Toxic chemicals from used super heavy duty batteries and diapers could affect drinking water and food, the Tongan Parliament was told last week.

People dumped these items as rubbish on tax allotments without the owners’ permission.

The Education Minister, Hon. Penisimani Fifita, said he was surprised when he saw this kind of rubbish being dumped in his tax allotment in Hahake.

He said he was concerned that the toxic chemicals could leach into the soil and contaminate drinking groundwater causing serious health problems.

The Minister was making the comment before the House approved new regulations to control the way people dispose of their rubbish, penalising those who do not do the right thing.

The law has made burning rubbish and waste on private property a crime.

The Deputy Prime Minister said if neighbours complained because rubbish burning affected them, law enforcement officers would first alert and warn the offender about the complaint.

Some MPs were concerned that the law could make fei’umu (baking food in an open ground oven) on Sundays unlawful.

They said the whole of Tonga made ‘umu on Sundays,  but the Deputy Prime Minster said it was excluded in the law.

Most Members of Parliament agreed that the regulation was of great importance for Tonga.

However some were concerned at the high penalty fines imposed including fines of TP$2000-5000 for disposing of dangerous waste.

However, Minister of Law Vuna Fa’otusia told the House not to panic.

He said the judges were professional and they would consider the offences and the affordability of the offenders before they fined them.

Littering

Littering was already a criminal offense in Tonga punishable with a fine as set out by statutes for the public, but it was not enforced, the Deputy Prime Minister told the House.

The Deputy Prime Minister, who is responsible to the Ministry of Environment and Waste Management said this was because the government wanted to consult with the public on the clauses of the regulation including the way the fines were imposed on spot before an offender could be taken to courts.

New regulations came into force in May last year to penalise people who do not dispose of their rubbish properly.

Under the Environment Management (Litter and Waste Control) Regulations 2016 police, environment officers, health inspectors and other designated officers, can issue notifications to clean up dumped waste or cease burning. They can also give on-the-spot fines to offenders.

The main points

  • Toxic chemicals from used super heavy duty batteries and diapers could affect drinking water and food, the Tongan Parliament was told last week.
  • People dumped these items as rubbish on tax allotments without the owners’ permission.
  • The Education Minister, Hon. Penisimani Fifita, said he was surprised when he saw this kind of rubbish being dumped in his tax allotment in Hahake.
  • He said he was concerned that the toxic chemicals could leach into the soil and contaminate drinking groundwater causing serious health problems.

For more information

New litter and waste control regulation

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