Environmental health authorities today acted against coconut vendors in Warrens, clearing the area of the sellers in what they said was a move to eradicate all public health threats associated with this “illegal” business.
Workers from the Ministry of Health and the Sanitation Service Authority (SSA), accompanied by police officers, converged at the Warrens section of the ABC Highway to begin what they said would be an island-wide cleanup campaign of coconut vending sites.
Environmental health officials told Barbados TODAY this morning they were not trying to ban the vendors, only to regulate the practice to ensure the products were fit for human consumption.
Acting Senior Environmental Health Officer Ryle Rock, who also was at Warrens this morning, told Barbados TODAY the decision was taken to stop the vending and clear the area because the situation had become a public health threat.
“For some time now we have been issuing some instructions to the vendors to clean on a daily basis so that they can start fresh on mornings. What has happened is that they have left the coconut shells in the area, which is a public health nuisance. So today, we would have had the assistance of the SSA to clear those coconuts and make sure the highway is pristine,” Rock said, adding that there were some other underlying issues which he did not wish to discuss at this stage.
Asked why the environmental health authorities had taken on the responsibility of cleaning the site rather than forcing the vendors to do so, Rock said the threat to public health was much too great.
“We have issues with rats, we have issues with flies, we can have issues with mosquitoes; hence, we have taken the opportunity to work this morning to get the problem solved,” he said.
However, Rock added that the police would monitor the vendors in future to ensure the regulations were enforced.
Responding to complaints by sellers that only one vendor was responsible for the mess, the senior environmental health official said it did not matter.
“We have had problems with that particular vendor, but we also have to be mindful of the fact that whether it is one vendor or five vendors, it is still a public health nuisance . . . . Mosquitos and flies and rats are not selective in who they infect. So if one person is causing the problem on the highway, then we have to make sure that that problem is solved,” he contended.
He said discussions were held with the vendors last December and they had agreed to clean up at the end of the day.
“We had an agreement that they would clean every evening and that they would continue [to work] on mornings. But as you know, and you would have heard on the call-in programmes, this has been a real eyesore and public health nuisance,” Rock said, while appealing for the cooperation of all coconut vendors plying their ware on the highways.
Meanwhile vendor Anthony Mondore linked today’s action to the funeral of former Governor General Sir Clifford Husbands, whose procession will pass through Warrens and on to the Mile & A Quarter Junction in St Peter.
“They say it’s not permanent, so we not allowed to sell out here today or tomorrow,” Mondore told Barbados TODAY, while lamenting that the two-day suspension would severely impact on his daily income, seeing that Friday is usually a good day for business in Warrens.
“To be honest with you, these two days are going to be very critical for me because I had plans to sell out. I got bills to pay, children to support, all kind of things I have to do in these days. We out here, we aren’t killing anyone or robbing, we out here making an honest dollar,” the disgruntled vendor argued, even as he complained that he should not be penalized because somebody else was not complying with the regulations.