Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Not in my backyard

In El Salvador and the rest of Central America, dealing with garbage is a major environmental problem, as this 2000 article describes:

Today’s garbage "treatment" in almost all of Central America’s cities and towns can be compared to sweeping up garbage at home, then hiding it under the bed when no one is looking, as though this resolved the problem. Increasingly rapid and disorganized urban expansion, overcrowding, industrial growth and changing consumption patterns mean that each of us constantly produces more garbage that must be "swept up."

Throwing this garbage "away" may seem the fastest, easiest way to get rid of it, but that only piles it up somewhere else, and spreads the contamination in the process. Dumping garbage in vacant fields or ravines or alongside roads and highways contaminates the air with toxic gases, foul odors and ash, and forms focal points for diseases carried by flies, mosquitoes, cockroaches and rats. Toxic substances filter into underground water, while surface water is contaminated when rain carries the garbage into rivers and lakes and leaves it littered along coastlines.

In El Salvador, a law has been passed which requires municipalities to close their open air dumps and send garbage to sanitary landfills. (Today the environment ministry announced that it believed that 87% of municipalities were promptly coming into compliance with that law).

One of the most contaminated open air dumps has been located outside Santa Ana. The images of the dump at this link show the dump where 219 tons of garbage arrived each day. The dump has operated in that location for almost 40 years.

Now Santa Ana is establishing a new dump, but inhabitants of the surrounding region are strongly protesting. They are demanding that the environment ministry take action to halt the new dump because of fear that it will bring illness and contaminate the sources of water serving 11 communities of more than 7000 persons. Residents of the communities protested before the environment ministry last week, asserting as well that the new landfill was being constructed without citizen input and without any type of environmental impact study.

The problem of dealing with solid waste and landfills is a challenging one for El Salvador. With a high population density, El Salvador generates a lot of garbage and almost any place you locate a dump is likely to be close to some community.

For a different view of issues with landfills in Central America, check out the award-winning documentary "Recycled Life" about the municipal dump in Guatemala City and currently showing on HBO in the US and available for purchase from the website of the film.


El-Visitador said...

I know of a garbage dump that is

(a) 100% technologically up to date
(b) Meets European law
(c) Bottom-sealed so nothing escapes to the aquifer
(d) Squeaky-clean

Of course, it is privately owned. It is near San Sebastian, in Spain. It competes with other "vertederos" in the area. If it raises its prices too much, clients take their garbage to other dumps.

Did I mention it is very profitable? A Spanish family left the "working class" because of a modest investment the patriarch made decades ago. That family now contributes a lot of taxes to the Spanish Crown.

- * -

Most people's minds in El Salvador have been poisoned against this type of private solution ---and generally by the same kind of "bleeding heart" people who then complain about the disastrous government-owned services.

In any case, it would be risky to open a private dump in El Salvador.

Chances are, the next administration would want to "control" the dump's prices, or worse yet, steal (expropriate) it.

Anonymous said...

The family in Spain contributes a lot of taxes to the Spanish crown? E-V are you a monarchist? If so that would set up a real contradiction with your neoliberal views and proposals.

Anonymous said...

Most people just burn their garbage at the end of the street without any concern to the health problems caused by such a practice. The cities are covered with litter. It appears that the people of ES just don't give a damn anymore. But why should they? Private industry and the government are under the control of the oligarchy who past the time getting rich at the expense of the general population.

El-Visitador said...

«The family in Spain contributes a lot of taxes to the Spanish crown?»



Spain is a kingdom. Not a very closed guarded secret, either, you know? King, Queen, Prince, Dukes, the whole medieval thing.

Don't embarrass yourself.

HODAD26 said...

disposing of garbage is an educational learning thing
look how trashy ALL of Latinolandia is
people there just throw it out the windows or on the ground, us ex pat gringos always had some remarks in regards
horrible it is, to the land,water and visual surroundings,

it is lack of education and 'common sense' again that word......

landfills can be created to dispose of garbage and as I did in 1984, tapped into the methane gas and burned in in 2 generators selling it back to the power company for $22,000 a month, IN 1984!!!!!

India, Bangladesh, and others recycle plastic bags, etc. the soft drink companies besides contributing greatly to obesity=health problems etc. are one of the worst violators at least thanks to most Latin countries for having recycled bottles

home/community based composting is an immediate solution,
for the price of a pila, i can make a home composting toilet, that uses the biogas for cooking needs, and then mallorganite is the result ,this is one of the richest sources of fertilizer and nutrients for plants, [there are exceptions when meat is the main staple of the diet, again a health issue also]
but that requires some MAINTAINENCE
that which is difficult to implement in LATINOLANDIA again due to EDUCATION or the lack of it and COMMON SENSE again, why is this repeated?

private landfills must be part of the solution and to use the biogas for energy needs and recycling is a necessity for moving on in the future as as populations increase
garbage and how to dispose of it IS a Science in itself

better solution is to haul it to the active volcanoes and dump it in, problem solved
this was proposed by me and others in 1980, for Costa Rica where an old existing Railway was close by the eastern side of Arenal volcanoe

oh well, time will tell
but for sure, El Salvador is a trashy place especially with all the plastic bags everywhere!