As a result of findings in the Department of Environmental Health Services (DEHS) report on Shanty Towns, Environment and Housing Minister Kenred Dorsett said on July 4 that they will move forward with the prosecution of land-owners.
The report noted an emerging trend in shantytowns of the increasing number of Bahamians or people who claim to be Bahamian, who live in or frequent these towns. According to the report, there are at least 15 shantytowns in New Providence and numerous more in the family islands.
The report said Abaco is home to the biggest shantytown population in the Family Islands which were highlighted during their research. Shantytowns in Abaco include Sandbanks, The Mud and The Peas, commonly referred to as Pigeon Peas.
Combined, those three communities have more than 1,000 homes, according to the report and researchers said there are 124 homes or residences in Sandbanks.
In Sandbanks only two homes were identified as having wells piped into the houses and it was noted that there are also six visible commercial shops.
In The Pigeon Peas, the report indicated that there are 300 residences and 30 commercial shops and of those homes, 150 had septic tanks and 15 made use of outside toilets.
In The Mud, which is the biggest of the three predominantly Haitian communities, there are 600 residences and 45 commercial shops, the report said. There are 100 septic tanks and six outside toilets.
Researchers said that “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.”
Noting how these communities operate outside of the requirements for proper sanitation, without regard to the building code and in violation of safety requirements for electricity, Minister Dorsett said that he remains concerned about the possibility of diseases such as cholera being born because of the unsanitary disposal of human and other forms of waste.
“I would like the general public to know that the government of the Bahamas is committed to bringing resolution to this age old issue. Not only are these towns unsightly and unsanitary but as you will see in the photos provided they are not fit for human dwelling. I assure you that work is being done and will continue to be done to address this issue for the benefit of those living in this unsanitary conditions and Bahamas generally,” he said.
Residents of Shanty Towns were told at the beginning of July to get their homes up to code within 30 days or face prosecution. The deadline has since passed and to date only one landowner is reportedly facing prosecution.
To date there has be no known enforcement of the same deadline for Abaco’s shanty town residents, some of whom occupy crown land, or landowners.
For his part, Mr. Dorsett said his ministry is only dealing with the environment and housing aspects of the shanty town issue. He said Immigration and Social Services will tackle issues that come under their respective portfolios.