14ymedio, Havana, 27 October 2023 — “We can’t even open the balcony door because the house is full of flies,” laments Clara, a resident of 30th Street at the corner of 37th, in the municipality of Playa, in Havana. A few meters from her home, a huge garbage dump has been growing for weeks without the Community Services Company collecting the waste. What was once a clean, quiet residential neighborhood “now looks like a garbage dump,” the woman complains.
Close to the Cira García international clinic, where tourists and diplomats are treated, the block where Clara lives does not have the luck of the large avenues. “In these most hidden streets we have not seen the collection trucks for more than a month,” this 43-year-old Havana resident describes to 14ymedio. “Every time we complain they tell us there is no fuel to move the vehicles.”
Neighbors in the area have taken photos of the garbage dumps “from all angles” and some of the images have reached the eyes of the municipal mayor. The residents themselves in the vicinity have proposed that electric tricycles be used to at least “alleviate the situation.” Some have even joked about the “selective lack of fuel,” which does not seem to affect police patrols.
“They should put a cart behind [the police cars] so that, while they do their surveillance rounds, they can also take advantage and evacuate some of the accumulated garbage,” says Clara, but she senses that her proposal will fall on deaf ears. “Every time we complain, they tell us they will work on it but we have been like this for weeks, surrounded by bad smells and flies.”
The problems they are experiencing in the neighborhood, with the accumulated waste, multiply throughout the city. In a meeting held this Thursday, the coordinator of Programs of the capital government, Orestes Llanes Mestres, described the crisis in garbage collection as “the main challenge of the city at the moment.”
The official assured that last Wednesday 17,000 cubic meters of waste were collected in Havana, which represents 74% of the total garbage generated daily in the city. But the volumes that have been accumulating on the streets demand more efforts and resources. The municipalities with the greatest problems are Cerro, Plaza de la Revolución, Marianao and Centro Habana.
At the meeting it was also announced that this weekend “waste collection actions will be intensified in Havana, with the support of companies from the Ministry of Construction and state and non-state micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs).” The Havana authorities recognize that the garbage situation “is reflected in the status of the popular opinions that the Party and the Government analyze every day.”
Despite official statements, Clara and her neighbors have lost hope. “On this block there are no institutions or companies, tourists don’t pass by here either, there are only three- or five-story family buildings. They are not going to prioritize us,” she says. “Those who were saved are those who live around the Miramar House of Music, as many foreigners go there, so you don’t see this type of garbage dump out of control.”
The accumulation of waste has its own cartography. Residents on main avenues do not suffer it equally as those who live on less busy streets. But, if the current crisis in communal services has caused anything, it is that one corner of a poor area of Central Havana and another of the previously exclusive Playa have been left equal by the mountain of waste, the plague and the flies.
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