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Environmental charge of $10 to be included on electricity bills of Grenadines residents

Environmental charge of $10 to be included on electricity bills of Grenadines residents

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Residents of the Grenadine islands of Bequia, Union and Canouan will now find it more difficult to ignore the fee charged by the Central Water and Sewerage Authority (CWSA) for the collection and disposal of garbage.

An amendment to the Environmental Health Services Act was passed in Parliament on Tuesday, giving the St Vincent Electricity Services Ltd (VINLEC) the authority to collect the solid waste fees on behalf of the CWSA.{{more}}

The amendment to the Act was presented to Parliament by Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Dr Ralph Gonsalves, on behalf of Minister of Health Robert Luke Browne, who was out of the country.

As he made his presentation, Gonsalves pointed out that for residents of mainland St Vincent, a monthly service charge of $11 for the weekly collection and disposal of garbage is included by the CWSA in the water bills they send out to consumers.

However, because residents of the Grenadine islands do not have a central water system, the CWSA produces a distinct environmental bill of $10 a month for them, but only eight per cent of the customer base actually pays these bills.

This, the Prime Minister said, cannot be fair.

“So, we have a poor man living in Chateaubelair, Sandy Bay, Diamond, Calliaqua and Sharpes that they have to pay the $11 and if they don’t pay it their water get cut off,” he added.

Gonsalves said that since there is nothing to be “cut off,” many residents of the Grenadines just refuse to pay the required $10 fee.

The Prime Minister also noted that on the mainland, garbage collection is done weekly, whereas in the Grenadines, collections take place twice a week.

He stated that the solid waste service in the Grenadines covers 3,301 domestic residences, of which 1,829 are on Bequia, 542 are on Union Island and 930 are on Canouan.

“I know that the vast majority of people in Bequia, Canouan and Union Island want to have a system which ensures that they pay, because they believe in fairness,” Gonsalves noted.

He said he knows that the residents of these Grenadines Islands want to see their services develop even further.

“The CWSA pays out approximately $1.5 million a year for solid waste management in the Grenadines…over $700,000 in Bequia, $260,000 in Canouan and $500,000 in Union Island,” Gonsalves explained.

The Prime Minister said the CWSA absorbs about $1 million of the cost, since residents are only charged 29 per cent of the cost, which amounts to approximately $420,000.

With only eight per cent of the residents paying this fee, the CWSA only collects only $33,000.

“That can’t be reasonable!” Gonsalves reiterated.

He noted that with more people visiting these islands, there is an increase in waste volumes and therefore increased cost.

“We need the CWSA to have some…seed money to put inside this to be able to kick off this project to even deliver a better service.”

Hence the need to include the fee for the collection and disposal of garbage on electricity bills.

“What this bill does is to give VINLEC the authority to collect the solid waste collection and disposal fees and that VINLEC would charge the CWSA a commission for collecting it for them,” Gonsalves indicated.

He noted that the project has been in the works for about five years; however, it was held up while VINLEC made adjustments to its computer system.

If residents of the Grenadines fail to pay their electricity bills, which would soon include the environmental charge, their electricity services will be cut off.

“It can’t be fairer than that. I know that the people in the Grenadines will support such a measure,” Gonsalves said.

The amendment to the Act was supported by the Minister of Transport and Works Julian Francis as well as the Minister of Economic Planning, Sustainable Development, Industry, Trade, Information and Labour Camillo Gonsalves. (CM)

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