Banana peels by the pile, smashed foam cups, polyurethane containers smeared with yesterday’s takeout, garbage bags of yard waste, soiled diapers, empty propane tanks, rusted refrigerators, cigarette butts, glass bottles and beer cans … And that’s just what they’ve been able to toss from their vehicles!
The dirty deeds of our resident human detritus are evident throughout Grand Cayman’s roadsides, yards and beaches — even the Cayman Islands’ so-called “national park” in Barkers, which oftentimes seems less a magnet for tourists and recreation-seekers than it is for illegal dumpers and washed-up flotsam.
While this Editorial Board continues to devote considerable quantities of ink toward decrying the public health threats posed by the unlined, mismanaged and over-packed George Town Landfill — at least there, the garbage is all in one place.
A separate subject entirely is the metastasis of trash fouling up Cayman’s scenery, polluting our environment and, yes, threatening our health.
Such is the work of Cayman’s litterbugs. Nearly as bad, and in some ways more dangerous, are their kissing cousins — the delinquent property owners who passively surrender control of their landholdings to fast-growing flora, feracious vermin and swarms of marsh-loving mosquitoes. Not only are these derelict plots extremely unsightly, they can also be extremely unsafe, particularly when vegetative overgrowth has reached a sufficient height and density to obstruct passing motorists’ lines of sight.
With goals of beautification and public safety, and the looming holiday season in mind, the National Roads Authority is conducting an ongoing effort to clean up Cayman’s road corridors. This Saturday, the authority launches a two-week campaign to “clear obstructions at high-traffic roads,” including “hedges grown over fences or planted beyond boundary lines; boulders placed roadside, garbage receptacles too close to the road, landscaping work taking place on narrow shoulders, and private signs within public rights-of-way,” according to the authority.
While the authority’s activities are welcome, and should have a noticeable impact on aesthetics and driving conditions, we fear that, if the aim is to keep Cayman clean, this initiative — along with all the other paid and volunteer cleanup campaigns (such as the Chamber of Commerce’s Christmas Cleanup on Saturday) — falls far short of what is truly required.
We are not belittling, denigrating or dismissing workers’ efforts or their positive effects; it’s just that these initiatives, by their nature, are temporary solutions to a permanent problem. The trouble isn’t the people cleaning up; it’s the people making the mess.
No matter how many good Samaritans pitch in, no matter the amount of government resources dedicated to beautification, Cayman will always have an “ugliness” problem so long as the relevant laws are not being enforced, and enforced strictly.
People who litter should not have people picking up after them. Rather, they should be caught, fined and, depending on the judge’s discretion, perhaps also forced to practice picking up other people’s trash for awhile. (The beach cleanup by Northward Prison inmates may pose a good model for such civic involvement.)
In regard to road obstructions, the Roads Authority’s news release on their cleanup also includes reminders that Section 16 of the Roads Law makes such corridor encroachments illegal, punishable by up to a $5,000 fine. The law also empowers the Roads Authority, after giving notice, to remove or reduce the obstruction at the owner’s expense.
There’s an idea. Rather than simply going around and straightening up other people’s clutter, the Roads Authority might want to consider leaving a few items of their own. Namely, three options for negligent property owners: Clean it up. Pay the fine. Or pay the bill.