A national plague
Litter and debris line the sides of many streets across the island.
Everything from trash to old refrigerators and mattresses have been thrown out of people’s homes and onto the side of the streets or in the bushes.
When children and teenagers travel to and from school, many of them litter the streets with empty soda cans, plastic wrappers and empty fast food containers.
A drive down the highway southwest of the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium highlights the extent of the problem.
The area was initially used to temporarily store waste and storm debris from the hundreds of homes that were damaged by Hurricane Irma in 2017.
Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister said the site was closed months after the hurricane and subsequently cleared.
The government erected logs, chains and signs to dissuade people from dumping at the site. Those efforts proved fruitless. Piles of garbage now mar the area once again.
Sadly, Bannister said the clean-up process will have to be repeated.
We complain about foreigners polluting our land when we do not seem to have any regard for the damage we inflict ourselves.
After nearly every holiday, there is a barrage of trash piled up on the beaches around New Providence.
Pigeons often fight over the mounds of discarded chicken bones that are strewn across the sand.
Rats proliferate around these places, setting up shop for the long haul.
The scale of the problem is widespread, according to Save The Bays Chairman Joe Darville.
“I think the extent of illegal dumping and regular dumping and indiscriminate garbage disposal has become a national plague,” Darville said.
“There is no way we can imagine the phenomenal and damaging effect that it is going to have on our land, sea and on our water table.
“It is a total lack of appreciation for Mother Earth.”
Dumping is illegal in The Bahamas. Those who engage in it are in breach of the Environmental Health Act.
Anyone found guilty of this offense could be fined or face imprisonment.
But Darville said the laws need to be strengthened and enforced.
“What we need in this country is something that we’ve never had. That is the insistence on penalties for people who do indiscriminate dumping,” he added.
“There is a dearth of education. There is nothing that is systemically being taught in our country about the regard we should have for Mother Earth.
“This is something that we have to teach our children. We have to help them to understand that wherever we live, that it is the garden of Eden, our entire country. We must see it as the garden of Eden.
“We have this massive amount of refuse due to the way that we are living; we have this indiscriminate way of dumping it and then there are no penalties.
“The fact is that I have driven behind a police officer in a car, who has had cars in front of them dumping garbage out on the side of the road and they were not stopped. It’s ridiculous.”
Last month, we learned that Carnival Cruise Company ships had dumped almost 500,000 gallons of treated sewage in Bahamian waters in 2017.
It was outrageous for many reasons.
It exposed how ill-equipped we are to police our vast waters.
It also demonstrates that lack of regard that many international entities have for us.
Last week, Minister of Transport and Local Government Renward Wells said the government will not allow the waters of The Bahamas to be compromised.
“We have now received from Carnival two records: A record and description of all the incidents caused by Carnival group vessels in Bahamian waters, regardless of the vessel’s registry; and a record and description of all incidents caused by Carnival group Bahamas registered vessels, regardless of location,” he said.
“These two records encompass year one, from April 2017 to April 2018 of Carnival’s U.S. court-ordered operational audit, and year two, from April 2018 to April 2019, of such audit.”
“We are processing, cross-referencing and investigating this information using all of our resources.”
Wells said the government has established a joint task force to accelerate the investigative process.
“The attorney general’s office has engaged to assess the extent of criminality in these actions and to determine what remedies are available based upon Bahamian environmental protection laws and any applicable international maritime conventions and the law of the sea,” he said.
Bahamians railed about this blatant disregard for our marine environment.
There’s no doubt that it is reprehensible and Bahamians should be angry.
But we should also be outraged by the indiscriminate dumping in our backyards and on the sides of our streets.
We must stand against all such offenses.
Bannister agreed that indiscriminate dumping is a wide scale problem.
“It hurts too much in our country and it’s something that we all have to look at and do something about,” he said.
“We can’t turn our heads and accept it, which is what a lot of us have been doing.
“It’s a huge concern for me and it’s a huge concern for those communities. I hope that those who do that kind of dumping will think twice because it negatively impacts all of our communities.
“This is very important. It is so critical. The issue is critical.”
Dumping can harm the environment, bring down property values and possibly threaten wildlife in the area.
Darville went even further.
“We are depleting our marine life due to overfishing, indiscriminate fishing and pollution,” Darville said.
“Three years ago I visited the southern side of Inagua.
“I was standing by the beach and there was garbage a foot and a half deep as far as I could look to the left and right.
“You know where that came from? That came from ships, boats, tankers who feel that they could dump anything in our nation.
“We do not have a proper Environmental Protection Act, specifically for our ocean.
“Those tankers and cruise ships when they reach our southern waters, they begin to dump their garbage.
“That is reprehensible.
“That should not be done in our waters.
“I am vehemently adamant about legislation to control dumping on land and sea.”
He said even in Grand Bahama, which has a good waste disposal facility, there is a lot of indiscriminate dumping.
“They have no sense of appropriateness about how to dispose of garbage.”