Obviously Professor Machel’s article struck a chord with the thousands of people who read it. Today, Professor Machel has taken the time to reply to some of the issues and questions raised by BFP readers who commented on the original post.
Barbados Free Press has published Professor Machel’s reply exactly as he sent it to us this morning, with not one word changed. For readability, we have divided some of the larger sections into paragraphs – specifically inserting the breaks now seen after paragraphs 5, 6, 12, and 15. Similarly, where bold style appears, this was done by Barbados Free Press – again to enhance readability.
BFP inserted Liz Thompson’s photo to provide a visual break from the text and to illustrate the article The other two photos were supplied by Professor Machel.
Greenland Fiasco Dooms Barbados – Reply to Comments
Kudos to those many thousands of readers that propelled the Greenland landfill issue to #80 on WordPress.com Top Posts List on December 21. Finally this issue has received worldwide attention.
A very considerable number of people has made comments to my article directly on-line, and in e-mails directly to me. I should like to reply to some of these comments, specifically to those posted on-line.
First off, several individuals asked, directly or indirectly, for more information on the technical issue. In a nutshell, Greenland is the worst possible site for a new landfill in Barbados, and there is a large area infinitely better suited – albeit not ideal – for the new landfill. This area is in the parish of St. Lucy, which has several locations that would meet 6, 7 or 8 of the 9 qualifying criteria. By contrast, Greenland fails 7 of the 9 qualifying criteria, and it is totally unsuitable for a landfill. Most importantly, Greenland is in an area of torrential rainfalls, prone to regular flooding and washouts, subject to land slippage and constant soil creep. Furthermore, its base cannot be sealed permanently, which results in constant groundwater seeping into the site, as well as toxic leachate leaving the site. A landfill at Greenland will be an environmental disaster. Any country that places even a minimum of value on environmental protection should not even consider a site such as Greenland for a landfill, let alone develop it.
Comment by “Hants”: Yes, garbage disposal in Barbados should be, and in fact is, an easy problem to solve, at least in principle. I, as well as several other scientists and engineers before me, have recommended an integrated waste management system with the following main components and features: incineration; recycling; composting; closing of the Mangrove landfill as soon as possible, and opening of a new site in the parish of St. Lucy. Incineration alone, if the most advanced technology is used, would reduce the total garbage for dumping to a very small amount. A new landfill thus would be much smaller in capacity and/or would last much longer. It seems that the Government of Barbados and its appointees in waste management have turned a deaf ear to all this, i.e., to sound scientific advice and to common sense.
Comment by “God Bless David”: Ricardo Marshall is a government appointee and Project Manager of Governments Solid Waste Management Programme. He was at my public lecture in Queens College on February 22 2006, during which I demonstrated the unsuitability of Greenland as a landfill in considerable detail and beyond any reasonable doubt. Marshall heckled me repeatedly during my presentation by shouting remarks. In the discussion period after the presentation, he went way off-topic, misquoted facts repeatedly, in a glaring attempt to mislead the audience. His rant became so unbearable that the chairman of the meeting, Leonard St. Hill, felt compelled to cut him off.
Marshall delivered a similar performance a few days later when I was debating the Greenland issue with Leslie Barker, retired chief geologist for the Barbados government, on the radio call-in show Brass Tacks. Marshall was on the phone for the entire 2 hour show, monopolizing the phone line that was supposed to be dedicated to all Bajans. [This appeared to be a ploy orchestrated by Government to provide Barker with support: I was not informed ahead of the show that I would effectively have to discuss both Marshall and Barker all the time.] Marshall again proved his ignorance and/or incompetence. Among other things, he did not know and/or denied that there are springs flowing in the Greenland area, even after Edward Cumberbatch, one of the callers, who had worked the area as a soil conservation officer for many years, had set the record straight. These springs had been known for decades.
In fact, these springs are partly to blame for the fact that Greenland has never been officially opened as a landfill. For example, the Daily Nation reported on June 11 1997 that “A landslip was occurring at Greenland, St. Andrew, at a rate of five centimetres per day as a result of an underground spring.” Marshall also did not know or denied that there are leaks at Greenland. Yet, in the Daily Nation from August 18 1999, then Minister of Health Phillip Goddard admitted that there are leaks at the proposed site, after about a year of Government denials. We are forced to conclude that Marshall is blissfully unaware of some of the most elemental facts pertaining to his job, or he knows but denies them.
All this is a matter of public record, including Marshall’s self-incriminating statements. My lecture at Queens College, including the subsequent discussion period, was taped by a television crew, as was the entire Brass Tacks show from February 26 2006. Both are available on DVD.
