“Cleanliness is next to Godliness” is a known saying. If we take these words at face value, then St. Mark’s is not exactly anywhere close to Godliness despite having over ten (10) ‘well-attended’ churches in Victoria alone.
The amount of garbage that can be seen almost everywhere in Victoria is a cause for concern. Some seem very comfortable using the drains – which were designed for the flow of waste water – as a garbage bin. As a matter of fact anywhere that is out of immediate sight is used as a dumping ground.
St. Mark’s or Sunset City as we like to call it, borders the Caribbean Sea – a sea known to be one of top five filthiest seas in the world, with 70% decline in coral reefs. How much do the people of St. Mark’s contribute to this filth we do not know. What we do know is that the garbage that we dispose ‘out of our immediate sight’ often ends up in the sea, and is already having an impact on the local fishing community. Fishermen no longer cast their nets daily on the coast of Victoria to catch jacks and robin (which make a tasty meal, as well as useful bait for fishermen who venture further out to sea to bring home prized tuna for the international market, as well as ocean gar, mahi mahi, and on occasion marlin and ocean grouper). Now these ocean venturing fishermen have to travel to places such as Duquense in the north of St. Mark’s and Gouyave in the neighbouring parish to compete for bait for their ocean venture. When we were growing up, we could have expected fishermen casting their nets at least three times a day to bring ashore bountiful catches of robin, jacks, bonita and sometimes even common tor.
Places where garbage is dumped serve as feeding and breeding grounds for pests such as rodents, cockroaches and mosquitoes. Rodents such as rats, excrete poison which is dangerous to humans – it is said that consuming food that has been in contact with rat excrement can kill a human within a week. Mosquitoes such as the Aedes Egypti mosquito spread diseases such as zika and dengue, which can lead to death if the infected person is not treated appropriately by a medical professional. A single bottle cap that collects water can serve as breeding site for a thousand (1000) mosquitoes. Recently, there has been an increasing number of cases of zika on the island, leading the government to announce a national clean up campaign last weekend – August 20th and 21st 2016.
The announcement of a national clean up was a breath of fresh air to those of us who care about the environment, as it seemed a perfect opportunity to rid St. Mark’s, in particular, Victoria, of the scourge of garbage lying around on the ground. One was very happy when the parliamentary representative enquired whether it was okay for a group to help clean the mouth of the St. Mark’s river including the area behind the basketball court – ‘the Slipway’ – where the boats that venture into the ocean bring their catch to the shore, and which serves as a home for many of these boats, with lockers for fishermen to keep their fishing gear. The Slipway is a busy area that one started cleaning on a weekly basis about three months ago. One have successfully advocated for a bin to be put there, and sponsored ‘do not litter’ signs. Carrying out these civic duties, one have received encouraging comments – ‘’keep up the great work’, ‘glad you are doing this’, ‘it feels great being a fisherman, coming shore to somewhere clean; it shows someone is thinking about us’, ‘you will one day be rewarded for your work’, ‘you are doing something very good, keep it up’, ‘the prime minister would be happy if he knows you are doing this’. Sadly, one has also received not so good comments – ‘who is paying you to do this?’, ‘that person is on drugs’, and ‘that person must be mad’.
It was great to have assistance from the group sent by the parliamentary representative, as it showed that there was someone in authority who noticed that the commitment was needed. It was even better (if somewhat of a pleasant surprise) that the parliamentary representative showed up herself with the group on Saturday morning. She demonstrated what leadership was all about by taking charge of the clean up campaign, and working the hardest in that area.
Some of the challenges faced in keeping the area tidy were brought to the minister’s attention. People use the bay area as a toilet, even though there is a public toilet less than 100 metres away. Some pass the garbage disposal bin by, and dump rubbish along the banks of the river. Garbage that is dumped in the drains end up in the mouth of the river. Even while we were cleaning we were seeing rubbish floating down the river, from others using the river to bathe and wash clothing higher upstream.
Nonetheless, it was disappointing to learn from speaking to people, including waste collectors, that no one had engaged with them about the campaign, hence there was no transportation available to pick up the garbage that was collected; even when a truck was made available, there was no driver to drive the truck. Sunday’s effort was also disappointing – only three people showed up in Victoria to help clean the abandoned buildings on Queen Street and St. David’s street, and had to leave as they thought it was not appropriate to enter private properties without a figure of authority present (the parliamentary representative had said the day before that they would be heading up to Union to help clean the bridge area).
We need to do better. Let us come together, including the churches, those responsible for public health in the parish, the St. Mark’s Organisation For Development, the St. Mark’s Development Committee, local mass bands, the St. Mark’s Carnival and Cultural Organisation, government and opposition supporters, all, to make Sunset City an attractive part of Pure Grenada. It starts with not littering even in places which are out of immediate sight. We want more tourists to visit our parish, but tourists would not visit places where garbage is strewn everywhere.
Iaccino , Ludovica. World Ocean Day 2014- Worlds Most Polluted Seas Revealed (June 8, 2014) Available online:
http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/world-oceans-day-2014-worlds-most-polluted-seas-revealed-1451638 (Accessed 25/08/2016)
New Evidence Highlights Threat TO Caribbean Coral Reef Growth: http://www.exeter.ac.uk/news/featurednews/title_255774_en.html