By SYANN THOMPSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Farm Road shanty town in Abaco remains occupied, hindering clean-up efforts in that area, according to Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness, Management and Reconstruction Iram Lewis.
He made the statement when updating reporters outside Cabinet on Tuesday on the restoration of Abaco since Hurricane Dorian.
He confirmed that operations are underway to clean-up Abaco and four shanty towns, including The Mudd, Pigeon Pea, Sandbanks and Farm Road areas.
“I can confirm that the Pigeon Pea is 100 percent cleaned, it will be declared a no-build zone and will be fenced in. The Mudd is about 45 to 50 percent completed. Sandbanks is about 80 to 90 percent done and it being well done,” said the member of Parliament for Central Grand Bahama.
Mr Lewis confirmed that occupants in the Farm Road shanty town are posing a challenge and that his ministry will handle the matter humanely as officials are eager to begin clean-up.
“There are a lot of occupants in that area. Somehow, we have to clear out, so we can get to do the necessary clean-up. We are not demolishing, because everything is demolished. There are residents in the area that needs to be managed. We cannot allow residents to be in the area when we are doing our work. So, we must ensure that we are able to do our work in a safe manner in the obstruction of the persons who may be there whether they are NGOs or persons seeking shelter and we must ensure that we do it humanely,” he said.
Clean-up efforts have faced obstacles due to the proliferation of unsanctioned construction in the shanty towns.
“One of the issues we are faced with because of the illegal construction, there were a lot of open pits and septic tanks all over the place, so as you can imagine contractors even after clearing a particular area of all the area, it’s risky,” said Mr Lewis.
The Central Grand Bahama MP said the government does not yet know the exact dollar amount the restoration will cost but says it will definitely be in the billions.
He spoke to reporters after touring Abaco for a post-storm assessment on Monday.
A 2018 Abaco census by the Shanty Town Action Task Force found there were 449 households in the Mudd; Pigeon Peas, 184; Farm Road, 146; Sandbanks, 80; L & H, 16; and Elbow Cay, 37.
In September, two weeks after Hurricane Dorian, the government issued an immediate ban on the construction of any new buildings in the four major shantytowns on Abaco.