Minister of Works Desmond Bannister.
By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
WORKS Minister Desmond Bannister on Friday pledged that the government will take the necessary action to deal with unregulated developments on Andros, saying Bahamians can expect to see “definite movement” on the matter soon.
“Cabinet has made some decisions on the shanty towns in Andros,” he told reporters on the sidelines of an event in Andros. “You’re going to see some definite movement. There is someone who knows the areas well and who's going to be appointed to explore all of the areas where the shanty towns are and someone who has the skills to demolish old buildings, so in Andros, Cabinet has dealt with the issue.”
Last year, Mr Bannister – along with members on his team – visited Andros to assess the communities for themselves to see what was actually happening on the ground.
The assessment came after concerns were raised by Andros residents about the communities, with some telling this newspaper that the illegal structures were reportedly being built on Crown land.
Last February, the government issued eviction notices to Andros residents living in illegal structures, a move estimated to possibly displace some 1,800 people.
The notices expired in March 2020. It is not clear how many residents are still living in unregulated communities in Andros.
However, Agriculture and Marine Resources Minister Michael Pintard told reporters last October that the number of shanty town dwellers has since “dwindled”, though he could not say to what extent.
At the time, he also revealed his ministry’s plans to restore government Crown land on Andros for its intended purpose, which is farming.
Mr Pintard said: “The committee continues to work within the guidelines set by the Office of the Attorney General while the numbers of illegal immigrants in the unregulated development have dwindled, we are still pressing ahead to eliminate unregulated development that have persons of different nationalities, inclusive of Bahamians, and we intend to restore agriculture land for the purpose it was intended and that is farming by registered and approved farmers.”
Meanwhile, as it relates to shantytowns on Abaco, the deputy prime minister told reporters on Friday that he and officials planned to visit the island next month to assess the situation there.
This comes after new aerial surveillance, circulated online this week, shows new construction taking place in the Farm Road area located in the Treasure Cay community.
Residents there have been sounding the alarm about the issue for months, noting that the issue, if not dealt with soon, could mirror the pre-Dorian situation which saw several large unregulated shanty towns on the island.
Chairman of Treasure Cay local government Stephanie Hield had previously told The Tribune that she estimated that some 400 illegal structures have been constructed in the Farm Road shanty town since Hurricane Dorian in 2019.