The Tafa’igata Landfill covers an area of over 30 hectares.
It has internal access roads, a gatehouse, a recycling materials segregation and storage area, a hazardous waste incinerator, waste water lagoons, and a landfill.
Suffice to say, it is a place where children have no business being there.
But that is not the reality.
Vaitele Fou resident Nanai Tailealo Motumotu said children are there every day to collect whatever they find from there – including food.
“Whenever trucks discharge waste at the site, these children rush to collect plastics, metals and other things that can still be used and many of them are as young as six,” he said.
“These poor souls treat the place as their own and it’s a really sad scene for myself as a father.”
What’s even more disheartening is that many of these children even look for food items.
He is calling on the government to do something to stop children from entering the place.
“That’s the thing we should do now, I know these children are helping their parents out because they are as young.
“But something that the government should think about, is a way to stop them from accessing this place.”
Nanai said many of these children come from families who are desperate.
“Think about how our people are now hoarding rubbish to earn a living. What will happen to them in the next ten years? Are we expecting these numbers to decrease? The answer is no!”
Nanai said he cannot fathom the risk these children are exposed to in terms of health.
“And when they find food and expired goods, imagine how many other people in their families are exposed?”
He claims that waste collectors work from the early hours until night in the polluted environment.
“I am not sure about the condition that many of these people are working under but the contractors that use these people to collect recycled bottles must be strict on their employees to wear safety gear.
“Many of these collectors are children. They walk around freely without any safety gear and that’s a big worry for me.
“These people are eating dust in the sun and rain so that they can (get by) from day to day while the government is blind to their plight.
He said that the Ministry responsible for the landfill should be held accountable.
“If they are giving them gear to use, make sure to have someone from the Ministry to monitor them from day and night.
“Not just rocking on the chairs inside their offices and wasting government money but they need to get out there to see the reality that many of our people are living day and night.”
Nanai added that these people collecting rubbish there are not bad.
“They are desperate,” he said.
“Maybe the government should send many of the government workers to see for themselves what is happening out there, talk to them, and see what their real needs are and then work on them.
“We are giving too much time and concern to meetings and conferences especially launching those reports to decorate tables and shelves without solving many problems.”
Contacted for a comment, the Assistant Chief Executive Officer of the Division of Environment and Conservation of the M.N.R.E, Tauti Fuatino Leota, said the Ministry is monitoring the landfill.
“What we are looking at now is a permanent fence for the landfill because that’s where most people enter,” she said.
She also confirmed there are Ministry officials present who enforce safety regulations for people there.
“But it’s true that many children are seen at the place and the Ministry has not taken those reports lightly.”
Tauti said they have already informed parents that they are not supposed to bring their children with them.
She recalled one occasion when Police had to be called in because these parents did not adhere to the regulations at the landfill.
“We are trying our best to advise them every single day to wear safety gear and that they are not allowed to bring their children with them...but it’s just that our people they don’t want to comply with rules and principles.
“As I’ve mentioned earlier, the Ministry’s option to control the people that enter the landfill without our knowledge is a permanent fence to avoid problems there.”