Friday, March 16, 2007

A load of rubbish

First stop today was the Popua dump – a dump that I have heard much about on my trip so far. The dump has been here for a approximately 55-60 years. Located next to a squatter village between the sea and the lagoon, this dump is a weed between the roses. This is unlike any landfill that you might see in a country like New Zealand. It is filled with families of pigs foraging in the muck, people scavenging in the rubbish, not to mention an overflowing assortment of car wreaks, steel, plastic bottles, household waste, chemical waste and who knows what else. And all this flows into the lagoon and the nearby village. When the wind picks up the rubbish blows across the road and into the sea. It's a grim picture and is a major health hazard. But things are looking up.

A world class landfill facility called Tapuhia opened in December with the ability to manage waste in a sustainable manner. This AusAID funded project has made a great difference to Nuku'alofa. Recycling stations have also been established around town and a managed by the community, with a great deal of success. There will soon be a kerbside waste collection which will require a major awareness campaign to change the way people think about waste.

With the assistance of NZAID, the Popua dump will soon be closed and rehabilitated – creating a public reserve. A great deal of planning has gone into the design and construction of this project and the first visible stage of the project is a temporary fence which was completed a couple of weeks ago. Immediately one can see that the fence will stop the rubbish blowing out to see and will encourage people not to use the dump. The dump will close at the end of the month and people will need to use the Tapuhia Landfill for household waste.

Once closed, the contents of the Popua dump will be investigated fully. Ground water will be tested and the site will be surveyed to gage how thick the waste is. The rubbish will be sorted Steel will be recycled and the rubbish will be compacted and covered with clay. Careful planning will ensure that gas emission will be minimized. It's not going to be a quick task; the project will take approximately two years, but it's definitely not a load of rubbish!

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