By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The contract for the New Providence landfill's management will establish "a blueprint for the future" that can be applied throughout The Bahamas, a Cabinet minister has revealed.
Romauld Ferreira, pictured, minister of the environment and housing, told Tribune Business that talks between the Government and the Providence Advisors/Waste Resources Development Group (WRDG) to finalise the management contract would establish a model for other landfill and solid waste management operations throughout The Bahamas.
Both Mr Ferreira and representatives for the preferred bidder confirmed that negotiations were progressing, and expressed optimism that they would be successfully completed within the target 30-day timeframe.
That timeline expires early this month, but Mr Ferreira - who previously indicated this is not a "must meet" deadline - said he and the Government were more focused on getting the contract's terms and conditions correct to the satisfaction of both parties and New Providence's waste management needs.
"I know they are trying to meet the deadline, but the logistics have to be sorted out and both sides have to be satisfied," he told Tribune Business. "Both sides have to commit to realistic expectations for the contract to be implemented, and the expectations have to meet the needs of the Bahamian people and needs of the country moving forward.
"This is an important first step in looking at the way we manage solid waste. It's the first of it's kind in the country, and both sides are enthusiastic to complete the process and move on to the next phase."
Mr Ferreira said he "cannot emphasise enough" the importance of getting the terms with Providence Advisors/WRDG right, adding: "This is a contractual relationship entered into between two parties.
"I cannot begin to overstate the importance of getting the terms and conditions correct so we have a plan moving forward and everyone understands what is expected of them, and we have a blueprint for the future."
Describing the Government's negotiating team as "the creme de la creme" of the public sector, Mr Ferreira said he wanted the group of engineers, sanitation experts, accountants and attorneys to remain together so that their expertise can be "transposed to other landfills and see what can be done in terms of management".
The Minister added that the New Providence landfill management contract needed to be sufficiently flexible as to enable the two sides to adjust to The Bahamas' needs and development goals as the situation required.
"While we must acknowledge current circumstances and challenges, we must be forward looking and take into account changes in best practices, changes in industry, and respond to the needs of the country," he said.
"I have every confidence in the process because, let me put it this way, if you do the right thing, the right thing will happen to you. I believe we've done the right thing in terms of the expertise we've brought to bear in terms of the best the public sector has to offer and engaging members of the private sector.
Kenwood Kerr, Providence Advisors' chief executive, told Tribune Business he was confident that the landfill contract would be completed within the targeted timeframe.
"It's moving along and everybody's working to get it done in the allotted timeframe. We're working towards a mutually beneficial conclusion," he said. "I can't predict the future, but outside of things we can't control it's going as planned. Everyone is working and moving in the same direction."
Mr Kerr previously described the $130m overhaul planned by his group, which also features multiple Bahamian waste management providers in the Waste Resources Development Group (WRDG), as "one of the largest public-private partnership (PPP) infrastructure projects to-date" undertaken in this nation.
Besides remediating the toxins leaking from the landfill's existing cells, Mr Kerr said the Providence Advisors/WRDG consortium was aiming to reach the global standard of fires erupting "once every 200 years" as part of plans to convert the Tonique Williams Highway site into the New Providence Ecology Park.
Adopting the landfill transformation model established in the US, he disclosed that the site's conversion into "lush", green vegetation on the surface will facilitate the development of a mini golf course, fitness centre and ecology park that will all be open to the Bahamian public.
To generate the necessary revenues and cash flow, Mr Kerr said Providence Advisors/WRDG intend to recycle and reuse "50 percent or more" of the landfill's incoming waste streams. And 30 Mega Watts (MW) of renewable energy, split evenly between solar and biomass, will be sold to Bahamas Power & Light (BPL) through a power purchase agreement (PPA).
He explained that the renewable energy and recycling initiatives will enable the consortium to extend the landfill's life by a further 34 years to 2052, as they will consume large quantities of incoming waste, while also providing the necessary breathing room to deal with the site's present mountains of garbage.
Mr Kerr said the consortium's plans called for the creation of 75 long-term jobs, and the reduction of annual greenhouse gas emissions by 220,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year - an amount equivalent to 37,000 automobiles' emissions.