Vendors in the new Constitution River Terminal say they are not all responsible for a lack of cleanliness in the popular bus stand.
While some say fellow vendors are partly to blame for the mess, they are also charging that authorities have failed to address a number of important issues.
They were responding to concerns raised by Transport Authority chairman Ian Estwick about the well-being of commuters after a Ministry of Health report condemned the terminal’s conditions as “deplorable and in need of an immediate remedy”.
Vendors told Barbados TODAY they want running water, adequate bathrooms and garbage disposal facilities.
One business accused authorities of being swift to cast judgement while failing to properly engage them.
“For a while, people were asking for a well for waste water and stuff to go in. [Estwick] said that there was going to be a meeting since October, but nobody came. Sometimes things happen in here and nobody gets notified,” she said.
“So to say that people are unsanitary boils down to a lack of communication. If you don’t communicate with the people who are within the community in here, nothing can happen, because then it’s just a one-sided thing. If you’re not hearing the vendors’ plight and listening to what their grievances are, nothing can happen,” said the woman, who feared that vendors could face punitive measures from authorities coming out of the unfolding situation.
She said much of the confusion arose after construction began on the new bus terminal, which displaced some vendors. Another major challenge cited was a lack of running water and electricity.
While she has running water piped into her stall, others, who also sell food, do not.
One such vendor, Desta Baptiste told Barbados TODAY that efforts to have running water supplied to her stall have been unsuccessful, forcing her to bring gallons of water from home to service her daily needs, in a bid to uphold a high standard of cleanliness and adhere to health regulations.
“A lot of people come and tell me, ‘your stall looks good, although other stalls are not clean’…. They feel comfortable, they want something to eat and they like how the place looks.”
Baptiste acknowledged that some of her fellow vendors need to clean up their act.
“Some people’s shops are too untidy for food,” she said, “and the garbage and stuff, they need to clean it up before they start business.”
Way of Life ‘ital’ shop owner, Paul Bobb, a vendor in the terminal since 2007 said not everyone should be slapped with the same label of ‘unsanitary’. He also called on authorities to address drainage.
“It is really bad. We don’t really have any drainage system. We want to know if Government could set a portion to deal with that, because it is health that we’re dealing with,” he said.
Pamela Waldron, another longstanding vendor, agreed with authorities that critical changes were needed to improve the conditions.
“I have been selling in this van stand for 12 years. I am a permit holder,” she said. “I have a grease trap, which I was told by the health inspector was needed. I paid a thousand dollars for the grease trap,” she said, while claiming that she was suffering due to the unpleasant practices of others.
Other vendors expressed concern that Government’s refusal to renew their permits for the past few years has left them at risk of being arbitrarily removed from their spots, when situations like the current one unfold.