11 Feb Opposition says smoke and air pollution nuisance is unacceptable
The People’s National Party is deeply concerned about the high levels of air pollution affecting the residents of Portmore and parts of Kingston and St. Thomas. We call on the Prime Minister and Minister of Environment – the Most Honourable Andrew Holness to further strengthen the legal and regulatory framework to reduce air pollution in Jamaica. This will over time relieve the suffering of asthma patients and reduce the health costs associated with the increase in respiratory illnesses associated with the unregulated burning of garbage at illegal dumps and in backyards, dust emissions, vehicular emissions and emissions from various industries.
Under the last PNP administration, we introduced a number of measures including legislation to address air pollution. These include:
· The Natural Resources Conservation Protection Measures Order (2016) dealing with Open Burning between in watershed areas. This legislation sought to reduce the emission of particulates and other material from the burning of sugar cane and farming in general
· A Road Traffic Act which includes testing of emissions from vehicles, with the appropriate sanctions if the emission standards are not met. The Act should be passed in both Houses of Parliament shortly and
· The creation of an Air Quality Branch at the National Environment & Planning Authority that is dedicated to developing appropriate air quality standards and monitoring and enforcing the standards.
It is no secret that the Government needs to allocate more funds to strengthen the monitoring and enforcement the capability of the Ministry of Health, National Environment Protection Agency, NEPA and the National Solid Waste Management Authority, NSWMA. Additional equipment is required to monitor air quality in Portmore, Spanish Town Road and other parts of Kingston. It also needs to enforce the Public Health Nuisance Regulations and the National Solid Waste Management Act to ensure that garbage is not burnt in the backyard and at illegal dumps. These must also be bolstered by strict enforcement and adherence to the rules and regulations now in effect.
The relevant Agencies must not be afraid to exercise the powers under the various Acts and Regulations to impose the necessary penalties when the air quality standards by industry, owners of vehicles and persons who burn garbage at illegal dump are not met.
A sustained public education programme on the impact of air pollution on our health and the environment should be implemented. We believe that this will encourage communities to monitor their surroundings and report infractions to the authorities.