Works to clear vegetation at the cemetery started last month and workers predict the project will take until November to complete.
In June this year Dr John Cortes, the minister with responsibility for the cemetery, announced a maintenance programme to tackle the cemetery’s overgrown state.
The Gibraltar Government then entered into a contract with Greenarc Limited for management of the vegetation at the cemetery.
The contract is for a period of two years and started on August 1. However, Greenarc started work on the cemetery a week earlier for no charge as it wanted to improve things quickly.
The company won the contract after the Government issued a tender for the work.
“We want to do maintenance on an ongoing basis it is not just a one-off clearance,” Dr Cortes told the Chronicle.
“They are clearing now because this is a time when you clear the dry vegetation.”
“Then they [Greenarc] will be controlling the growth when the rains come and doing some planting of scrubs and small trees” he added.
He said plans had been prepared by the Department of the Environment in consultation with the Botanic Gardens.
The new plants will be colourful and able to endure the harsh conditions of the area, which is dry in summer and windswept in winter.
The planting of these shrubs will start in autumn when the land is not as dry.
The maintenance programme also aims to ensure access to any grave is no longer impeded by growth or vegetation.
The workers are onsite at 7am every morning until 2.30pm six days a week in a bid to clear the over grown vegetation and to remove broken items and rubbish left there.
The areas being cleared every day vary. Each day they are told where to clear and it appears this coincides with when there is due to be a funeral taking place.
Dr Cortes also noted that should a person go to the cemetery and discover they cannot access the grave they wish to visit they could mention it to the workers on site who will deal with it.
The issue of maintenance of the cemetery has been an ongoing debate between the Government and the Opposition as well as amongst locals.
Last year a petition was set up by In Loving Memory, an organisation that works for the loved ones of those who are buried in the cemetery, to urge to the Government to do something about the condition of the cemetery.
The then leader of the GSD, Danny Feetham, backed the petition.
When it was raised with Dr Cortes that the standard of maintenance at the cemetery appears to fluctuate, he said: “There has never been a specific horticultural contractor responsible for the looking after of the cemetery, never. It has always been done by the cemetery staff who have helped out or by unskilled people deployed there.”
Dr Cortes said he was very confident that the new scheme will work.
The process to find the contractors has dragged out nearly four years and started when the Government issued a tender for the work but was not satisfied with the proposals submitted.
It then tried to use in house staff to deal with it but found that because of the pressure of work on burials it was not possible for the same people who deal with the burials to deal with that as well.
“Obviously people gave priority to the burials and that got a little left behind,” Dr Cortes said.
The Government then tried different ways of doing it but found they really had to go back to having a contract for it.
Dr Cortes’s message for people who use the cemetery on a regular basis is “treat it with respect, because another thing that this programme is doing is removing rubble that is all over the place. Sometimes you get some contractors that come in and make one grave very, very beautiful but perhaps not clean up the rubble piled up next to it.”
“The majority of people who use the cemetery leave it tidy but there are some people who perhaps may not be as careful.”
“I can sort of understand if the cemetery is in a mess your inclination will be ‘what’s the point’, but now that we are working hard in making it better. I just ask people to look after it, look after their areas. If they see anything that they feel is a problem to report it because we now have a team there that is able to deal with it,” he said.
Pics by Eyleen Sheil