A rising concern amongst humanitarians, health officials, and environmentalists lies in the current situation of Afghanistan. Aside from the war, the military bases located there are not keeping their waste management up to legal standards.
An example of this problem is occurring at Camp Leatherneck, a U.S. Marine base which houses up to 13,500 military and civilian personnel. A recent report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has recently communicated this alarming news to those of us at home. Currently, the camp is using open-air burn pits to dispose of approximately 54 tons of solid waste each day, despite the recent installation of four on-site incinerators. Costing up to $11.5 million, the two 12-ton and two 24-ton incinerators were installed in an attempt to move on to a cleaner alternative, but continue to sit idle.
The 24-ton incinerators are not in use due to a lack of contracting. The 12-ton incinerators, on the other hand, have all of the necessary contracting to be fully functional, and yet are not being used. Instead, the camp continues to use the open air burn pit, violating the Department of Defense’s 2010 legislation, which called for the discontinuation of this practice.
Not only does this present a waste of monetary resources, but the use of these pits also brings with it the potential for numerous health issues to not only personnel and civilians living in the camp but to anyone in the surrounding areas. According to Inspector General John F. Sopko, “the toxic smoke from burning solid waste each day increases the long-term health risks, including reduced lung function and exacerbated chronic illnesses ranging from asthma to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.” These pits have also been tied to many cancers and other fatal problems, meaning that the burning of waste is causing nothing but problems.
The camp did have plans to spend another $1 million on a landfill contract to mitigate its use of these burn pits, despite the installation of these four incinerators. Landfills, as most people know, are one of the worst solutions when it comes to disposing of waste due to its destructive environmental effects. Sadly, Camp Leatherneck has chosen to continue on a path of devastating environmental and health consequences.
There are a lot of other disposal alternatives that could be more beneficial than the burn pits, landfills, and maybe even the incinerators out in Afghanistan. Someone just needs to pitch the idea.