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  • Ten years worth of unchecked littering around the Motagua river has accumulated a wide collection of waste.

    Ten years worth of unchecked littering around the Motagua river has accumulated a wide collection of waste. | Photo: Caroline Power Photography

Published 15 November 2017

"We are receiving clothes, plastic, hospital waste, objects stained with blood, needles, syringes, animals and even human bodies," an official said.

Guatemalan authorities announced plans to launch an intensive cleanup initiative of the garbage drifting in the Caribbean sea between Guatemala and Honduras.

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Ten years worth of unchecked littering around the Motagua river has accumulated a wide collection of waste which the government said is not only affecting the environment but also ecological, health and economic spheres.

"People do not want to go to the beach because they are afraid of pollution, it's not nice to lie down in a sand where you put your back and there's a needle underneath, or you walk and you're going to get stuck by something, and you're going to find something contaminated,” Jose Antonio Galdames, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment of Honduras said.

"We are receiving clothes, plastic, hospital waste, objects stained with blood, needles, syringes, animals and even human bodies," he said.

The minister continued saying the rainy season has only served to make the process more difficult. He explained that although teams arrive daily on the beach, they’ve hardly made a dent amid the mountains of waste covering the beaches.

"Most of the Motagua basin is on the Guatemalan side of the 95 municipalities that are along the river, 27 are dumping solid waste, we only have three municipalities that border the river. 86 percent of the discharges come from them,” Galdames said.

Guatemala is building two bio-fences in the Motagua river to contain the trash and enlisting technical and cleanup teams to work around the clock.

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A statement from the Environment Minister of Guatemala, Sydney Alexander Samuels, said Guatemala is addressing their share of the issue and Honduras is primarily responsible for the current situation.

"The accusations only take into account the Guatemala's part, they must also consider what they are doing, they have a river there, the Chamelecon, which is practically a sewer of Puerto Cortes and San Pedro Sula. Most of the garbage that has arrived at Roatan is from Honduras," Samuels said.

The Honduran Environmental Minister denounced Guatemala’s plans, saying they are made for the medium or long term, rather than taking immediate action.

"They are talking about the solutions going into effect in 2018. But we ask them to take more immediate measures: to clean the rivers, to clean the beaches, not to continue throwing the garbage into the rivers and close the clandestine dumps, which establish an early warning system, at least, for us to be prepared to know that the garbage will arrive," said Gadames.

"We are not looking for problems, we are not looking for lawsuits, we are looking for common, but differentiated responsibilities, that is the principle, if you have responsibility for 86 percent of that basin, it should be your responsibility to find a solution," he added.

Gadames warns that if Guatemala fails to deliver a positive response to the environmental concerns by Nov. 30, he will be forced to bring the issue to an international committee.


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