority – was powered by the district’s umbrage and outrage over being designated as the site of a new landfill, which voters feared might blossom into the next Mount Trashmore.
Despite its public embrace of “green” values, successive governments have studiously ignored the country’s preeminent ecological threat that is continuously assaulting Grand Cayman’s environment by land, air and sea.
Well, you can avert your eyes but not your nose.
The much-ballyhooed Conservation Law does absolutely nothing to protect Caymanians – floral, faunal and hominid – from the physical manifestation of governments’ disregard and negligence.
We have heard much about blue iguanas and butterflies in recent weeks. Let’s talk about elephants – a whole parade of them. The pile of tires that is currently combusting at the landfill weighs more than 800 tons, according to consultants’ estimates six years ago. That is the equivalent of 80,000 passenger tires, or 160 adult African elephants.
The “West Tire Pile” is one of three at the landfill, which also contains tires buried throughout.
More are being added each day. It’s time to stop feeding this environmental monster.
When Mount Trashmore asserted itself and burst into flames Friday morning, one can only imagine what went through the head of Health Minister Osbourne Bodden, who shortly after taking office in May 2013 proudly (and pitifully parochially) declared that the PPM was disposing of Dart’s ready solution to the George Town dump catastrophe. We certainly know what came out of his mouth: “Can you imagine having the dump in Bodden Town and have this going over the whole island?
Nobody wants a dump, but it has to go somewhere.”
Well, Mr. Bodden, if not between two quarries in far east Bodden Town, then where? Here, there, or anywhere is better than its current location. George Town MLAs and Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell would do well to consult with their colleague and remind him that one of the two pillars of the Cayman economy is tourism, and that the dump site is one of the first sights of arriving cruise ship passengers and first impressions of stayover visitors (“This place smells like Mexico,” one remarked recently).
In April, consultants estimated more than 14,000 people lived within two miles of the George Town landfill, thousands more than live in the entire district of Bodden Town. Bodden Town may not be the ultimate location of a new waste management facility, but it certainly shouldn’t be exempted from consideration. This country cannot allow politics and pollution to trump health and safety. Right now, the only environmental issue of any consequence is the George Town dump.
No more baiting voters into a parochial protests. No more bedtime stories about the magic of waste-to-energy or mining for imaginary “riches” buried deep within this toxic national embarrassment. The Friday conflagration was a warning. As author James Baldwin once wrote, beware of “the fire next time.”