CCTV cameras will be installed as a means to address the pesky litter problem that continues to plague the territory. In a statement delivered to the House of Assembly on June 13, Minister for Health and Social Development, Hon. Ronnie Skelton announced that the camera is just one of the efforts being made to put an end to the dumping of bulky items at residential dumpsters and overall littering.
Hon. Skelton told the House that the issue of illegal waste disposal poses a serious health and economic threat to the Virgin Islands; and noted that the practice of disposing of construction and other debris such as tree branches in dumpsters and on private property; as well as the throwing of trash through vehicle windows and along roadsides and coastal areas persists.
The Minister stated that not only do these practices paint a very negative picture of the Territory and its people, but also create breeding grounds for rodents and insects that are becoming increasingly harmful to our health and economy.
Hon. Skelton announced a zero tolerance approach to the unsightly and dangerous practices of illegal dumping and littering. In fact, he stated that stringent measures will be taken to discourage the practice: “We will be enhancing our law enforcement efforts through increased surveillance using the Litter Wardens Programme throughout the Territory.”
The Minister disclosed that new Litter Wardens have already been selected and approved by Cabinet, and that these individuals will be undergoing training in the coming weeks in order to equip and empower them to perform this very important duty.
“The Litter Wardens, Madam Speaker, will have the authority to issue tickets to illegal dumpers and litterers with the appropriate penalties applied. The maximum penalty for illegal dumping as stipulated in the Litter Abatement Act is $500.00, or three months in prison. We will take all necessary steps to ensure that this penalty is strictly enforced, Madam Speaker. Consideration is also being given to amending the legislation to enhance the powers of Litter Wardens; as well as to give the wider community more effective reporting ability, and to create stiffer penalties for this despicable offence. Madam Speaker, the Litter Abatement Act was passed in this Honourable House as a deterrent to the negative behaviour of some of our residents, and must be strengthened and enforced in order to achieve this purpose,” he added.
According to Hon. Skelton, in 2013, the Department made several attempts through signage and other mediums, to inform the public of the danger and unsightliness of the illegal dumping of waste. However, he noted that these signs were blatantly ignored in some instances.
As a result, the Minister stated that the Department implemented a surveillance programme to deter persons from dumping around the dumpsters where this behaviour was most frequent. Though successful, this initiative proved cost prohibitive, as the Department had to pay overtime to officers stationed at these sites. However, new attempts will be made to increase surveillance with the use of CCTV cameras where possible, in very problematic areas.
In its stance against littering the Ministry is imploring all residents to become ‘litter wardens’ by reporting all acts of illegal dumping and littering to the Department of Waste Management by calling 494-4934 and giving the license plate numbers of the vehicles engaging in this behaviour. “Illegal dumpers and litterers are hurting our environment, they are hurting our economy. Madam Speaker, It is time that we all take a stand to stop illegal dumping and littering in our Territory,” he added.
A long time Tortola resident observed that in recent years the number of mosquitoes and flies has increased dramatically: “I go to a Road Town restaurant and these flies keep dancing on my dinner table, the same at West End and North Shore restaurants, and they remain affectionately too close to you, it is embarrassing when you have guests, and it is unhealthy. However, the increasing number of pests stems from illegal garbage dumping of noxious or rottening meat and fish parts.”