Social Issues

Poor neighborhoods of Panama’s capital overwhelmed by garbage

Panama City, Feb 16 (EFE).- Curundu, a heavily populated slum in Panama’s capital, is being swamped by garbage.

Local residents there have spent weeks coping with mountains of trash in the streets that impede the passage of pedestrians, produce foul odors and attract rodents, flies and worms.

“In the afternoon and at night, the rats go inside the church. And then the pastor has to remove them in the morning. It’s inconceivable that this garbage is here,” Bernabe Cohen, a local resident, told Efe.

He added that the accumulation of trash and the accompanying huge presence of green bottle flies and rats over a more than two-week period have made the situation unbearable in Curundu, a low-income neighborhood located near the heart of Panama City.

Franklin Bedoya lives in the adjacent neighborhood of Calidonia and said seeing that amount of garbage in the center of the capital is horrific.

“This is unspeakable. It’s mainly the people in (poor) neighborhoods here who are neglected,” Bedoya said. “They’ll say (the cost of garbage collection service) hasn’t been paid when we all pay for waste collection, water. We all pay what they charge us.”

Like Curundu and Calidonia, many other low-income areas of Panama City also are dealing with garbage collection problems to a greater or lesser degree.

Panama City’s urban solid waste management authority places the blame on a rundown vehicle fleet. Only 30 garbage trucks and compactors are in operation, according to official information.

Following a protest on Tuesday, Efe confirmed Wednesday morning that backhoes rented by a local residents’ association were being used to collect garbage and load it into dump trucks in Calidonia.

Different parts of Panama City are facing a severe problem with waste collection and disposal, and it has become common for garbage to pile up on capital streets and even on main thoroughfares and on the side of the Pan American Highway.

The president of the Foundation for the Protection of the Sea (PRO-MAR), Ricardo Wong, told Efe that one problem is that people in low-income neighborhoods are not fined for improper garbage disposal.

Another blight on Greater Panama City is Cerro Patacon, which is located outside the capital and is the country’s largest landfill. Huge mountains of garbage accumulate at that site, which is also a neighborhood and home to dozens of families that earn a living off the recycling business.

The head of Panama’s national ombudsman’s office, Eduardo Leblanc, filed a criminal complaint in January against the company that manages Cerro Patacon – Urbalia, a unit of Colombian business group Interaseo – for alleged crimes against the environment and public health. EFE


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