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Wastepickers lose access to recyclable waste due to closure of a landfill, Panama


Description:

Informal recyclers from the district of La Chorrera, in Panama, were banned from entering the dump they had been working at. The company in charge of the waste management of the district, Empresa Metropolitana de Aseo (EMAS), argued that the dump closed due to the opening of a new one, although it did not fulfil the sanitary requirements demanded to open.

In 2006, the district of La Chorrera (Panama) gave the rights of waste management of the area to the private company Empresa Metropolitana de Aseo (EMAS), for twenty years, until 2026. In 2016, the public authority Autoridad de Aseo Urbano y Domiciliario (AAUD) informed that the company in charge did not succeed on the task of fulfilling all the sanitary requirements needed to open the new dump ‘El Diamante’. Additionally, in 2017, in order to close the old dump in 'Playa Chiquita', there were some sanitation requirements that needed to be fulfilled, in order to make it a public park as planned [1]. 

Around 100 wastepickers of the district of La Chorrera, known (as in México) as 'pepenadores', have worked in the dump 'Playa Chiquita' for twenty years [2]. Nevertheless, since the waste management company decided to move the operations to the new dump, they have been denied access. On the other hand, the wastepickers and people from the area claimed that the new dump 'El Diamante' is already working and polluting the areas that surrounds it, and that it has no legal right to be operating [3]. Being denied the access of both dumps, the 'pepenadores' of 'La Chorrera' lose the opportunity to make a living and -without any right or law that protects them- they lose access to the only revenue that they can aspire to.

After various days of protest and blocking roads in October 2017, claiming their right to enter the dump to collect different recyclables, the group of 'pepenadores' was given the access to the old dump 'Playa Chiquita'. Nevertheless, this access was just temporary. The wastepickers would have access for three more months to the dump until the 31st of December 2017, but after that date the access would be denied again. The proposal came from the Major of the district who invited the 'pepenadores' to join any of the training programs offered by the public authorities to learn other jobs [4]. Therefore, he just provided a temporal solution when their problem is that their way of making a living has been taken away. No further claim was made by wastepickers who worked in the dump. 

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Wastepickers lose access to recyclable waste due to closure of a landfill, Panama
Country:Panama
State or province:La Chorrera
Location of conflict:La Chorrera
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Waste Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Waste privatisation conflicts / waste-picker access to waste
Specific commodities:Domestic municipal waste

Project Details and Actors

Project details

In 2006, the district of La Chorrera (Panama) gave the rights of waste management of the area to the private company Empresa Metropolitana de Aseo (EMAS), for twenty years, until 2026. In 2016, the public authority Autoridad de Aseo Urbano y Domiciliario (AAUD) informed that the company in charge did not succeed on the task of fulfilling all the sanitary requirements needed to open the new dump ‘El Diamante’. Additionally, in 2017, in order to close the old dump in 'Playa Chiquita', there were some sanitation requirements that needed to be fulfilled, in order to make it a public park as planned

Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:200
Start of the conflict:01/10/2017
End of the conflict:31/12/2017
Company names or state enterprises:Empresa Metropolitana de Aseo (EMAS) from Panama - Company which has the waste management right of the district of LA Chorrera in Panama.
Relevant government actors:La Chorrera town hall: the Major of La Chorrera gave traineeship options to the waste pickers that were denied the access to the landfill.
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Movimiento Nacional de Recicladores de Panama. Ciudad de Panamá, Panama (WIEGO)

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Wastepickers, recyclers
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Street protest/marches

Impacts

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Potential: Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Waste overflow
Health ImpactsPotential: Infectious diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood

Outcome

Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Conflict outcome / response:Not negotiated alternative solution.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The major provided a solution in order to improve the situation of the 'pepenadores' from his perspective. He gave the wastepickers the option to enter a traineeship program. Nevertheless, not taking into account their demands nor assuring them a future job.

Sources & Materials

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[3] Nex Noticias: Information about the waste pickers' situation and the new dump operating.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8p9MetXLL20

[1] An article talking about the situation of the waste pickers and the company in charge of the waste management
http://www.aaud.gob.pa/index.asp?sec=Noticias/2016&id=21a-04-2016

[5] Panamá América. Pepenadores cierran vía de acceso hacia el relleno sanitario El Diamante. El grupo de recicladores, entre ellos adultos mayores, reclaman el acceso al relleno sanitario, luego de que la empresa, dejara de verter desechos. Eric Ariel Montenegro / Panamá Oeste. 04/10/17
https://www.panamaamerica.com.pa/provincias/pepenadores-cierran-de-acceso-hacia-el-relleno-sanitario-el-diamante-1085271

[2] Newspaper article talking the road blockade and the situation with wastepickers.
https://www.panamaamerica.com.pa/provincias/autoridades-inician-negociaciones-con-recicladores-en-la-chorrera-1085785

[4] Newspaper Critica: Information of the proposal made by the major of La Chorrera.
https://www.critica.com.pa/provincias/recicladores-podran-entrar-vertedero-de-playa-chiquita-495400

Panamá América. Pepenadores cierran vía de acceso hacia el relleno sanitario El Diamante. El grupo de recicladores, entre ellos adultos mayores, reclaman el acceso al relleno sanitario, luego de que la empresa, dejara de verter desechos. Eric Ariel Montenegro / Panamá Oeste. 04/10/17
https://www.panamaamerica.com.pa/provincias/pepenadores-cierran-de-acceso-hacia-el-relleno-sanitario-el-diamante-1085271

Nex Noticias: Information about the waste pickers' situation and the new dump operating.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8p9MetXLL20

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

News talking about the conflict with the waste pickers
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8p9MetXLL20

Meta information

Contributor:Valeria Calvas
Last update09/09/2019

Images

 

Pepenadores from La Chorrera, Panama

Informal recyclers in the La Chorrera district, in the West of Panama. Credits: Eric Ariel Montenegro. https://www.critica.com.pa/sites/default/files/imagenes/2017/11/05/24355509.jpg

Source: Eric Ariel [5]

 

Pepenadores from La Chorrera, Panama

Informal recyclers in the La Chorrera district, in the West of Panama. Credits: Eric Ariel Montenegro. https://www.critica.com.pa/sites/default/files/imagenes/2017/11/05/24355509.jpg

Pepenadores from La Chorrera, Panama

Informal recyclers in the La Chorrera district, in the West of Panama. Credits: Eric Ariel Montenegro. https://www.critica.com.pa/sites/default/files/imagenes/2017/11/05/24355509.jpg

Source: Eric Ariel [5]