Castries, Saint Lucia, Wednesday November 3, 2021:– Minister for Sustainable Development Shawn Edwards says despite expressed concerns about a private two-million-dollar garbage-hauling contract to truck rubbish from Vieux Fort to Castries, it will stay in place.
Responding to media questions during a tour of the Deglos Landfill on Monday, Education Minister Edward, who also has responsibility for environmental sanitation affairs, said the current government would honor its contractual obligations under the controversial the agreement with Desert Star Holdings (DSH).
The agreement with DSH, under which the company gained exclusive control of hundreds of acres of Crown Lands in Vieux Fort, involves payment to a private company to transfer garbage from the South to Deglos.
The Vieux Fort landfill, which handled garbage from the South and was located near to the Olympic Stadium that was transferred to an emergency hospital, was closed-down by the previous administration to facilitate construction of a horse-racing track by DSH.
Minister Edward indicated that despite the ruling St. Lucia Labour Party (SLP) having been critical of DSH, the agreement and related contracts “while in opposition,” the government of the day will take its obligations seriously.
Sanitation engineers say the Deglos landfill still has less than ten years life left, but only if properly managed.
According to an environmental consultant contacted by Saint Lucia News Online (SNO), “Deglos is still okay for now, but while it still takes-in all garbage from everywhere, there are processing problems that can shorten it’s life.”
She pointed out, “Management has for some time been complaining of serious problems handling current dump loads.”
According to the consultant, speaking anonymously, “Millions of dollars’ worth of incinerators were purchased by the previous administration that have been proving unworthy and useless.
“Some are said by managers to have never worked, while others have not functioned to promised or expected capacity,” she explained.
According to her, the million-dollar Vieux Fort garbage-transfer contract and the ineffective multi-million-dollar incinerators at Deglos are “but a small window on a much larger picture…”
The minister did not indicate whether the government planned to address or revisit the seemingly-expensive private garbage transfer deal or the incinerators contract, both facilitated by the previous administration.
Nor did he indicate whether the government has found and bound itself by the elusive controversial contract with DSH, which the previous administration never tabled in parliament.
Indeed, when alleged copies of what was claimed to have been the original agreement were circulated online soon after the United Workers Party (UWP) administration took office in 2016, then Prime Minister Allen Chastanet staunchly denied the signature thereon was his and dubbed the document “fake”.
However, legal observers versed in parliamentary and constitutional law are divided on whether the current government is obligated to honor an agreement that wasn’t blessed by parliament.
One senior attorney contacted by SNO argues that in the absence of parliamentary protection, the government is “not obligated” to abide by the controversial agreement.
But another says, “Once it’s been implemented or recognized by one administration, it automatically binds all others.”
The St. Lucia Environmental Company Limited (SLECL), which manages the Deglos landfill, is without a Managing Director, but the insider says the post “is expected to be filled sooner than later…”
The Deglos landfill is the latest national dumpsite following previous ones at Faux-a-Chaux, Choc and Ciceron – all in Castries and handles garbage from Northern areas and part of the West Coast.
The Vieux Fort site managed dump loads from Soufriere, Choiseul and Laborie, the Town of Vieux Fort and Micoud.
But closure of the Vieux Fort site to accommodate the DSH horseracing track and the dumping of all the South’s garbage there has compounded problems at Deglos.
Meanwhile, Minister Edward told reporters during the tour earlier this week that the current administration plans to make Saint Lucia “Landfill-free by 2030.”
The announcement was made while Prime Minister Philip J. Pierre attended the global climate change summit in Glasgow, Scotland, where world leaders are also discussing the necessity for new and more environmentally-friendly ways of handling garbage and waste disposal.