By Hon. Kenred Dorsett
Minister of the Environment and Housing
The Free National Movement has no moral authority to speak on the progress being made at the New Providence Landfill. They were our immediate predecessors in Government and had they made any attempt to bring remediation and operational efficiencies to the landfill the country would be farther along in this effort.
Now that they are in opposition, trying to be relevant and sway voters, they find it a convenient time to speak on what the Progressive Liberal Party administration is doing. While they did nothing during their time in office, they choose to criticise this administration for acting and advancing solutions to the environmental issues facing our country, including the Landfill.
This administration, seeing the need to reform the New Providence Landfill entered into an agreement with Renew Bahamas to manage the landfill based on the recommendation of the National Energy Task Force (NETF). The NETF was co-chaired by the then Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Works & Urban Development, Mr. Renward Wells and Permanent Secretary, Ms. Camille Johnson. The members of the NETF comprised senior public servants. That group reviewed over 50 proposals relating to Waste to Energy and the landfill. Due to the fact that the government advanced the Request for proposal for Energy Reform and privatised management of BEC, they recommended that any consideration for Waste to Energy be placed on hold until that process was completed. Further, they recommended that due to the environmental challenges at the landfill and the ongoing fires, the government should consider private management of the landfill with a focused attention on recyclying, remediation and fire mitigation. A sub-committee of the NETF, led by senior management of the Department of Environmental Health Services short listed eight (8) companies out of the proposals reviewed. Out of the eight companies, the NETF recommended Renew Bahamas Limited. It should be noted that no Cabinet Minister was involved in the deliberations of the NETF, which led to their recommendation.
The Cabinet considered the recommendation of the NETF and the government began discussions with Renew Bahamas on a potential joint venture and pilot programme. During those discussions, my Ministry brought to the attention of the Office of the Prime Minister the existence of a Bahamian consortium comprising Bahamas Waste, United Sanitation, Impac and Waste Not, that had an interest in managing the landfill. The Prime Minister and I met with the group. The Prime Minister also gave the group an opportunity to produce an alternate proposal for the government’s consideration. That was done. However, the Bahamian consortium were not able to match the terms presented by Renew Bahamas. After extensive discussions with the Bahamian group, they articulated their support for the government entering into the pilot joint venture with Renew Bahamas.
There is no “sacred deal” and the contract will be tabled in the House of Assembly.
Anyone visiting the landfill and seeing the Materials Recycling Facility would agree that there has been good progress over the last 18 months. Two new weighbridges have been installed, recycling at a commercial scale is now a reality and we have lessened the footprint of the dumpsite. However, challenges still exist and there is more work to be done to eradicate all of the challenges which have plagued the landfill for decades. Plans are also being developed to advance medium term to long term remediation efforts of the landfill.
The Government is committed to bringing remediation to the New Providence Landfill evidenced by our efforts since coming to office in 2012. The Government is also committed to the health and safety of its citizens also evidenced by our efforts to improve the conditions which we met at the landfill. Further evidence of our commitment is the recent removal of the Derelict Vehicle Site from Marshall Road to its new location near the New Providence Landfill. This move is a relief to many who live in Pastel Gardens, Faith Gardens, Misty Gardens, Marshall Road, the students and faculty at Anatol Rodgers High School and residents in other neighbouring communities.
The Free National Movement is proficient in meaningless TALK for political mileage as it has no record on which to stand concerning remediation of the New Providence Landfill. I wish to assure the public that the fires at the dump are a major concern for this administration. We will continue our work until this historical problem is no more. The Government’s commitment to public health and safety, good environmental stewardship and permanent solutions as regard the landfill remains in tact. The Free National Movement’s statement brings to mind the Bahamian adage that “dogs don’t bark at parked car”. With that said, “this car” will continue to move forward for progress and reform and I would expect the opposition to bark and spew non-sense. After all, “it is in their nature”.