Thus far $20 million has been spent on Hurricane Dorian debris cleanup in Grand Bahama and Abaco, according to Katherine Forbes-Smith, Managing Director of the Bahamas Disaster Reconstruction Authority.
Mrs. Forbes-Smith gave a detailed report to the country on Sunday, March 8 at a two-hour press event hosted by the Authority at Harry C. Moore Library, University of The Bahamas, marking the six-month period since Hurricane Dorian hit Abaco and Grand Bahama.
“Hurricane Dorian produced an unprecedented amount of debris in Abaco and Grand Bahama,” she said.
“Such debris accumulation in a matter of days has never been experienced in The Bahamas.”
Hurricane Dorian hit Abaco and Grand Bahama in September. With maximum sustained winds of 185 miles per hour, it was the strongest storm to hit The Bahamas.
It is estimated that the storm caused $3.4 billion in losses and damage.
Despite the vast efforts to clear the disaster zones, much cleanup work is still required.
“Since mid-February the DRA (Disaster Reconstruction Authority) has been reviewing existing collection contracts, preparing to augment collection in areas not covered by those contracts,” Mrs. Forbes-Smith explained.
“We are making steady progress on the mainland of Abaco and Grand Bahama. We will be increasing our focus on collection efforts throughout the Abaco Cays.”
“Additionally, we will be investigating and implementing solutions for the debris management sites in Spring City and Treasure Cay, as well as improving the landfill facility at Snake Cay.”
She noted that Dorian has exposed the need for a comprehensive waste management plan in the country.
“With the dozens of inhabited islands in the archipelago, the plan must be applicable to the local level,” said Mrs. Forbes-Smith.
“This plan should also be easy to implement and execute within each community based on local capacity and know-how.”
There are currently open-air dumps across the islands and cays that are managed in various ways.
“Some of the open-air dumps in Abaco sit close to, on, or near critical ecosystems and natural aquifers and blue systems that lead to the sea,” said Mrs. Forbes-Smith.
“Municipal solid waste that is disposed of in the open-air dumps are composed of mixed waste, and often contain waste streams that could easily be removed and composted, reused or recycled. Instead, the waste is burned.
“This is dangerous and not good for the environment.”
Due to the large amount of debris in Abaco and Grand Bahama, Mrs. Forbes-Smith added, the Authority will have to establish a rational waste plan for these islands, institutionalising some of what is beginning to take place.
Dorian also swept a large amount of debris into the sea.
The Authority has received survey information on marine debris in the East Grand Bahama area.
The marine areas in and around the Abaco mainland and cays have to be surveyed.
“Once done we will issue marine cleanup RFPs. This will be a major cleanup effort,” said Mrs. Forbes-Smith.
With tens of millions of dollars worth of reconstruction work under consideration, John-Michael Clarke, Chairman of the Authority, pledged fairness in the process.
“The Authority is presently busy developing policies and procedures to ensure that all reconstruction work, present and future, will take place in a fair and transparent manner,” he said.
The Authority works in partnership with other Government agencies, NGOs, multilateral agencies, businesses and individuals toward reconstruction.
The Chairman said the combined team must keep focused on their common goal.
“This is going to be a slow progress. We’re going to make some mistakes. But we’re going to learn from those mistakes,” said Mr. Clarke.
“We’re going to have some good days. We’re going to have some bad days. We’re going to miss some telephone calls. Some meetings are going to go on longer. Some things are not going to get done in our timeline.
“But what we want to remember is we are all committed to doing the same singular thing: recovery and reconstruction in a way that is bigger, that is better, that benefits us all.”
Representatives of utility companies, NGOs, Government agencies and the security forces also gave updates at the press event on their work in the disaster zones.