NASSAU, BAHAMAS – As he reviewed the ongoing clean up work on Abaco, Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister yesterday underscored the country must not allow shantytown communities to remain in existence.
The Mudd and neighboring Pigeon Peas, located in Marsh Harbour, were decimated by Hurricane Dorian’s passage in early September.
The government has contracted several Bahamian companies to clean up storm debris.
Bannister has previously suggested that the government transform the shantytown land into a commercial area.
“One of the things that come out of this is, it took what lawyers refer to as an act of God, to put us in a position where we can clear this,” he said.
Bannister toured The Mudd – former site of the largest shantytown on Abaco – on Friday.
“I want to just say to my colleagues the attorney general and the minister of agriculture, who are seeking to do this same thing in other area of the country we have to ensure that we clear these areas properly.”
He continued: “These are health hazards. Y’all have seen where the open sceptic tanks were. You’ve seen the open dumps that were here.
“These are serious health hazards for our county and our communities and we have to ensure that this doesn’t happen again and its happening in too many other places.”
“As Bahamians we have to take pride and ensure that we stop it now, where ever it’s happening and that we reclaim the land, that really is land for Bahamians and that we utilise it in productive ways.”
He noted that about 40 acres of the Mudd has been cleared.
“With the adjourning land we probably have 50 acres of land in the heart of Marsh Harbour that, once they brig some fill in here, we can probably do some amazing things with,” he added.
Bannister however noted that there’s a lot of work to be done and applauded those Bahamian contractors for their efforts.
He said he has to ensure that all of the priorities have been met and then other agencies of the government can come in and determine what is going to go there and how it will be dealt with.
“But one thing I’m going to tell you, this is going to be for Bahamians and that’s important,” he said.
“This is part of our heritage. This is something that belongs to us and we have to use it appropriately. We can never ever ever let this happen here again and where it is happening we have to stop it now.
“This is a lesson for us as Bahamian people”
Bannister said the other shantytowns are also being cleaned up quickly.
He noted that nine to 10 acres of the Pigeon Peas has already been cleaned and the Sandbanks is also being cleared and nearly completed.
He however said the government continues to have challenges with some residents still living in the Farm Road shantytown.
“These legal issues are being brought up now that are holding us back from being able to do what we ought to be able to do,” Bannister continued.
“But it should never have come to this. If we as Bahamians did not let these things come up, we would never have come to this situation. If we had not been so complacent, we’d never have let this communities grow up the way they’ve grown up.
“…We have to stop being complacent. We have to ensure that people who make decisions hear our voice.s And we have to ensure that these things don’t happening. And they are happening now on every island.
“They are happening in New Providence, in Andros, Eleuthera, Exuma, throughout the country. We have to stop it and we have to make sure it doesn’t continue.”
The government remains locked in a legal battle over those shantytowns.
Last year, a Supreme Court injunction barred the government from moving forward with plans to evict residents from shantytowns in New Providence and Abaco.
The injunction handed down by Justice Cheryl Grant-Thompson blocked the government from demolishing shantytown structures, and the order was amended to outlaw any new construction.
The judicial review of the issue is pending.