Jose River Bridge Catastrophe!

Say it “Jose River” or “Joe’s River”… Either way it’s a catastrophe!

By Lani Edghill

Where the road collapsed - after they removed the foliage

A few months ago I drove down to Bathsheba to hike along the Hackleton’s Cliff area. I do this every weekend because I love the outdoors and I enjoy being out in the natural environment especially on the east coast of Barbados. On my trip down there during the dry season I noticed that the area and gully around the Jose River Bridge had been completely bulldozed, flattened and annihilated.

On viewing this travesty I immediately said to my partner that as soon as the rain starts to fall again this bridge is going to collapse.

I could immediately see the impact that this type of clearing (debushing) could do to this highly ecologically sensitive area. Apparently the Ministry of Transport and Works could not.

New road cut through the forest!

Let us consider what benefits that trees and foliage have to our environments and more specifically the Scotland District area. Trees and foliage have roots that hold the soil in place. Without these roots the whole area would slip into the sea. Trees and plants not only hold soil in place but they also absorb water and help to slow the flow of water to the ocean. Water that moves slowly does not erode or cause flooding – as opposed to water that moves quickly taking everything including the land, soil and everything else with it. In addition trees and plants also filter water and air, mitigate the heat island effect and provide habitat for birds and other creatures.

Now that we understand the benefits of trees and plants and their role in holding things together let us put this into perspective…

When the plants and trees were removed from the gully area around the bridge and the rain fell, all of the soil around the bridge and gully area eroded. As a result of this, part of the road collapsed.

A little background information into the bridge. The bridge is still structurally sound from an engineering perspective (information retrieved from a local engineer who knows the bridge and was brought in to consult after the fact). The work was originally being done to widen the bridge and not to fix a problem, however removal of the foliage from either side of the gully and ravine has now made the area unstable and the bridge impassable.

As a result of this problem, people were unable to get in and out of Bathsheba without having to go all the way around, either through St. John or St. Andrew. Within a number of days and with little to no community consultation according to resident Ronald Headley, the Ministry of Transport and Works (MTW) made yet another brilliant decision to cut a road straight through one of the last remaining natural forests on the island!

The Jose River Forest was supposed to be protected but due to our government’s inability to see this as a potential ecological catastrophe they caused a much larger problem. Now we have more slippage possibilities and much more erosion in an area that is prone to high slippage and lots of rain, especially in these rainy months that we are about the enter.

Mr. Ronald Headley, a resident, whose father’s land is to the south east of the gully, says that MTW didn’t tell them anything. T hey just started the project in January and then left it for months and didn’t come back until the road collapsed. As a result his father was forced to stop using some of his land for cultivation.

On the eve of environment month let us reflect on what we could have done to find a better solution to this complex problem. I am sure there could have been better solutions than cutting a road through the National Park and an ecologically sensitive area. Apparently we didn’t look at any other options and we don’t take these kinds of issues seriously here in Barbados – nor do we understand the impacts that these kinds of decisions can make on our environment.

MTW flattened the gully floor which is going to cause more erosion and ecological destruction downstream.

I am tired of seeing mature trees being cut down for no reason and ecologically sensitive areas pillaged in the name of progress! I am tired of the government not consulting professionals when there is a major problem like this in an ecologically sensitive area… but then again why should I be surprised? I mean, look at Graeme Hall, Chancery Lane, Batts Rock and Merricks.

Same ole same ole ’bout hey!

It’s a damn shame! Barbados is going to look back in a few years and realize that there were so many things that they could have done to make this place better and they didn’t. Soon it will be too late to turn back!

MTW flattened the gully floor which is going to cause more erosion and ecological destruction downstream.

Lani Edghill is an Environmental Planner & Green Business Barbados Coordinator for the Future Centre Trust


Filed under Agriculture, Barbados, Environment, Nature, Wildlife

24 responses to “Jose River Bridge Catastrophe!

