Minister Vaz Calls For Zero Tolerance To Address Air Quality Challenges In Riverton And Surrounding Areas

March 9, 2018

At a meeting convened yesterday (Thursday, March 8, 2018) at The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) to develop a plan of action and intervention strategies to respond to the challenges of illicit burning in the Riverton and surrounding communities, the Honourable Daryl Vaz, Minister without Portfolio with responsibility for Land, The Environment, Climate Change and Investment, called for a zero tolerance approach to address the open burning activities taking place in the communities. “The time for action is now… the time for talk has passed,” the Minister said emphatically.

The Minister instructed NEPA’s CEO, Mr. Peter Knight, to co-ordinate amongst Government and other stakeholders for the development of short and medium term plans of action as well as have immediate consultation and intervention with the communities that are most affected. Minister Vaz will also be meeting with colleague Ministers Karl Samuda, Ruel Reid and Dr. Christopher Tufton with a view towards bolstering Government-wide involvement and support for the planned interventions.

There was general agreement from the meeting that the situation necessitated immediate and resolute multi-agency intervention to ameliorate the threatening health conditions residents are being predisposed to as direct result of the high-risk air quality situation caused by illicit and open burning.

The following actions and interventions have been identified for immediate commencement and over the next two weeks:

  • community engagement meetings in the coming week and onward to sensitize and mobilize residents on the planned action plan and broad intervention measures to be pursued. The Social Development Commission (SDC) was tasked to lead in preparing the communities for the planned meetings. The SDC will be supported by teams from the NEPA, Kingston & St. Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSAMC), the Ministry of Health (MoH), and the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET). The Councillors for the respective areas will also provide support with organization;
  • known illicit operating open-burning sites contributing to the air quality challenges are to be shut down;
  • alternative livelihood opportunities for community members involved in the illicit burning (trade) activities will be explored as well as proposing other solutions to open-burning;
  • engaging trade, industry and commerce operating along the corridor on the proposed plans and interventions and obtain the sector’s support;
  • requesting the MoH’s support and interventions to respond to health issues impacting the residents;
  • implementing public education messages on illicit and open burning to assist with sensitizing residents;

Members of Parliament Anthony Hylton and Dr. Angella Brown-Burke gave full endorsement to the plans to be implemented. The MPs also advocated for social intervention programmes to assist community members.

A Cabinet Submission will be prepared on the challenges and interventions necessary. The Submission is too be accompanied by a plan of action including budgetary support.

Present at the meeting were the Members of Parliament for Western St. Andrew, Mr. Anthony Hylton and Dr. Angella Brown-Burke, South Western St. Andrew; Opposition Senator Sophia Frazer-Binns; Ms Suzanne Stanley, CEO of the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) and Councillors Anderson and Perry of the Riverton City and Washington Gardens/Duhaney Park Divisions. Other stakeholders included representatives from the Kingston & St. Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSAMC), the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA), a representative from the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation – Environment and Risk Management Divsion; representation from the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and Jamaica Defence Force (JDF), the Ministry of Health (MoH), the Meteorological Division and the Social Development Commission (SDC).