Vendors who ply their trade in the River Terminal now have until the end of this year to pack up and leave.
Minister of Transport & Works Michael Lashley announced in Parliament today that Government, which had earlier served notice on the vendors to get out of the terminal within ten days, has now decided to delay until January next year work on the second phase of the Constitution River Terminal Re-Development Project, which was initially due to commence on November 14.
However, he cautioned that the current conditions in the terminal were such that if left unattended, they could pose a serious public health risk.
“We’re not taking a hard and fast approach because of course the . . . operators out there, they have families to feed, but at the end of the day we have to ensure that the conditions fit into good public health standards,” said Lashley, whose ministry recently came in for stiff criticism from the Leader of the Opposition over its handling of the matter.
Following a tour of the terminal last month Mottley also said Government should be made to foot the entire relocation bill for the vendors who were ordered by the Ministry of Transport & Works to move their businesses by November 6.
“You cannot take people who have been working here 19 years, 20 years, 22 years, give them ten days notice and then tell them, ‘the cost is at you to move’. It is unacceptable and it is wrong and it sends a signal of two Barbadoses,” Mottley had argued at the time.
However, Lashley today pointed to the findings of a recent report compiled by the ministries of health and environment, which he said indicated that the Terminal was in a “deplorable” state and in need of urgent attention.
“The report in a nutshell is saying that the entire area needs to be redesigned to ensure that the public’s health and safety is taken into consideration,” the minister said, while pointing out that there were 121 vending operations at the terminal, including 67 selling food.
He said the report also highlighted problems of inadequate space, lack of running water and provision for waste water disposal, the absence of toilet facilities for food handlers, and insufficient garbage receptacles in the facility, which was built in the 90s.
Zeroing in on the toilet facilities, Lashley said there were only four toilets to service the thousands of passengers and workers, including PSV operators and the stall owners.
“That is totally inadequate and so that is why we developed and we want now to build a terminal to ensure one that we have the best practices in terms of food safety, that we have better sanitary conditions out there for the public and that even the workers at the Ministry of Transport & Works who work in that terminal, that they too have better working conditions,” said Lashley, whose ministry has been holding discussions with the Barbados Association of Retailers, Vendors and Entrepreneurs (BARVEN) on the matter.
During his contribution to the Green Scoping Study debate this morning, Lashley also told Parliament that a document on a new clean transport policy would be submitted to Cabinet shortly which includes provisions for controlling emissions from vehicles, integrating more electric buses in the transport system and expanding the use of renewable sources of fuel.