Minister: Vegetation Overgrowth On Roadsides

October 6, 2017 | 30 Comments

Minister of Public Works Lt/Col David Burch addressed the overgrowth of vegetation on our roadsides, saying that some of the contributing factors have been private landowners not maintaining their property, weed spraying not having been carried out for the past two years, and a lack of resources of both labour and equipment.

Speaking in the House of Assembly today [Oct 6], the Minister explained that roadside grass verges are maintained by the Department of Parks, whilst roadside vegetation is maintained by the Highways Section in the Department of Works & Engineering.

“It is the overgrowth of the roadside vegetation that has caused the greatest concern recently and the source of at least 70 emails a week to my inbox,” Minister Burch said.

“It should be noted straight away that not all roadside overgrowth is the responsibility of Government to manage. Private landowners have an obligation to maintain their frontages

“One of the root causes of this current situation that has challenged the Ministry to control the growth of vegetation has been the banning of the use of herbicide.

“Following a directive from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in May 2015 which prohibited the importation of herbicide containing glyphosate meant that when the Highways section ran out of supplies there was no readily available alternative substance that could be used.

“This has meant that since 2015 – or in other words 2 years – that no weed spraying has been carried out on the roadways and verges. As weed spraying is the first action to help prevent seeds germinating and growing – it should come as no surprise to anyone why the country looks the way it does.”

Minister Burch said that while maintaining the ban on concentrated glyphosate based herbicides, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources will grant a license to the Ministry of Public Works to “import restricted concentrated forms of glyphosate herbicide with the condition that an Integrated Vegetation Management [IVM] plan is completed prior to the issuing of that license.”

He also added that the “team responsible for road sweeping and vegetation cutting in the Highways Section has been limited by a lack of resources. This includes both labour and equipment resources.”

“Four vacant budgeted positions are available for the current budget and recruiting to fill these posts is currently underway. To be clear – this is a sharp departure from the practice of the last 4 ½ years when many posts went unfilled,” Minister Burch said.

“Loss of productivity from labour shortages has also been exacerbated by a shortage of trucks. The Ministry has suffered from not being able to replace trucks when they have reached the end of their road worthiness. This has led to more frequent breakdowns and down times for the vehicles.”

“Typically the crews have operated with half the number of trucks required and at times only one truck between all three crews.”

The Minister’s full statement follows below:

Mr. Speaker, I rise this morning to provide this Honourable House with a report on the overgrowth of vegetation on our roadside verges and highways.

The roadside grass verges are maintained by the Department of Parks whilst roadside vegetation is maintained by the Highways Section in the Department of Works & Engineering.

It is the overgrowth of the roadside vegetation that has caused the greatest concern recently and the source of at least 70 emails a week to my inbox.

Mr. Speaker, it should be noted straight away that not all roadside overgrowth is the responsibility of Government to manage.

Private landowners have an obligation to maintain their frontages to ensure that any vegetation that abuts, or encroaches upon a highway is not a hazard to any user of that highway.

Any vegetation that is within six [6] feet of the edge of a highway needs to be regularly maintained to prevent it becoming a hazard to pedestrians and the motoring public.

One of the root causes of this current situation that has challenged the Ministry to control the growth of vegetation has been the banning of the use of herbicide.

Following a directive from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in May 2015 which prohibited the importation of herbicide containing glyphosate meant that when the Highways section ran out of supplies there was no readily available alternative substance that could be used.

This has meant that since 2015 – or in other words 2 years that no weed spraying has been carried out on the roadways and verges. As weed spraying is the first action to help prevent seeds germinating and growing – it should come as no surprise to anyone why the country looks the way it does.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to report that while maintaining the ban on concentrated glyphosate based herbicides, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources will grant a license to the Ministry of Public Works to import restricted concentrated forms of glyphosate herbicide with the condition that an Integrated Vegetation Management [IVM] plan is completed prior to the issuing of that license.

An integrated pest or in this case vegetation management programme [IVM] is a system that strategically utilizes mechanical, chemical, cultural and biological methods. The result is the most efficient control plan customized to local conditions; that minimizes negative impact to human health and the environment.

There are also potentially significant cost savings to be had by implementing an IVM programme. The MPW has already implemented several elements of an IVM programme that will be further developed.

Mr. Speaker, considerable research and monitoring has occurred both locally and internationally to support the use of Glyphosate Herbicide with certain conditions and monitoring and those conditions will be met.

Mr. Speaker, the team responsible for road sweeping and vegetation cutting in the Highways Section has been limited by a lack of resources. This includes both labour and equipment resources.

