Minister of the Environment and Drainage, Dr. Denis Lowe, has vowed to take whatever action is necessary against owners of unkempt lots across Barbados.
In addition to joining forces with ongoing efforts being executed by the Ministry of Health, Dr. Lowe today disclosed that his Ministry was also looking at its own "legislative menu" to address the issue.
Speaking during a press briefing at the Ministry’s Hincks Street, St. Michael office today, the Minister stated: "It has to be managed. I want to make it abundantly clear that as the Minister responsible for the environment I intend to do whatever is necessary to have these persons look after their properties."
Noting that there was some legal provision under the Ministry of Health where unkempt properties could be seized and sold, Dr. Lowe added that he was also having consultations with the Minister of Health to see how the two ministries could combine their efforts and take necessary action as provided by law.
The Minister told reporters that the issue of unkempt lots was affecting businesses, educational institutions, and child care centres. In the case of the latter, he said some parents were removing their children from centres because they were worried about the impact of the nearby unsightly lots.
He added that the issue also raised a number of health concerns for communities. "Many people [have] indicated that these unkempt lots are the breeding ground for large rats, stray dogs and stray cats. We are aware that the Ministry of Health has issued a bulletin on the increase of cases of leptospirosis in the country. If we have breeding areas for the sources of that disease then it means that we are putting our population at risk, and therefore, it is a health hazard for the community," Dr. Lowe stated.
He added that other concerns related to safety where prowlers and other persons with less than honourable intentions used the unkempt lots as a cover to stalk people and break into their homes.
Dr. Lowe noted that these lots reflected the general appearance of the country, communities and neighbourhoods, and stressed that Government was also at fault. "Government agencies, like the National Housing Corporation, that also owns parcels of land around the island, also fall into this category.
"I have been given the assurance by the [Housing] Minister that he would continue to put in the effort to clean up their areas because the Government always has to lead by example. It would be rather misplaced for me to address the general public on this issue not acknowledging that there are cases where there are lots owned by the Crown that need to be addressed as well," the Environment Minister pointed out.
He added that the situation had now reached the point where some property owners were forced to pay to keep nearby lots tidy for their own personal health and safety.
Dr. Lowe made an appeal to the owners of such lots to clean up their properties. "The Government cannot do it on its own. It is a costly exercise. Recent calculations show that there are over 1,800 lots scattered in the south… Therefore, we are appealing to those land owners that they must look after their properties," he stressed.
He warned that if the Government had to tidy the lots because they presented a danger to the population, then it would find every possible legal course to ensure that it was compensated for its financial output in trying to maintain these properties.
"I think we have done our share of clearing. I have sent agencies to so many different locations to attend to issues because communities have raised concerns. Some of the local MPs (Members of Parliament) have been executing their own cleanup programmes at their own cost. I think it is only fair that the people who own these properties look after them.
"What Government would do is continue to execute its remit in the general clean up and appearance of the country, but we are asking those persons to work with the Government to ensure that we bring to bear the level of maintenance of these lots that is required," he urged