A report on shanty towns, as promised by the Minister of the Environment and Housing Ken Dorsett, was released on July 3, 2013 highlighting troubling data on environmental concerns in these communities across New Providence and several out islands including Abaco.
The report, which covered shanty towns in New Providence, Andros, Exuma, Eleuthera and Abaco found a large number of troubling issues including environmental hazards and illegal activities.
A shanty town is defined as a cluster of dwellings which do not meet minimum environmental or regulatory standards with respect to water supply, solid waste management, sewage disposal, general aesthetics and structure.
The report observed that most, if not all, of these Shanty towns is on Government crown land issued to Bahamians families for the purpose of agriculture. A survey conducted two years ago noted that these “communities” are informally organized, overcrowded with illegal/poorly constructed dwellings, improper or no sewage disposal systems, compounded with derelict vehicles and garbage accumulation which give rise to the breeding of rodents , mosquitoes and other disease carrying vectors.
An emerging trend is the increasing number of Bahamians (or persons, who claim to be Bahamian) who live in or frequent these towns. Many of the long-term shanty town occupants express that “new arrivals” do not have the same reverence for proper hygiene and respect for law and order resulting in the decline of the towns.
The report highlighted that buildings in these shanty towns are made from discarded wood or metals without any regard for the Bahamas Building Code and that construction was ongoing in most of these towns. A number of the structures are now rented by Haitians to persons claiming to have Bahamian Citizenship and illegal immigrants.
Profitable businesses of varying nature, inclusive of liquor stores, convenience shops, numbers, animal rearing (chickens, sheep, goats, and pigs), cock fighting, recycling of bottles, and coal production, are being operated in these towns.
The storage of bottles being housed in these “towns” gives rise to mosquito and other disease carrying vectors. The manufacturing of coal seems to be a big business as Bahamian Pine is being utilized in disregard to the Forestry Act.
The report stated that water is available in all towns, and in some instances being piped into houses. Of great concern is the biological quality of the water. Only three of the forty-six water samples taken meet World Health Organization (WHO) Standards. All the others failed with very high fecal coli form counts. Two of the samples had residual chlorine present.