  1. Nostradamus

    I too noticed a few months ago the desecration of the vegetaion in the gully around the bridge and thought what absolute madness.

    Excellent work Ms. Edghill.

    BFP – please change “Maricks” to “Merricks”
    “I mean, look at Graeme Hall, Chancery Lane, Batts Rock and Maricks.”

  2. Prince of Barbados

    This is a DISGRACE!!!! Why is our government so bent on destruction of our natural environment? Do they not understand that that our island’s natural environment makes it so desirable and so irresistible??? If you go to this website:, you will see how they begun the destruction of Joe’s River Forest

  3. John

    I speak subject to correction but I believe Joe’s River Forest was a gift to the Government and People of Barbados by a former Australian High Commissioner to Barbados.

    One condition I believe attached …… it had to be reafforested!!

    Reafforesting means To convert (open land) into a forest by planting trees or their seeds. …

    Wonder how many of the Teak trees planted during the 60’s and 70’s were bulldozed to make that bypass road.

  4. Politically Tired

    Excellent article.

    Some of us that (used) to drive over the bridge daily commented when the gully was cleared that there would be problems because of the removal of vegetation, the morning some of the earth moved, MTW bought a JCB over the bridge, within moments part of the black & white kerb collapsed, I know, I was in the queue of traffic watching on the Horse Hill side. This is the kind of mindset you’re dealing with, to take a exceptionally heavy vehicle over an unstable bridge, who’s brilliant idea was that? Couldn’t be bothered to drive via the East Coast Road? of course not.

    We’ve seen time & time again that this Government as well as the previous have little or no respect for the environment, easier to destroy a few trees than repair the bridge. I’m sure if this had happened on the South or West Coast repairs would have been far quicker!

    The work for the bridge, should be given to outside contractors who would repair the bridge quickly & efficiently, ‘work’ from January to the closure was sparse to say the least, with weeks going by in excellent dry weather conditions without a worker being seen.

  5. Prince of Barbados

    I keep constantly reading this article because I am angered, saddened and confused. How can the government do this? Its not fair!!!! Will Barbados’ natural environment ever be spared and safeguarded? Soon our island will no longer have trees, fields, and open spaces! Why can’t government enact the environmental legislation so desperately needed? In trying to widen the bridge government has created a huge environmental disaster. Even though these kind of things are frequent to our island I am still in SHOCK!!!! Joe’s River Forest is BEAUTIFUL!!!!!!!! Leave my FOREST ALONE!!!

  6. FairPlay

    BFP has tried time and again to fire up this nation’s emotions over the handling of Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary seemingly without too much luck. What will it take for public opinion to become so fierce that Government is FORCED to pay greater (or any) attention to OUR environment?
    Thank you BFP, don’t give up the fight!

  7. rasta man

    Waste of time!!!

  8. Duppy Lizard

    The mindset of the “average” Barbadian is as follows:
    If it moves kill it.
    If it grows chop it down.
    If you have garbage to dispose – drop it anywhere.
    If you have a job – do as little work possible, then go on strike.
    If you are serving the public – be as surly and as slow as possible.
    Why should anyone be surprised….

  9. Duppy Lizard

    BFP – I am curious. What could possibly have triggered my previous comment to be moderated?

  10. HughM

    Excellent article. Hope the Government takes note before it is too late.

  11. yatinkiteasy

    If the MTW is in charge of restoring the bridge, we should count on at least six months. I think they estimated $600,000 for the job…I would love to see a breakdown of costs (labour and materials)
    Besides, we all know that it will end up costing double that, depending on how many are assigned to lime at the job site.

  12. rasta man

    Have to keep them employed you know.just like the customs officer at GAIA

  13. Duppy Lizard

    @BFP – My post has been in moderation for over 10 hours. Have you guys fallen asleep at the switch or did someone have too much to drink last night? 🙂

  14. BFP

    Hi Duppy,

    The comment had the word “kill” in it so it goes to the holding tank automatically. That was put in place due to the threats that were being made against people. Sorry we didn’t notice it until you mentioned it was being held. All fixed now.


