North London residents facing increased health threat
Edmonton in North London is an area where a large number of BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) communities live. Among the residents, there is a sizable number of Turkish speaking communities.
The area is also one of London’s most deprived areas.
There has been a big incinerator in the area for years, visible from the busy North Circular Road. The incinerator burns waste from 7 nearby boroughs and produces electricity that supply around 100k local homes and businesses.
The North London Waste Authority (NLWA) manages the incinerator on behalf of the 7 London Local Authorities. These are Enfield, Haringey, Waltham Forest, Hackney, Camden, Islington and Barnet.
14 Councillors comprising 2 from each of the Councils makes up the committee that makes decisions regarding the incinerator.
Plans have been made to replace the incinerator with a much bigger one, increasing the capacity from 500k tons to 700k tons. It is feared that the new incinerator will burn waste not just from the current 7 boroughs, but from all over the country.
Of course, the biggest objection of various campaigns against these plans are the health risks the new plant will present for people living around it.
One of the campaign groups led by Black Lives Matter Enfield, and Extinction Rebellion started a petition, urging the communities to actively oppose these plans. In their statement they say the following:
“The incinerator is also an environmental disaster; it is predicted to emit 700 thousand tonnes of CO2 into our atmosphere every year. If this waste was recycled instead of burnt, this could simply be avoided. Currently less than 30% of north London rubbish and only 10% of recyclable plastic is recycled compared to over 60% in the rest of the country. Nearly 90% of our black/orange bag rubbish is burnt as “skyfill” in the present old Edmonton incinerator”.
The campaign against the plans concerning the incinerator is backed by many of the local MPS, some councillors from the 7 local authorities, community organisations, trade unions and health professionals. The campaign also has cross party support.
Councillor Halebi, a Waltham Forest Conservative Councillor rang me immediately after reading my Turkish language article and stated that he had been campaigning against the incinerator for a few years. He told me that he was there when a group of protestors prevented the lorries carrying waste from entering the area the other day.
15 councillors (11 Haringey, 3 Camden and 1 Enfield) signed a letter stating their opposition to the new incinerator. The fact that only Councillor Yasemin Brett from Enfield is raising her voice in the borough where the incinerator is based is baffling. At the same time, the fact that the Leader of Haringey Council, Councillor Peray Ahmet was the first Council Leader to have asked for a pause and review on the issue is very encouraging. Councillor Ahmet wrote to Martin Capstick, NLWA’s managing director more than two weeks ago, expressing the concern of Haringey people of the plans.
Yasemin Brett informed me that 70 doctors signed a letter opposing the incinerator, stating the health dangers to the local communities. The 15 councillors also mention the call from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Pollution for a moratorium on incinerators to protect public health and cut carbon emission.
On 15th February 2013, the 9 year old Ella Kissi- Debrah was rushed to hospital. She had been suffering with hyersecretion asthma since 2010. Her family lived 25 metres from South Circular Road. Ella had been admitted to various hospitals 27 times due to her health problems since 2010.
In a landmark case, H.M. Assistant Coroner for Inner South London, Philip Barlow, concluded that Ella died at 9 years of age from acute respiratory failure, asthma and “air pollution exposure”. This was the first time that a Coroner has found that air pollution was a contributory cause of illness and death.
The correlation between ethnicity, deprivation and health inequalities has been proven time and time again. The current Covid-19 crises is a good example. It is no coincidence that a disproportionate number of BAME community members lost their lives to Covid-19, including our own Turkish speaking community members.
All these factors are present in Edmonton. Our Turkish speaking community must actively be campaigning against the plans on the new incinerator alongside other communities. This is a matter of utmost importance. Let us leave our differences aside and work together for the benefit of our and other communities who have got most to lose from these plans.
Community organisations has a very important role to play. It is time they show leadership on this issue. Organisations like DAY -MER is very actively involved. Other organisations must learn from them, contact them and discuss ways they can also be involved.
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