One man's trash is another man's...trash

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Incendio-San-Josecito-Daniel-CeballosHeres a piece of news that got buried under the week’s turmoil – the San Josecito dumping ground has been ablaze since the beginning of February (yet again) causing the collapse of solid waste collection in the city of San Cristobal and 10 other municipalities (yet again). Meanwhile, Vielma Mora, the state’s Governor seems to have his hands full with the recent student protests, and has basically ignored the issue, and the mayors – feeling abandoned – have threatened to take the matter in to their own hands.

Solid waste management is considered the biggest environmental concern in Venezuela. The problem is far from recent, and has only gotten worse with the collapse of old and inefficent dumping sites. Some of these sites were never planned and were chosen without care for infrastructure or sanitation requirements. The few landfills that were actually planned sometimes function with the minimum requirements. Many times they even lack the landfill liner that prevents leachate to reach groundwater or other bodies of water.

Such is the case of San Josecito, born 25 years ago as a improvised dumping site. The authorities rushed back in 2009 to “make it comply” with the 2004 law of solid waste disposal, and “transformed” it into a proper landfill – basically, they decided to throw some gravel on the existing trash and call it a day. Sources inside San Josecito tell me that they haven’t been covering the solid waste with granulated material in quite some time, due to lack of equipment and personnel, so it really it’s still acting like an informal dumping site. And when dumping sites are treated this way, fires break out.

Back in 2012, Vielma Mora gave a heart warming speech on how they would work together to fix the problem. Well, Mora, time’s up.