Health Minister addresses complaints of overgrown bushes

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The inability of the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) to pay workers is not the reason why the roads are covered by overgrown trees and bushes.
Molwyn Joseph, the health minister, admits that the statutory corporation is encountering financial difficulties, but he also insists that the problem has to do with recent weather conditions, particularly more rainfall.
“I think the people of Antigua and Barbuda would have observed that in recent months we have been getting steady rains. As a result, it’s a lot more growth compared to two years ago. We have not been able to keep up with the growth especially at the sides of the roads,” Joseph said during a radio interview on Monday.
Over the past few weeks, Antiguans and Barbudans have complained that the overgrowth on the roadways block their view and is an eyesore.
At the same time, contractors who work with the government’s beautification project with NSWMA have been complaining about being owed as much as three months arrears in wages.
The minister said that they have nonetheless continued do as much work as possible during the wet periods.
He indicated that during a recent meeting of Cabinet, he made several recommendations to address the issue.
“I made the proposal that we shift resources that are currently on the highways to the communities, and then we mechanise the cutting of the grass on the highways using tractors … I think that with that change we will see a difference,” Joseph said.
He explained that another aspect of the problem is that people are not doing their part to keep the environment clean.
Joseph said that if homeowners/residents and businesses do what they are supposed to do, it would be less costly to the government.
He said that in the interest of the community, the government has had to foot the cost of cleaning private lands and cleaning commercial waste generated by the business community.
According to the minister, this also places a further strain on the statutory corporation’s limited budget.
Joseph said that the government plans to impose a fee for the clearing of private lands and the clean up of waste generated by businesses.
“Solid waste pays their staff. But the problem is that solid waste does not have the revenue. Solid waste needs to be able to earn some revenue to cover the cost of operation,” the minister said.
According to Joseph, before a fee is determined, an assessment will be done to ascertain the number of vacant lots on the island, the number of businesses in the city, and the amount of waste generated.

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