  15. Peltdownman

    @ Duppy Lizard
    Worth waiting for, though.

  16. Politically Tired

    There’s water settling in the gully below the bridge this morning, just to add to the problems.

  17. As a fellow walker on the Environment Month Parish Walks organised by the NCC out of the Eric Holder Centre in St Joseph on June 5, I also was horrified to view first hand the lack of planning that had taken place in the area highlighted in Lani’s article. All it would have taken is a good design, work completed on time – in the dry season (in a drought no less), and by the time the rain fell, all would be good.

    To cut through a forested area which has been there happily minding it’s own business for all of these years, (interesting to see the note re the contribution from the Australians..) helping the local environment to protect itself from further land slippage, without ANY legitimate plan – is madness!!

    Low and behold the soil compacted in this forest track area washed down in the first set of rains for the season and the residents of the area are seemingly back to stage minus one.

    There needs to be simple steps put in place; steps which the residents are privy to. You have the plan to expand the bridge – do it properly and as per the schedule and all is well. Do not desecrate a valuable ecosystem which is protecting coastal villages, not to mention the forest’s native inhabitants… How many people are commenting on increased monkeys that may not have been in the neighbourhood before?? Just a thought..

  18. 42

    Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday (MTW) came through our St. Joseph property within the last year to clear mature trees from a swath 50 to 60 feet wide on either side of a “road” that nobody uses. Result: with rains road now gone! Same bunch cleared other sections of no road through our property down nearly vertical terrain just to accomodate moving their D-6 from Vaughns to Parks, mature trees pushed down left, right , and center, all of the above done without any permission or even alert to the property owners, just did it! Erosion now severe with no ground cover left. The arrogance and ignorance of MTW is appalling. What might work OK in flat St. Philip is disasterous in the Scotland District. Do these guys have any training, or even common sense at all????? Same ministry, different crew, just finished “weeding” the side of the real road to our house. Despite our pointing out that the roadside is mowed weekly by members of the neighborhood to keep a grass cover to prevent erosion and make the road look nice, MTW just had to remove the grass cover. With rains roadside now all eroded over the road itself and pavement cracking and disappearing. There really is no hope!

  19. John

    June 22, 2010 at 5:58 pm

    There really is no hope!

    If the head is bad the foots and hands are useless.

    Greenland, water etc. etc. etc.

    Colin Hudson – horror and hope.

    Guess the hope might be that people are becoming more and more aware of just how tenuous our existence in our 2×4 island really is.

    So just maybe …….

  20. Politically Tired

    The original ‘Dr Road’ was a muddy track used by the Safari vehicles, now its been ruined & vegetation destroyed by MTW. A terrible scar on the landscape.
    CO Williams have now cleared metres of ‘bush’ from alongside the Andromeda-Foster Hall-Martins Bay road, ready for work to be started there, the surveying appears to have been done, but with the rains, who knows when that will be!
    Again the land will slip as the trees have been bulldozed beyond recognition with all vegetation ripped from the ground. This road is already deteriorating rapidly with the increased traffic from the Joes River bridge.
    @ Nicole, we haven’t seen any more monkeys than usual.

  21. whistling frog

    All yuh can huff and puff till de boar pig come home.
    Bruggadung de govt do what dey do,, tek it or dont tektikate it.Braaks Paalask da is de way it ares be,,,,BBaagoooby Baagoooby Ehhhhhh!

  22. environmental planner

    Thank you ‘politically tired’ for the info about the clearing of the of the Andromeda to Martin’s Bay road. I was there this weekend. Another potential ecological disaster. There is no end in sight!

  23. Politically Tired

    environmental planner

    Unbelievable isn’t it?

  24. Environmental Planner

    Totally unbelievable especially here in Barbados where we have all our ducks in a row!