San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Residents Raise Stink about Garbage Woes

ANGRY residents in communities onboth coasts say they are sick of the sight andsmell of so much garbage piling up in theirareas, and want their respective municipalgovernments to do something about it.In Costa Rica, municipal governmentsare legally obliged to collect trash and disposeof it, according to the Ombudsman’sOffice.Residents of the beach town ofSámara, on the Pacific side of the NicoyaPeninsula, say municipal trash collectorshave not picked up their waste sinceNovember, forcing them to have to dealwith it themselves.“It was a disaster when the municipalitydidn’t pick up the trash,” said residentBerit Funke, a member of the SámaraBeach Environment Committee.On Dec. 6, approximately 80 angryresidents protested in front of the municipaloffices in Nicoya and brought a truckloaded with rubbish collected in Sámara.IN response, officials fromMunicipality of Nicoya agreed to pay¢400,000 (almost $900) a month to helpwith garbage collection and an additional¢200,000 (almost $450) to help pay the fourmen hired to collect the trash, three days perweek in downtown Sámara and three timesper week in the surrounding areas.A group of residents collects the rest ofthe money needed, another ¢200,000-400,000 ($450-900) each month, fromhomes and hotels in the area.“It’s annoying to have to organize thisourselves, but Sámara is a tourist town andour livelihoods depend on its beauty andcleanliness. People grumble at having topay more for the service, but they also seethe need. We are looking at this as a longtermsolution,” said Roberto Carrer, organizerof the group and a hotel owner inSámara.FRANKLIN Sequeira, head of financefor the Municipality of Nicoya, told TheTico Times municipal officials simply donot have the funds to send the garbagetruck 80 kilometers away to Sámara to collectthe trash, especially not three times aweek as residents demand.“It’s all because of this Blue Flag theywant to get back. The residents didn’tcomplain before,” Sequeira said, referringto the blue flag awarded to beaches thatSámara lost in 2003. The designation guaranteescleanliness, clean water and goodconditions in a tourist area.Residents have expressed concern theresidential trash problem will affect thechances of the beach being awarded theblue flag in 2005.IN a remote area on the northernCaribbean coast, residents of the village ofTortuguero, near the national park of thesame name, told The Tico Times they fighta continual battle with trash and are furiousabout the lack of help from the Municipalityof Pococí, based in the Caribbean-slopetown of Guápiles, approximately 50 kilometersaway by boat.“It is the residents who raise the moneyto transport the garbage out of Tortuguero.The municipality has only to collect it onceor twice a year, but can’t even manage that.It’s unbelievable,” said Daryl Loth, ownerof Marbella Bed and Breakfast and a residentof Tortuguero for the past 11 years.According to Loth, once or twice ayear residents of Tortuguero collectivelypay for the community’s trash to be hauledaway by boat to La Pavona, a private farmnear Cariari, where municipal trash collectorspick it up on their rounds. He addedthe municipality does help pay fuel costsand sends garbage bags for the trash to becollected.IN early December, the communityfunded several trips to haul away more than1,000 bags of garbage, but trash collectorsdid not pick it up until several days later,according to Loth. During that time, heavyrain caused the La Suerte River to swell, takingat least 100 bags of trash with it, he said.Loth said the trash floating in theriver was a blot on the landscape,although volunteer groups formed torecover what they could.Pococí Mayor Manuel Hernández toldThe Tico Times that municipal officials dowhat they can to bring the garbage out ofTortuguero, but the situation is a uniqueone, because Tortuguero residents do notcontribute to the quarterly trash collectionfee charged to all other residents in thecanton of Pococí.Traveling into Tortuguero by boat tocollect the trash and bring it out is notfinancially viable for the municipality,Hernández said.“The residents of Tortuguero are notorganized, which makes it difficult to coordinatethe collection of trash. We agreed ona date but they brought the trash out earlyand the rains washed some of the garbagebags into the river before the trash collectorsarrived.”The mayor said the municipality isworking on a plan to collect Tortuguero’strash at least once a month, but he admittedthe municipality needs more fundingfor that to be possible.MEANWHILE, residents of Orotina,about an hour southwest of San José, areexpected to vote sometime before May todecide whether Mayor Joaquín Perazashould continue in his post. Among othercommunity issues, residents say they aredisgusted by the absence of any kind oftreatment of the area’s trash, which is currentlydeposited in an open-air dump, thedaily La Nación reported.The Tico Times tried to talk to municipalofficials in Orotina about trash collectionand disposal there, but no one returnedphone calls.LAST November, residents of Tibás, anorthern suburb of San José, vented theiranger at trash not being collected for severalweeks by depositing hundreds of bagsfilled with garbage in front of the municipaloffices.Tibás Mayor Percy Rodríguezclaimed the fuel budget the MunicipalCouncil approved for city garbage truckswas insufficient. The collection of trashwas suspended, generating a backlog ofthe 500 tons of garbage produced everyweek.In mid-November, the Ministry ofPublic Health issued an ultimatum tomunicipal officials, saying the trash mustbe collected because it presented a publichealth hazard.The municipality began collecting therotting piles of refuse toward the end ofNovember (TT Nov. 26).“The crisis was due to a lack of financialresources, but since January the trashcollection service has returned to normal,”Sianni Páez, of the Tibás Municipality, toldThe Tico Times. “We are now working outa program and budget to collect non-traditionaltrash as well.”

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