Few sights broadcast “third-world squalor” more than abandoned cars littering roadways, parking lots and vacant lots. As the Compass reported on Thursday, derelict vehicles are a growing unsightly blight on the landscape of our beauteous isle.
In the height of tourist season, visions of broken-down or abandoned vehicles are hardly postcard-perfect. The images of immobile automobiles are more aligned with hurricane relief missions than luxury vacations.
The problem is not just one of perception. In many cases, these vehicles can present clear safety hazards, as they are being left for days or weeks alongside (or even on) some of the busiest stretches of asphalt in Cayman, including the Esterley Tibbetts Highway and West Bay Road.
Perhaps the most obvious current example is the Hyundai van that had taken up residence on the shoulder of the Esterley Tibbetts, practically in the lane of traffic, forcing hundreds of cars to swerve to avoid collision every day.
And, closer to home, consider the Honda sedan that was involved in an accident near the Compass Centre weeks ago, and since that time has been left to languish in an adjacent undeveloped lot. During its tenure as “neighbor” to this newspaper, the clunker had its windshield smashed and its wheels stripped – thanks to hooligans no doubt related to hyenas picking over the carcass of a giraffe on a Serengeti plain.
Call it the power of the press, or whatever, but we are pleased to report that both of the vehicles mentioned above have now been removed. Frankly, we do not know (and don’t much care) where they went or who removed them, but the underlying issue of abandoned vehicles still remains, and we do care about that.
The problem has come up publicly in the past, but this latest iteration has been accumulating since last fall, when the Department of Environmental Health began curtailing – and eventually stopping altogether – the acceptance of cars and scrap metal at the George Town landfill. (Their advice: Don’t leave abandoned cars on public property or private property. We assume that leaves outer space as our only other option.)
Months later, officials still could not articulate a solution to the issue. Instead of a plan, they formed a “circular firing squad,” attempting to spread the blame around the environmental health department, National Roads Authority and Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, each of which possesses the legal authority to have derelict vehicles removed.
What is needed is for someone to step up, take responsibility, seize the moment, and become a bit of a local hero with a reputation for being able to actually get something done.
Our candidate might be Environment Minister Dwayne Seymour. We spoke to him Wednesday, he seemed to have a good grasp of the issue, and appeared ready for “action mode.”
The magnitude of the problem is considerable: Before the landfill “filled up,” the number of derelict vehicles deposited at the dump skyrocketed by an astonishing 1,200 percent – from 71 vehicles (in 2014) to 832 (in 2016).
The collection and disposal of automobiles must be accounted for in long-term waste management plans (whether they are to be executed by the government or the Dart Group, which has been chosen to build and operate the country’s new waste management facility).
But in the short term, the solution might be much simpler, requiring only two ingredients: a tow truck and a parking lot. The government owns several plots of flat land that might well serve as suitable cemeteries for these once proud, but now expired, mechanical beasts.