Government went to Parliament today seeking approval for $3.1 million in financial support for its annual de-bushing exercise, with Minister of Health John Boyce sounding a stern warning that the situation with overgrown shrubs was now way out of hand.
“We are saying to our communities, ‘look, we cannot afford to continue the luxury of allowing our place to become untidy,” said Boyce.
“First of all it looks bad. It looks absolutely unkempt. We can see in a lot of our villages now, our roadways being almost reduced by half because of the overgrown bush in the areas. But even more significant is the damage which is being done to our roadwork. There are instances where you see in front of private homes . . . we have an absolutely acceptable condition, and we are destroying our roadways,” he stressed.
In tabling the supplementary for $3,155,344 from the Consolidated Fund in support of the de-bushing exercise, which began on December 5, 2016 and will run until March 31, 2017, Boyce also warned of a serious situation developing with unused properties across the island, telling Parliament it was to his regret that they had formed “a haven for rodents of all kinds.
“It is a situation which we have to manage, a situation which we have to take responsibility for,” the Government spokesman said, cognizant of the potential threat of disease.
At the same time, he restated an earlier warning to private landowners that under the Health Services Act Government could recover its cost if it is forced to clean up their lots.
“The Ministry of Health will be aggressively pursing those lots that are cleared under the programme, with a view to collecting the cost of the programme,” he warned.
He revealed that under the 2012/2013 de-bushing programme, a total of 403 lots 2,000,670 square feet of land were cleared in Christ Church, St Peter, St Philip, as well as in the Bridgetown, Warrens and Black Rock, St Michael areas, at a cost of about $627,000.
However, compared to that programme, this year’s cleanup exercise promises to be a massive one.
Boyce explained that de-bushing teams had already been assigned to some areas, including the Randall Philips, Maurice Byer and St Philip Polyclinic catchment areas since December 5.
“The Branford Taitt, Eunice Gibson, Winston Scott polyclinic, as well as the David Thompson Social Health Services Complex team commences work on December 7,” he revealed, adding, “All polyclinics have been assigned with about 12 to 16 general workers, as well as some supervision.
“So the $3.155 million associated with this de-bushing programme up to March 31, 2017, will be well spent in terms of mitigating the incidents of disease in our country, helping to beautify our country and making sure that while contributing to this useful work some of our population can look forward to some level of remuneration that will help satisfy some of their needs,” Boyce told the Lower House.
The Opposition Barbados Labour Party has welcomed the de-bushing exercise. However, it has called on Government to include some of its recently retrenched workers in the mix, and to ensure that the work is spread among the various constituencies.
“We in this country in all 30 constituencies are affected by overgrown bush . . . we in the Barbados Labour Party we welcome it and is hoping that the programme will be distributed and not concentrated in certain areas, but that the entire Barbados will benefit from the de-bushing programme,” urged Dwight Sutherland, the Member of Parliament for St George South.
“Beautify Barbados, these workers were sent home at a time when Barbados became overgrown with bush, and I am saying . . . when you go around Barbados selecting many persons to execute this de-bushing programme, I would like the Government . . . to include these persons that were sent home,” added Sutherland, who was strongly backed by St Thomas representative Cynthia Forde.