A highway blockade in Oaxaca that has halted garbage pickup in the city for eight days was lifted last night but only briefly after negotiations failed to produce an accord.
The protest stems from a political and social dispute between residents of the region and an organization called the 14th of June Popular Front, accused of committing extortion against local businesses by forcing them to pay derecho de piso if they wish to continue to operate.
But the blockade on highway 175 also blocks access to the city landfill, located in Zaachila, where 60 fully loaded garbage trucks have remained parked since the protest began.
More than 1,000 tonnes of trash are normally collected every day in the city of Oaxaca and its metropolitan area but now it is piling up on street corners in the city’s Centro Histórico and surrounding neighborhoods.
Close to 5,000 tonnes of garbage is estimated to be awaiting pickup on city streets, less than two weeks before the celebration of the the annual cultural festival called the Guelaguetza.
Not all the garbage is in the streets.
The municipality’s waste management department estimates that close to 900 tonnes of trash are now partially blocking the natural course of the Atoyac River. And vacant lots provide locations for improvised dump sites.
This is not the first time that a road blockade or protest has left the people of Oaxaca city — named yesterday as the sixth best city in the world — and surrounding municipalities wading through trash in the streets.
It is a problem that local politicians have known about for years but have done little to solve: the lack of proper waste management for the growing area.
The Zaachila landfill shouldn’t even be called that because it functions mostly as a “controlled dump,” said the former director of the State Institute of Ecology. José Luis Bustamante del Valle said there is no waste management whatsoever at any point in the garbage disposal process.
Citizens take all kinds of mixed trash to the garbage trucks, even medical waste disposed of by hospitals and other medical facilities, he said.
Bustamante recalled that at one point the capital was to have three proper landfills, but the project was sidelined due to “political interests.”