Resident calls for emergency rubbish burning ban

By Soli Wilson 12 April 2020, 9:00AM

A Vailele resident has called for a new state of emergency order to stop the daily occurrence of rubbish burning. 

Tupaemanaia Steve Brown, who resides in Maugafiafia, Vailele Uta, said with the exception of smoke from umu and cigarettes, smoke sitting in the Vailele air is worsening and intervention is immediately needed.

He also recalled of a violent encounter when he tried confronting one of the families conducting a burning. 

In an email to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (M.N.R.E.) Assistant Chief Executive Officer (environment conservation), Seumalo Afele Faiilagi and Senior Urban Management Officer, David Elisara, Tupaemanaia said the concerns should be part of the state of emergency - especially as the coronavirus is a respiratory disease. 

"I seriously hope [Seumalo] that you can influence the [National Emergency Operation Center] as this would make your job so effective, just one sensible befitting legally correct decision as an S.O.E. Directive," he said.

"The issue here in Maugafiafia is getting worse, even violent yesterday as [...] raised a chair above my head and threw it, threatening me, so I backed-off real quick and retreated inside.

"He says it's his land and he has the right to burn and dump all his trash. He got very very angry when I mentioned [Planning and Urban Management Agency (P.U.M.A.)] had been notified and were on their way.

"There should be a No Burning No Air Pollution Policy for this week’s state of emergency [as coronavirus] is a respiratory disease."

In response, Tupaemanaia said P.U.M.A. paid a visit on Friday and had paid a visit to 17 other families in total and are working on getting awareness creation.

And as he looks forward to the results of their visits, Tupaemanaia pleads to neighbours, to have some social, medical and pandemic responsibility, "let’s do it the Samoan Way.”

"The C-19 virus just loves sick lungs. Imagine C-19 positive patients lying in hospital, or hospitalized at home, suffering from asthma and smoke inhalation from their neighbours’ garden fires.

"[...] if we do not introduce an immediate request to N.E.O.C. from M.N.R.E., D.E.C., P.U.M.A. and M.O.H. to, well, maybe, just these 4 weeks [please], cease burning all unwanted household rubbish. 

"After the pandemic, let’s go back to normal and make all our children with asthma suffer again. It’s a joke, it’s a joke.

"Any excuses that you are burning to get rid of the rats, or it’s your land and you can do what you like with it, or your forebears have been burning off like this for 3000 years, or you do it for “health reasons”, or the Women's Committee are coming to do their asiasiga (visitations), or the school principal and teachers told you to burn all this plastic rubbish, or, 'Out of respect for my Mum, I have to do what she tells me to do.'

"No, not this time: that would be yet another mistake."

Responding to questions from this newspaper, Chairman of N.E.O.C. and Chief Executive Officer of M.N.R.E., Ulu Bismarck Crawley says D.E.C. and M.N.R.E. has launched awareness materials and notices on the Ministry website and social media.

"Already there is law and we are building greater awareness and the public to report cases for follow up action especially now with links to complications brought about by Coronavirus 19," he said.

According to Waste Management 2010 section 18, Regulation of incineration of wastes - (1) A person who intentionally burns wastes:

(a) which contain plastics or any hazardous waste or substance; or

(b) in a manner or place which causes any nuisance to any person; or

(c) which causes the spread of fire in any manner so as to burn any area of land, any structure or any living vegetation;

(d) creates an unintentional Persistent Organic Pollutant as provided for in the Stockholm Convention; or

(e) in a manner which is inconsistent with any requirement applying under this Act,
commits an offence and is liable upon conviction to a fine:

(i) not exceeding 5 penalty units, in the case of an individual; or

(ii) not exceeding 10 penalty units, in the case of a corporation, or an individual who has committed an offence against this section on a previous occasion.

By Soli Wilson 12 April 2020, 9:00AM

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