Historically, there has been three teams that carry out road sweeping and vegetation cutting that cover the eastern, central and western parishes respectively. Each team should comprise one foreman, one driver, [who both drive] and six heavy labourers.

With retirements and natural attrition the teams are now eight labourers short which has meant that at times teams have had to double up to make a viable work crew. This has slowed progress on keeping the roads clear. Even with a full complement of personnel it is unlikely that a particular section of road will be attended to more than twice a year.

Four vacant budgeted positions are available for the current budget and recruiting to fill these posts is currently underway. To be clear – this is a sharp departure from the practice of the last 4 ½ years when many posts went unfilled

Mr. Speaker, loss of productivity from labour shortages has also been exacerbated by a shortage of trucks. The Ministry has suffered from not being able to replace trucks when they have reached the end of their road worthiness. This has led to more frequent breakdowns and down times for the vehicles.

This has affected both the mechanical sweeper brushes and trucks used by the crews to collect and transport vegetation to Marsh Folly. This also has had an effect on the productivity. Typically the crews have operated with half the number of trucks required and at times only one truck between all three crews.

Often there has been no mechanical road sweeper in operation. The mechanical sweeper brush is important to quickly remove dust and sand from the road surface to make it safer and also to help prevent vegetation from establishing itself on the road edge.

There is the added knock on effect on flooding when it rains as the lack of removal of soil, debris and weeds causes drains to become clogged and lead to flooding.

With the road sweeping and vegetation cutting crew being challenged to get around the areas that they are obligated to do the situation has been made worse by the lack of diligence by certain landowners to do their part.

Mr. Speaker, the Ministry will make a more concerted effort in chasing those landowners who are delinquent in maintaining the frontages of their properties and will apply the appropriate penalties in accordance with the Public Lands Act. Landowners are reminded that vegetation should be cut back at least six feet beyond the edge of the carriageway.

The Ministry has also recently acquired a hedge cutting machine which when it is working on the public roads will help to facilitate operations.

Mr. Speaker, I will regularly keep this Honourable House updated on the progress that we are making to reduce overgrowth on our highways and verges.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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Comments (30)

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  1. Truths says:

    Roads were fine the last few years. What has changed? NO, DO NOT start using pesticides again!! Why not just ask the previous govt how they kept roads clear? Seems like a no-brainer to me.

    • PBanks says:

      The vegetation creep was happening before the change of government.

    • Izzypop says:

      What rock u been sleeping under
      Roads hv been over grown for years
      I mean five men, once time of day starts. Two coffee brakes. Lunch time. Then knock off at four. You getva bout a half a mile done in a working day. It will take years to catch up.

  2. Guy Smiley says:

    Right, so RoundUp was banned and now we are going to bring it back??!!! How ignorant can we be??! Do you know how many countries it’s banned in? Do you know it’s be PROVEN to cause cancer?!

    Sorry but the crews that cleanup the overgrowth have NO incentive or effective management to make the work happen timely and efficiently. Look how fast private crews work.

    • Theone says:

      Unfortunately the pricks from monstano cam to Bermuda and brain washed these stupid people we call our government and lied to them and they belived them and now they have allowed them to being or back in I believe the oba singed the bill to allow this to happen. Round kills your pets,kills bees and most important as been proven to give people cancer!!!!! Wake tup people they killing us and we just letting happen do some research u lot on your fones half the day any way!!!!!!!!

  3. sandgrownan says:

    “Four vacant budgeted positions are available for the current budget and recruiting to fill these posts is currently underway. To be clear – this is a sharp departure from the practice of the last 4 ½ years when many posts went unfilled,” Minister Burch said.

    And there goes balancing the budget.

    • Truths says:

      Exactly, so how did the previous govt keep up with the roads with 4 LESS people? I’m not being snarky, I seriously think we should just ASK THEM!

      Or privatize it. Simple.

  4. Way too short says:

    SO MY FIRST THOUGHT – AGREE- CORRECT GOVERNMENT SHOULC NOT BE RESPONSIBLE FOR MAINATINING PEOPLES PROPERTIES! HOWEVER WEEDING SIDE WALKS/ ROAD WAYS ARE.WHY NOT UTALIZE THE PRISON POPULATION FOR LABOR- MAKE IT MANDITORY TO DO COMMUNITY SERIVCE AND HAVE THEM CLEAR THE ROADS.

    • Kathy says:

      YES, my thoughts exactly. Instead they are up westgate watching tv while we are talking about bringing back pollution which eventually ends up in the sea. Get those prisoners out and working. No reason why our roads should be in such a bad state! There are certainly more than 4 workers up there at westgate!

      • sage says:

        Prisoners can’t be forced to work for free on chain gangs, maybe you and your cohorts could turn off your tvs’ and go pull up some weeds instead.

