by Emmanuel Joseph
Food and clothing vendors operating next to Accra Beach in Christ Church, are complaining that government bureaucracy and the snail’s pace at which they claim, the National Conservation Commission was responding to their concerns for improved facilities, has the potential to kill their business and put them on the breadline.
Most of their complaints, the vendors explained, were nothing new, and rather than getting better, the conditions under which they ply their trade were becoming worse.
Investigations by a Barbados TODAY team which toured the beach side small businesses this afternoon, uncovered a litany of issues that included a canal of stagnant water, covered with thick, green moss, just a few meters from the food court; termite-infested kiosks; a dining area where the floor is made of planks of board, some of which have rotted and are dangerously projecting in the air, and decaying casuarina trees in the parking area, that are earmarked for removal.
The nearby canal, we observed as well, has become an illegal dumping ground. Strewn along that waterway are such items as plastic bottles and plastic bags, styrofoam containers and even a haversack.
“When it rains heavily and the road (Rockley) floods, all the dirty water comes through the canal and creates a stench that affects my customers, especially if they are eating. On one occasion, one of my customers even reported the situation to the press,” lamented Joan Taitt-Boyce, owner of the Oasis Beach Bar, the eatery located nearest to the canal.
“They need to cover it or treat it. They don’t clean it often enough. When it smells, it affects my customers who are eating. Sometimes I see mosquitos,” reported Taitt-Boyce, who has been operating at Accra for the past seven years.
“When it rains and floods, all the water in the canal goes out into the sea and makes it dirty and people can’t bathe in there for a long time, and that’s not healthy,” she added.
The small businesswoman also told this newspaper that her kiosk was scheduled to be demolished because it was termite-infested.
“This has to be pulled down (by the NCC), but they still have to get back to me. I tired complaining. When they pull this down, it means I will lose business and not compensated for loss of income. You only get compensated for rent,” pointed out entrepreneur.
She was also upset at the existence of the adjoining trees, which she believed could be a danger to those using the area.
We also spoke with Patricia Forde, who has been running De Rock Beach Bar – located a few meters away from the Oasis – for the past 13 years. Forde, who also serves food, said she had been bitten by mosquitos as a result of the stagnant water in the canal.
“It’s (water in the canal) an eye sore. They need to get rid of the canal or cover it. It needs to be cleaned more often,” said suggested.
“When they (drainage division workers) come, they just put sand in it. People are also throwing garbage in it,” continued the businesswoman. Forde said, too, that the NCC had promised to replace the wooden floors where customers walked and dined, with concrete, but no action had yet been taken.
“The Government changed, the board of the NCC changed, and in the meantime, it is getting worse. This situation had been so for more than five years. It was so when Owen (Arthur) was prime minister,” she stated. “They (NCC) shut us down one weekend to cut down the rotten trees and now they want to shut us down again this weekend to cut more trees. We are losing business, which is already declining badly. Why they can’t do all the work one time?” asked Forde.
Another food operator, who preferred to remain anonymous, showed the Barbados TODAY team the rotted and dangerously loose wooden floor around her stall. “Locals and tourists trip over these floorings. Some people lose their shoes. The NCC came one time and nailed down the boards, but they fly back up on the other side,” related the stall owner, who has been doing business there for three years now. She, too, expressed similar concerns to her colleagues, regarding the canal and the trees.
The vendors echoed each others beliefs that the Conservation Commission would not have taken action to remove any of the trees, if one did not fall on a man some time ago “and nearly killed him”.
A clothes vendor, who had been running his business for 13 years at Accra, told us that a number of trees earmarked for removal, had not been dealt with for the past two years. “If you look around, you will see all the trees in here are rotten and if that a tree did not fall down on that man, none of the trees would have been cut down,” he suggested.
However, another businesswoman who sold clothes “for many years”, put a different twist to the whole affair. She argued that Bajans liked too much complaining.
“The Government can’t do everything. These are hard economic times and money is difficult to come by,” she pointed out. “What we should do to boost business and bring life to Rockley is get together and put aside a $20 and bring in a tuk band, Mother Sally or limbo dancer, so instead of the tourists passing through here and looking at us suffering and then leaving, they would stay. We should work on getting some entertainment here,” recommended the vendor.
“We could get sponsorship from Chefette or Accra Beach Hotel and some guest houses in the area. Everybody would benefit, because, who don’t feel like buying a fish cake, would go over to Chefette and so on. We need to come together do things for ourselves, instead of waiting on Government,” asserted the stall owner.
When contacted, General Manager of the National Conservation Commission, Keith Neblett told Barbados TODAY, that a programme was in place to carry out repairs on the kiosks and to remove all the trees identified as unsafe. Neblett said that programme included work at Oistins, Dover, Folkstone and Rockley itself.
He admitted that his department closed down the kiosks two weekends ago to start cutting down the trees which needed to be removed.
“We did not want to close down the kiosks on two successive weekends since the operators would complain of losing business; so we missed out one weekend and will shut down the kiosks this weekend to continue removal of the other trees earmarked,” revealed Neblett.
As far as repairs to the stalls were concerned, he said work would be done as part of the Commission’s routine maintenance, but that the facilities would be fully redeveloped, once the finance was available.
“You just can’t pull up the floor boards and put down concrete. We have to redevelop the whole area, but Government is constrained. We intend to make it (facilities) safer and better, but we have to work within the financial constraints of Government,” the NCC boss insisted.
Regarding the canal, he said his agency coordinates with the Drainage Division to maintain the waterway. When we told him of state of the canal, he promised to get an update of that issue. [email protected]
by Emmanuel Joseph