TRASH CRISIS IN MAJURO

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MAJURO, Marshall Islands (March 29, 2002 – The Marshall Islands Journal)---Majuro’s trash situation is in crisis with a battle brewing between the local and national governments.

Majuro Mayor Mudge Samuel issued an ultimatum to Public Works Minister Rien Morris Tuesday saying that the local government is halting use of Majuro’s dump "until the dump site is properly managed" and until Public Works provides more funding assistance for the garbage collection operation.

But Morris told the Journal on Wednesday that Public Works has been working with and helping the local government. He indicated that he was surprised by the ultimatum, saying that if funding is needed, it has to go through a Cabinet review process that takes at least a week for action.

MALGov (Majuro Atoll Local Government) is demanding that Public Works provide an additional $100,000 for maintenance of its garbage equipment. Samuel maintains that because of Public Works’ negligence in maintaining the dump site, MALGov is experiencing $10,000 a month in costs from damaged equipment, including the need to repeatedly repair and replace tires.

"Almost every month MALGov has to replace brand new tires due to negligence of the operator for the compactor at the dump site," Samuel wrote to Morris. "The bin trucks are operating over 16 hours per day. If one or both bin trucks break down for just one week, trash on Majuro will be scattered everywhere. This is a problem not only for the Local Government but for the National Government since 50 percent of RMI’s population resides on Majuro."

Morris said that the National Government has provided the Local Government with all of its garbage collection equipment and assists with some funding, including assistance on tires. Morris said that an additional 10 trash bins have also been purchased.

He said that according to an agreement, MALGov is responsible for trash collection while Public Works runs the dumpsite. He also said that he sees the dump being managed by the Local Government, but at some future point when it is ready to take over.

However, Mayor’s assistant Russell Langrine indicated that MALGov has prepared a proposal that will be presented to President Kessai Note on his return later this week for MALGov to take over management of the dump.

While MALGov’s move this week is aimed at the immediate -- and ongoing -- problem of what it claims is poor dump management, it also highlights another, bigger-picture problem facing the RMI capital: the Oceanside dump now in use as the "Majuro Dump" at Batkan is full and overflowing. A new dumpsite and new solutions for solid waste management are called for, and MALGov is hoping that it’s going to be the agent of change.

Samuel told Morris that he understands that Public Works is receiving $2.8 million for operations and maintenance, the Ebeye-Gugeegue causeway, and outer island projects, "while Majuro only gets $100,000 for 15 trash bins."

Samuel said that because of this funding imbalance, "MALGov is now demanding that Public Works allocate $100,000 to MALGov to help us maintain our bin trucks and to help pay for tires to keep our trucks running."

Morris acknowledged one dump management problem that Public Works has encountered: difficulty in obtaining the necessary fill material for daily covering of the dump. He said the national government has been pursuing both the option of buying a crane and renting locally owned cranes to produce fill.

The Marshall Islands Journal, Box 14, Majuro, Marshall Islands 96960 E-mail: journal@ntamar.com  Subscriptions (weekly): 1 year US $87.00; international $213.00 (air mail).

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