I am extremely concerned with the significant negative environmental and health repercussions arising from the recently burning of confiscated drugs by incinerating them with a large quantity of vehicle tyres.
Tyre burning in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) should be banned under the Environmental Protection Act – Air Pollution Control Regulations. In fact, of the top 20 “Materials Prohibited from Burning in a Fire” listed in any Act brought forward, tyre burning should be in first place. There is evidence of a rash of “tyre fires” which take place in our communities, especially on the annual “Bonfire Night”. This practice must stop!
According to the SVG Health Department PAHO Strategic Plan 2007 - 2012, crude burning of rubbish and plastics is widespread within the state. Rubbish, in this context, means vegetative waste, which arises from the clearing of lands for agricultural purposes, the trimming of weeds from yards and cutting hedges. There is no organized system for the collection of green and/or brown waste, and plastics used in the banana industry. Pollution from smoke during charcoal production is still a factor in some residential areas. Used tyres are destroyed, mainly by burning in a remote area of the country.
St Vincent and the Grenadines is a party to the Basel Convention, which prohibits tyre burning. While there possibly is no legislation in SVG to be used in the implementation of the Basel Convention, the Central Water and Sewerage Authority (CWSA) Solid Waste Management Unit works in conjunction with the Environmental Services Unit to address issues related to hazardous waste management. CWSA should be actively and aggressively be lobbying the government to stop the dirty deed of tyre burning.
The Ministry of Health and the Environment is the executive arm of government with responsibility for health and environmental policies and service delivery. In ignoring the dangers of tyre burning they are failing in their duty to the citizens of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. In fact there is a failure of the whole Gonsalves ULP government in allowing this to happen time and time again, without any action or even comment whatsoever. The news article “UP IN SMOKE” and photo on the back page of Friday February 1st’s edition of the ‘News Newspaper’ which should be evidence enough of police wrongdoing.
The building of new health facilities in some parts of the country is a crying shame, if the people are being given cancer and deformed and stillbirth babies as a by-product of government policies on burning tyres.
A review of documentation on the web related to health and environmental threats associated with tyre burning, shows that emissions have been found to contain dioxins and other emissions, which cause cancer and severe respiratory problems in humans, and also affect the immune system, which can result in human birth deformities.
Immune systems are also compromised in wildlife including birds, fish, shellfish and mammals, resulting in gross deformities in all living things.
The next day I inspected the burn location, there was a huge pile of steel rings from the tyres that I feared getting tangled up in them, certainly a danger to animals. The acrid smell made it hard to breathe, and grass, boulders and vegetation was black with tyre residue that wouldn't wipe off my shoes. Where the burn had taken place would definitely cause pollution to the water course and sea.
The police should be taken to task for this dreadful outlandish action and unbecoming behaviour. The officer in charge should be fired or reduced in rank and the senior officer or police chief who gave the orders to use tyres should be asked to resign.
There are piles of lumber and tree trunks scattered along the whole length of the windward coast. It is well known to the authorities that each time there is a tidal or storm surge, this wood debris is washed into the ocean. It is only a matter of time before a fishing pirogue collides with a seriously large pole, the boat sunk and the lives of our brave fishermen lost. One may ask, even with half a brain, why can‘t they work out the problem. Why not put some prisoners on a voluntary task of clearing wood debris from our beaches. Then left to dry for two or three weeks at the proposed burn site, this will give a clean, almost smokeless burn, no green vegetation, no bark or wood resin to create obnoxious smoke. All dirty burn ingredients have been washed out of the trees and lumber during their journey downstream and river, and their constant bathing in the sea.
A huge pyre of clean lumber and trees will easily burn anything; they even burn bodies on such fires in Trinidad.
Tyre burning is also one of the direct causes of global warming; they are killing us, killing the creatures, and killing the future of the whole planet.
Now I am just a simple man putting forward some simple layman ideas. For God’s sake get your act together and try and behave like responsible adults, instead of monkeys fresh from the jungle.