  5. sage says:

    Get out hoes and machetes and don’t re-instate the extremely harmful, poisonous road spraying. Check on the ex spray gangs employees health if you think it’s a joke. I cut weeds on both sides of the public roads with no deadly chemicals regularly in front of my house. I drove on Harbour road from Burnt House hill back to Belmont and the lanes are half covered by grass and weeds.

  6. smitty says:

    “Each team should comprise one foreman, one driver, [who both drive] and six heavy labourers.”

    So its really just a simply “Its not my job, I’m only hired to drive the truck” which is one man that could also do the work….and then the foreman who will ‘watch’ and two ‘workers’ stop/start popsicle sign holders leaving like 4 guys to go the actual cutting (one on a break, one sharpening tools, one waving at the fillies driving by…so yeah – 1 guy working on a crew of 8.
    No wonder is only 20 ft per day.

  7. Oh,I see now says:

    I wish we could use the prison population but who’s willing to duck bullets from gang retaliation on a roadside crew it has already happened.

  8. Joe says:

    Shouldn’t these workers be out cutting the grass/hedges all day, every day? Why not have teams assigned to each parish – where all they do is go around the parish continuously year round? As it stands now we might get something cut back and six-months later nobody has been back to manage it. How many full-time workers are there assigned to deal with roadway and grass verge trimming? From what we all see there must only be one team for the entire island..

    • lizard says:

      I have said before that we should have a landscaper (grass cutter) for each parish taking care of the hedgerows, and eliminate the W&E. Be cheaper and the work would get done.
      Takes them a morning just for them to set up their chairs and table and have a discussion about which two will operate the stop/go signs.

  9. Colibm says:

    All herbicide spraying does is cause dead, brown patches of over growth. Rather than green overgrowth.

  10. Micro says:

    Load of rubbish. What I’ve seen 6 guys do in a week, very easily can be done in a day.

  11. O.M.G says:

    I totally agree with making owners responsible for there properties but also we have all these prisoners sititing around doin nothing get them out there cutting the trees

  12. Ignorance says:

    Bunch of lazy, unaccountable , highly paid traffic lookers. That is why nothing gets done!

  13. stunned... says:

    (W)atching & (E)arning…irrespective of the government of the day

  14. spider says:

    Rather then fill the 8 vacant positions “outsource it” I’m sure government can get 3 competitive quotes for the landscaping. They will get more done and cheaper and I bet you won’t see them sitting on their tushes doing one hour coffee breaks.

  15. imjustsayin says:

    Your love making money from writing traffic tickets so how about cutting back the foliage and sending the land owners the bill.

  16. Sorry says:

    Privatize it and then you would get your money’s worth. It’s hot out there but some of them guys spend most of their time driving around in the trucks. Unions should be ashamed of the lack of productivity of their workers, then again check out how long that building renovation has taken at the union building near 4 star.

  17. overgrowth is untidy, but it is also causing imminent danger to life and property by forcing oncoming traffic into oncoming traffic. There by doubling head on collision by numbers of vehicles involved (doubling at least), it also reduces line of sight . When the wind blow it can either break your windshield or knock you off your moped.
    Someone ask belco and telco how much is spent yearly due to branches snapping their line… an elecric line causes imminent danger!!!
    So don’t dawdle… Fix it… maintain it… Or remove all that budget from govt hands… From our taxes…. We need it for groceries!!!!!!!!!!

  18. Well well says:

    Just today I watched two men at Coopers Island entrance behind the gate clearing vegetation. Well one was cutting vegetation and doing a fine job. Not quite sure what the other was doing sitting on the other side, but he was definitely busy doing something detailed with his hands and whatever was in them and at least he was happy and said good morning!

  19. Garry Bean says:

    By privatizing – it doesn’t mean there is going to be the money for it. The problem has been the funding. And it will remain the problem until our economy can generate sufficient funding. So, it’s lovely to hear the PLP climbing up on their toad stools say what crap the OBA were at ‘funding’ whe in fact it was the PLP that created the biggest financial crisis our island has ever had. OBA managed to keep us afloat with fiscal prudence and accountability for their decisions which HAD TO BE MADE. I say go ahead PLP, cut financial aid for some of the people on it and fund the cutting of the grass and hedges instead.

  20. Steve Thomson says:

    $180 million dollars is now being spent annually simply to pay the interest on our massive debt.
    20 years ago this interest payment was less than $10 million.
    Interest rates are rapidly rising around the world.
    Hold on for the ride. We are only just beginning to see the nightmare we are about to go through in my view.
    The sad thing is we, the people, let it happen .

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