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The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) has strengthened its air quality management programme and its capacity to assess air quality parameters within the Kingston Metropolitan Area (KMA).

The agency has established two new ambient air quality monitoring sites in Washington Gardens, St. Andrew and Waterford in Portmore, bringing to five, the number of such sites in the Corporate Area and St. Catherine.

Minister of Water, Land, Environment, and Climate Change, Hon. Robert Pickersgill, said the establishment of the new sites has improved NEPA's capacity to measure air pollutants over a wider geographical area.

The Minister, who was addressing the first meeting of the Inter-Ministerial Committee for Waste Management, held this morning Wednesday (August 8) at NEPA’s head offices in Kingston, said the move is partly in keeping with efforts to prevent a recurrence of the fire at the Riverton Disposal Site in February, which severely impacted the air quality in the KMA.

The Minister said the incident was regrettable and that the government is committed to implementing measures to prevent, reduce or eliminate such occurrences.

“Naturally, the ability to measure air pollution is not the solution to upgrading the Riverton disposal site and therefore, measures will have to be implemented to properly manage the disposal site to prevent, reduce or eliminate the occurrence of fires,” he stated.

The Inter-Ministerial Committee for Waste Management was formed under the auspices of the Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA) Act and as a subcommittee of the NRCA, in response to the incident.

Minister Pickersgill noted that the team will work to find effective solutions to the country’s waste management challenges.

The committee, which is chaired by Chairman of the NRCA, John Junor, consists of representatives from the Ministries of Water, Land, Environment, and Climate Change, Local Government and Community Development; NEPA; Jamaica Environment Trust (JET); Private Sector Organization of Jamaica (PSOJ); Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM); NRCA; National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA); and the Jamaica Civil Society Coalition.

In the meantime, Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson, said his Ministry has an integral part to play in the management of all forms of waste in Jamaica.

He said the main goals of any integrated waste management system must be the protection of human health, water supplies, and the elimination of open or indiscriminate dumping, with an increasing ability to recycle.

The primary objectives of the waste management committee are: to strengthen the capacity for monitoring of air quality in and around dump sites in Jamaica; strengthen regulatory functions for all dump sites; operationalise the standard operating procedure for responding to fires at landfill sites; formalise the monitoring committee established by preparing a protocol for its operation; and develop an effective system for the access and dissemination of information with the primary effect of behaviour change.