Friday, April 19, 2024

EDITORIAL: Humane fix needed to solve squatting

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DEVASTATION AND MISERY. Perhaps that is the easiest way to sum up the long-standing problem of squatters’ settlements and why they must be dealt with given the threat to the nation’s health and the hardships people living in these communities endure.

Now that Chief Town Planner Mark Cummins has vowed to deal with those living in The Belle, the bigger issue is the resolution of this problem which has been allowed to get out of hand.

The growth of squatter communities must indeed be curtailed.

In fact they have expanded to the point where a solution to this disfigurement of the landscape is not going to be an easy one.

At risk is the underground water supply, at least in the case of the squatters at The Belle with their proximity to the all-important Zone 1 area. Given the existing hardships a substantial number of people are encountering with water supplies and the likely challenging prospects ahead, every safeguard must be taken against endangering the water supply.

The question arises as to what will be done with those who are living illegally in the area. It is not going to be practical to simply tear down their structures, chase them off the land and put them on the streets.

It is not that there must be a bleeding-heart approach to their illegality, but, people are involved, young and old, many of whom are struggling to survive economically. It is not a matter either of squatters’ rights superseding observance of the law, but of finding a humane solution to an issue involving people who have been encouraged and supported in their wrongdoing for a long time.

While squatters at Rock Hall, St Philip, may not threaten the underground water supply, their proximity to the Grantley Adams International Airport raises a number of concerns from safety and security to sanitation, among others. To allow this community to not only stay but grow will only make the solution more difficult the longer the problem remains.

The Chief Town Planner must be supported in his actions. But, he needs the support of the Ministry of Housing and Lands to design a workable solution. One possible way forward is for the Government to find land within its own land bank for a resettlement area. This should be offered at cost price to the beneficiaries, lest the wrong message  be sent.

The bureaucracy must not equivocate on this issue, neither should there be a political divide. The situation must not be allowed to be another nine-day wonder with lots of focus only to disappear from the radar. The country’s best interest must come first. In other words, sound urgent action is required.

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