By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Tribune Staff Reporter
ENVIRONMENT Minister Kenred Dorsett is concerned that unregulated shanty towns could spark an outbreak of cholera placing the country’s main industry of tourism in jeopardy.
In view of his alarm, he told Members of Parliament yesterday, that officials are ready to act in clamping down on regulations for the illegal residences which have over the years increased on several islands throughout the country.
Mr Dorsett said a system of regulation was in the works to make it mandatory for shanty town inhabitants to show proof of proper utility connection along with building permits. Failure to produce that documentation would result in the relevant government agencies taking action, he said. The Minister did not specify the steps to be taken.
“The proliferation of shanty towns is a problem,” Mr Dorsett said, “they operate outside of the requirements for proper sanitation,
without regard to the building code and in violation of safety requirements for electricity. We are astounded by the number of shanty towns that are popping up throughout this archipelago.
“Shanty town occupiers and owners will be required to provide an occupancy certificate, approved building plan, permit from approved BEC connection and approved water and sewage connection. If these cannot be produced the Ministry will also be able to take necessary action.
“From a public health stand point, the bottom line is we cannot continue business as usual. One outbreak of cholera and our number one industry – gone. This is not something that we can play with.”
The new regulatory system will see several agencies, including the Ministry of Works and Urban Development, the National Security Ministry, and the departments of Immigration and Social Services share information about respective shanty towns.
“A copy of all the notices that we have served and will be serving on the owners and occupiers of shanty towns by the DHS will be copied and sent to them. They may also deem it appropriate (to serve notices).
“The Special Unit (SPU) was created within my Ministry to address environment health issues associated with shanty towns,” he said.
Mr Dorsett added that he has been surprised to discover that a vast majority of shanty towns are on private land with owners seeking the government’s assistance to have squatters evicted.
Back in November 2012, after a small shanty town between the Sir Milo Butler Highway and Faith Avenue, caught fire and most of its residents lost everything, the government pledged to regulate such areas.
At the time fire officials said a kerosene lamp lit a nearby curtain that caused the fire to spread, ultimately damaging six homes in the process.
Two years before, hundreds of squatters were displaced from Mackey Yard because of a violent blaze that burned down homes. More than 300 people were left homeless.