Comment by “Environmentalist”: I am not a lawyer and defer a definitive call on this issue to legal experts, but I can say this: I read the relevant legislation and concluded that it is illegal to put a landfill into the Scotland District National Park. Thus, Leonard St. Hill appears to be correct in stating that there have been breaches of law, especially with respect to placing a landfill into a National Park. The government of Barbados could change the law, of course, but to date this has not happened. Furthermore, one would have to wonder which government would even contemplate putting a landfill into a national park. This contradicts the spirit of a national park in the first place, and is unthinkable just about anywhere in the world.
Another comment by “Environmentalist” laments that local experts, most notably at UWI, “do not come out and give their professional opinion”, and “We need more people with backbone who are not afraid to deal with issues of national concern”. I agree. But this is not easy for certain people. I have met several Bajans with valuable advice and knowledge but who are afraid to speak up for fear of losing their jobs. This is one of the reasons why I am speaking up. I cannot be fired by the Barbados government. I do not hold any paid or unpaid position in Barbados.
Comments by “John”and “Andy Knight” deal with the role of the politicians. “John” states that “Bajan politicians don’t do resigning”, and “Andy Knight” states that “someone within the government ought to be held responsible for this fiasco. Barbadians should be up-in-arms over this decision and let the government know in no uncertain terms that no more taxpayers dollars should be wasted on this venture.” I could not agree more.
Take the role played by Liz Thompson. She was the government minister responsible for the implementation of the Greenland landfill fiasco from the beginning in 1995. For several years she pushed the issue at every opportunity, thereby repeatedly maligning dissenting voices (the local press, which was critical at the time, as well as environmentalists such as Richard Goddard), and arguing against sensible alternatives, including incineration. Yet after she lost her ministerial position, she went on public record in the House of Assembly, as quoted in a Daily Nation article dated December 17 2000 entitled “Liz: I never wanted landfill”. She stated: “A country as small as Barbados cannot keep picking up 25 acres of land and turning them into landfills”; and “It was my view then, and it is my view now, that incineration is the method of waste disposal for Barbados, and this is what we should do”.
Hence, for several years Liz Thompson was misleading the public, speaking out of both sides of her mouth when she pushed Greenland as the best option of garbage disposal. Later in the same article, in an attempt to justify her actions, she is quoted as saying that “…all local and international studies confirmed that Greenland was the best location for the landfill”. This is a blatant falsehood. In all the years that Greenland has been an issue, there has not been one scientist or engineer of any repute who has recommended Greenland as the best location, and most did not recommend Greenland at all. The only comprehensive environmental impact study that was ever done on the Greenland landfill site was by Stanley Associates in 1995, who clearly advised against Greenland, and had included Greenland only because of the demands by the Barbados Government. The various other consulting reports are largely technical (installation of cells, pipes, etc.) and do not deal with the suitability of the site. All this can easily be verified by anyone who bothers to read these reports, most of which can be purchased.
Incineration, which works highly efficiently if the latest technology is implemented, has near zero emissions and produces electricity. It works wonderfully in a number of countries, most notably small island countries. Yet, as recently as February 13 2006 in the Daily Nation, Minister of Health Jerome Walcott is on record as stating that “Incineration is not to be seen as an option in waste management in a small country like Barbados”. In the same article, he cited statistics from other countries on incineration plants, which he doctored in order to support his point of view. His is another example of a government minister who appears to be misleading the public by not knowing and/or not presenting all the relevant facts. This conclusion was reinforced by the chairman of Williams Industries Ralph “Bizzy” Williams in the Daily Nation from February 27 2006. Williams, who had spent about $1 million researching incineration around the world, appears considerably better informed than the minister, outlining various technological advantages and cost alternatives. Williams had made a proposal to Government for an incineration plant, but was just “pooh- poohed”. Williams also stated that it is “madness to use Greenland in St. Andrew as a landfill”.
So, in reply to “John” and “Andy Knight”, I should say that people like Ricardo Marshall, Liz Thompson, and Jerome Walcott should be held responsible, among others. Barbados surely has much more qualified people to run its waste management than Ricardo Marshall. Also, had Liz Thompson shown the integrity that one would expect from a government minister, she should have resigned from her portfolio right at the beginning of the Greenland fiasco, rather than misleading the public for several years by pushing an ill-conceived project that she did not believe in. Today she is a high government minister again, albeit in a different portfolio. Also, Minister Walcott should get himself properly informed and stop misleading the public on matters relating to incineration.
If I had it my way, these people would lose their jobs tomorrow and would never again be allowed to work in or for Government. These people do not work for the benefit of the people. Yet, this is what working in or for the government should be all about.
Hans G. Machel
University of Alberta
Photos Supplied By Prof. Machel…