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Trinidad & Tobago: Smoke in the City

Categories: Caribbean, Trinidad & Tobago, Citizen Media, Environment, Law, Politics

The work week in Trinidad began on a dark note – literally. On Monday January 27, the atmosphere was thick with haze, the sky a sombre grey as people commuted to work and parents dropped their children off to school. At first, many couldn't pinpoint the cause – wasn't it too early in the year to be experiencing the effects of Saharan dust [1]? – but soon, news spread that the source of the smog was coming from the La Basse [2], the capital's main landfill site, located next to one of the most disadvantaged communities [3] in the country.

As usual, Facebook was the go-to site for information; users posted updates and thoughts as information came in. It is suspected [4] that several fires were started in the waste dump, allegedly by Beetham residents, in protest over the shooting of a resident by police the day before. As the smog grew thicker, some schools in the area were closed [5], but officials from the Environmental Management Authority [6] and the Trinidad and Tobago Solid Waste Management Company [7], which oversees the dump, have been working with the fire services [8] to get the situation under control.

A mid-morning rainfall on Monday improved the situation slightly, but as of earlier today, firemen were still trying to contain two lingering fires [9] that were blazing underneath mounds of rubbish. Several early morning Facebook status updates spoke to the situation. Catherine Emmanuel quipped [10]:

Mmm…landfill smoke with my morning tea. Yes please.

Gareth Jenkins added [11]:

This city stinks. Kids shouldn't have to go to school in a shroud of burning garbage.

Photographs soon followed. Facebook user Iain Waller uploaded a pic of Port of Spain taken from the highway that passes in front of the dump and accompanied it with this sardonic question [12]:



C News Live [13] posted a photo set that showed the effects of the heavy smoke in the capital:


Mark Franco posted a photo [14] taken from a balcony on the outskirts of town, noting that “Port of Spain [was] shrouded again”:


There was also a lot of discussion on Twitter. Kerwyn Forde [15] noted:

@CNC3TV posted regular updates:

Kalifa Sarah Clyne observed [21]:

@triniqt2 complained [26]:

@PLatchman felt sorry for the children [30] who are being affected:

In typical Trinidadian style, @KetchAVapse [36] used humour to deal with the situation:

If the smog persists for much longer, chances are that netizens will be less inclined to joke about it. It is now being reported that the Environmental Management Authority has allegedly asked the dump's management company to close the site until further notice.