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Shipment of used tires from Puerto Rico to Haiti condemned

By John Collins (1)

A shipment of 4,100 tons of shredded used tires from Puerto Rico arrived at the port of Jacmel in southern Haiti April 1 and was promptly protested by Greenpeace International in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Greenpeace circulated a report from environmentalist Guy Bauduy to “Friends and Neighbours from the Global Village.” In it Bauduy “alerts the international environmental movement through Greenpeace and the Haitian community abroad, or anybody who cares, that a barge arrived in Jacmel from Puerto Rico April 1 at 9 a.m. carrying 4,100 tons of shredded used tires.” The barge was pulled by a tugboat flying the U.S. flag which remained as the cargo was offloaded.

Accoding to Bauduy’s report to Greenpeace, the following day (Apr. 2) neither the Port Authority of Jacmel nor Haitian Customs officials at Jacmel “were cooperating in providing any information as to who the consignee was.” Bauduy reported that some employees of Jacosa, a firm producing alcohol and essential oils, indicated that the company “is interested in experimenting with burning the rubber in their furnace.”

Later that day (Apr. 2) Bauduy reported to Greenpeace that the consignee was officially identified as Star Multi-Services Maritime Agency in Jacmel headed by Frantz Gaspard, who he described as “a very close associate of Haitian Senate President Fourel Celestin, who, Bauduy said, is also “a very close friend” of Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide. Bauduy indicates that the order authorizing the import of the tires was signed “weeks ago” by former Prime Minister Jean-Marie Cherestal. Further investigation by Bauduy revealed that Haiti’s Radio Metropole reported that the name of Jacosa appears on the manifest for a quantity of 2,000 tons.

“There are rumors that they plan to pile this stuff along the Jacmel Grand Riviere bed about one mile and a half inland,” said Bauduy. “Can you imagine what will happen to the bay of Jacmel as we enter the spring torrential rainy season?”

Bauduy reported to Greenpeace that the part of the barge visible above the water line is more than 100x40 meters (300 by 120 feet) and that the cargo is piled about another 30 meters (90 feet) high. He described the pieces of shredded tires, as seen from a distance of ten to 15 meters (30 to 45 feet) as each about the size of a hard boiled egg.

The environmentalist reported that the docking of the barge was authorized by the Director General of the National Police of Haiti who happened to be in Jacmel for Easter.

Bauduy reported to Greenpeace that the people of Jacmel “are talking about taking to the streets to prevent the unloading of the cargo. We are planning a human chain in opposition,” said Bauduy, appealing to all Haitians abroad and to international environmentalists “to do something because we need your help.”

Efforts to reach either the Solid Waste Management Authority of the Government of Puerto Rico or the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) office in San Juan, to learn the shipper of the tires from Puerto Rico, were not successful.

A chronic problem

The incident recalled a similar one several years ago when a barge carrying garbage from a U.S. city sailed around in the Caribbean for several weeks as protests  in various countries including Haiti mounted. There are also the cases of spent plutonium that have been moving through the Caribbean enroute from Europe to Japan for several years now which the Caribbean Community repeatedly expresses concern over but they keep continuing any way.

“It takes two to tango,” said a U.S. industrial waste management specialist. “The developed world produces a lot of waste and is always looking for places in which to dispose of it. Unfortunately, some poverty-stricken countries can’t afford the ‘not in my back yard’ attitude or have business firms that are willing to take shortcuts, often with the concurrence of their own politicians. The shipping country definitely has a responsibility in the matter but the receiving country can always say no.”       

April 8, 2002

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1) Other articles by the well known Caribbean author John collins can be read at:
www.pymesdominicanas.com

 

 

 

 

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