Talk must rise above the smoke


There was a time –– not too long ago –– when we thought the days of the neighbourhood stuff-burning brigade had been numbered. Actually, we were eagerly looking forward to the day when the smoke billowing would be over.

Sadly, it appears the neighbourhood fires remain all over the place instead.

The anti-burning activists, particularly the Facebook lobby group Citizens Against Burning Stuff, who have been advocating severe penalties for those setting garbage afire in neighbourhoods –– and with flaunted impunity, caring not for the asthmatic and chronic sinusitis sufferers –– must be a frustrated lot.

We hardly hear their voices these days. And it can’t be because of the success of the undertaking by the then Minister of Health Donville Inniss to rid us of the exasperating and dangerous practice. He simply didn’t have much time to before being given a new ministerial portfolio.

We must now depend on new Minister of Health John Boyce. But will he have the temerity to spur Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite on to other than slick talk and social oral niceties?

Last Sunday, while addressing a service at Hawthorne Memorial Methodist Church to mark the beginning of Barbados Fire Service Week, Mr Brathwaite himself lamented the indiscriminate neighbourhood burning of rubbish.

He told the congregation that the practice could put asthmatics and those who suffer with other respiratory problems in mortal danger. And to his credit, in Christian-like tone implored the guilty to desist from the bad and perilous habit.

Speaking against the backdrop of neighbourhood fires and smoke trauma, the Attorney General and Minister of Home Affairs pleaded: “On behalf of all the people in Barbados who are suffering because of the unreasonable behaviour of their neighbours, work with us. Find other methods to dispose of your garbage.”

In fact, it is Mr Brathwaite who must deal with the “other methods”. He needs to bring urgent and tough relevant legislation to stop this madness of burning waste in and around residential districts. And the Minister of Health must prod him to.

Too many a victim of indiscriminate burning has had to take emergency trips to the Asthma Bay of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, after being overwhelmed by smoke from a neighbour’s fire-setting.

The Government takes bravely its flak for enforcing regulations related to illegal parking, motor licensing, food health and safety licensing, and the lot. What makes its back any less sturdy against those who would pillory it for enforcing laws that would save lives from the billows of the neighbourhood fire-setters?

In reality, without regulations, our streets and other public places would be choked with uncontrollable traffic; dishonest and dirty traders would thrive; and we would all suffer because of human selfishness. We know well that enforcement can be a thorny issue, but we cannot stay at the level of ineffectual “communication and engagement” with the selfish, who would smoke us out of our neighbourhoods.

Given the many cases of respiratory problems Barbados faces, control laws on refuse burning are urgent and requisite. Lardy-dardy mouthing on the reckless fire-setting of selfish neighbours just doesn’t cut it.

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