The Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) will soon be moving to demolish new structures now being built on the government reserves in the Cummings Lodge-Sophia area, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Lelon Saul said yesterday.
“We have agreed that the incomplete structures that you see are around here that are under construction, we will dismantle those buildings,” Saul told reporters during a media tour, which highlighted the negative impacts of squatting in the community. He stated that notices would be served to the owners of the new structures prior to their dismantling.
He noted that persons residing in existing structures would be required to move by the end of January, 2018, in keeping with an announcement made by Junior Communities Minister Valerie Patterson-Yearwood one day prior.
During the tour, it was pointed out that sections of the banks of the Lamaha Conservancy are currently eroding and because of squatters on the reserve remedial works cannot be undertaken to remedy the situation.
Saul explained that the informal settlement of the squatters has also compromised waterways through contamination. “There are persons squatting on the dam and their pit latrines are also close to the conservancy, they swim in the conservancy and dump trash in the conservancy, these are the things we are trying to combat and work to have the safety of the citizens taken care off because this is where we get our drinking water from,” Saul said in disgust.
The CEO, during the tour, pointed to the many homes that are in the buffer zone. He explained that they cannot continue to allow persons to squat on reserves as they wish “and we have to bring an end to it but we will do that in a civilised manner.”
The CH&PA, he said, is willing to work with residents who are squatting and all persons need to do is visit their office and engage in consultation.
“We are asking them to come in and apply for house lots and we will work with them to remove them from the zero tolerance house lots,” he stressed.
He also indicated that they will continue to work with residents in 2018 if they are unable to find suitable housing solutions. “We are willing to work with you but at the same time we do not want people to come and put down structures. It is making it difficult for us…,” he stated.
As the team walked through the communities, hundreds of illegal connections were observed running from the electrical poles through drains and under the dams and into the homes.
As word spread around the community of the CH&PA’s visit, residents congregated and voiced their unwillingness to move from the reserve. In some cases, it was observed that persons were constructing concrete structures and one man was rearing pigs on the reserve a few meters away from the conservancy.
Following a protest by Sophia residents, Patterson-Yearwood said on Monday that the ministry was looking at the availability of lots in Industry, on the East Coast of Demerara, to relocate the squatters and build core homes for those who cannot afford to build.
At present, over 543 families in the Sophia/Cummings Lodge area are squatting, according to the CH&PA.
“We cannot give them a piece of land and they go and build a shack… it is like moving one shanty town to another… so we are looking to build homes for those who cannot afford,” the minister said while explaining that providing quality homes to those who cannot afford to build is important since the aim of the government is to raise the standard of living of every Guyanese.
Approximately two weeks ago, the CH&PA demolished almost two dozen structures on the government reserve in ‘A’ Field, Sophia.