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Fighting for the right to breathe

Youngsters taking part in a demonstration against air pollution from the New Providence landfill. The event was held in Rawson Square and attracted around 500 protestors.

Youngsters taking part in a demonstration against air pollution from the New Providence landfill. The event was held in Rawson Square and attracted around 500 protestors.

By RICARDO WELLS

Tribune Staff Reporter

rwells@tribunemedia.net

BAHAMIANS are now making the “vital connection” between a healthy environment and a healthy life according to organisers of the “Breathe Better Bahamas” demonstration on Saturday in downtown Nassau.

Raise Awareness about the Bahamas Landfill (RABL) spokesperson Heather Carey said that the “massive turnout” at the event illustrated that residents are now, more than ever, concerned about their wellbeing and quality of life. Around 500 people are estimated to have attended the rally.

Ms Carey said that the community-based environmental group has, in recent years, formed a connection with residents near the New Providence landfill and started a “well-versed” education plan that has shifted the way residents view the problems of “persistent fires and constant emissions” at the plagued Harrold Road site. She insisted that issues at the New Providence landfill could be “easily remediated” by proper education and action by “essential persons”.

She added that she has received confirmation from successive environment ministers that the government is willing and financially able to correct the issues at the site and said the good dialogue between government, residents and social groups is only missing details of “cohesion on the way forward”.

“This is bigger than politics, this is community,” said Ms Carey. “We have had communication with Renew Bahamas, important conversations with the minister, we have met with some other big enterprises here. So dialogue is good. Really, what we want is to keep the conversation going until we find the best solution.”

Event organisers said that invitations to Saturday’s event were sent to a number of political figures, including embattled Environment Minister Kenred Dorsett, but Long Island MP, Loretta Butler-Turner, was the only politician to attend.

The former Free National Movement Deputy Leader said she made a point of attending and to be a part of the “empowered crowd” that took to the northern end of Rawson Square because she wanted more emphasis being placed on environmental matters. Mrs Butler-Turner explained that RABL had, to date, done a “tremendous job” building support for their campaign and making people aware of the avenues available to bring an end to a major issue.

“Our people are our greatest resource and if we are not able to breathe or be healthy then we are not able to be productive citizens,” she said.

Mrs Butler-Turner applauded the strides being made to correct environmental problems in the country; however, she said that more needed to be done to improve the air and water quality in the country. “Those are the two essentials to survival in life so we need to put more attention on those two areas to assure that we protect those resources.”

Former Health Minister Dr Norman Gay called the turnout “a huge green flag” that indicates “how serious” Bahamians are about the wellbeing of their country. However, Dr Gay said he would have loved to see a stronger representation by two distinct groups; people who lived in the communities hardest hit by emissions from the landfill and Renew Bahamas.

Residents living near the landfill have increased calls for government intervention in the matter, complaining that the emissions from the site are “unbearable”. Fires at the city dump have been a persistent problem for years for New Providence residents.

Since January, Renew Bahamas, the company contracted by government to manage the landfill, has battled four separate fires at the site. In February, the company formally announced plans to build and manage the nation’s first materials recycling facility at the Harrold Road site. Officials believe that recycling waste material could reduce the landfill’s “environmental footprint” and occurrence of fires.

Comments

Sickened 9 years, 2 months ago

Thank you RABL. Thank you Ms. Carey.

Loretta, good for you for being the ONLY politician to attend. It is sad that our health officials and landfill operator did not send anyone to represent, let alone speak. As a father of two and who lives in the West I had to show up to show my support. I only wished that someone from the PLP would have shown up to see the tears in the eyes of so many who have suffered over the years.

Out of more than 250,000 affected Bahamians, only 500 give a shit!!!! Sickening!!

B_I_D___ 9 years, 2 months ago

Pretty poor reflection of the gravity of the situation...yes...500 is a GREAT turnout, but it should have been way more supported...and yes, I guess the Government and the landfill operators were too chicken ship to show their faces!! Cowards!

asiseeit 9 years, 2 months ago

You really think the government gives a rats ass about the environment? The only thing those in government care about is VOTES. They need the votes to keep raping this poor country and it's citizens.

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