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Shanty towns on increase

Report raises alarm on illegal communities
  • Kenred Dorsett.

Guardian News Editor

Published: May 13, 2013

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There has been ‘a marked increase’ in the number of shanty towns on New Providence over the last two years and the populations have grown “exponentially”, a report completed by researchers in the Department of Environmental Health has found.

According to the report, titled ‘Haitian shanty village locations in New Providence’, there are at least 15 of these illegal communities on the island.

The report was handed in to authorities in the ministry several weeks ago, but has not yet been released to the public.

The details are being released by The Nassau Guardian today.

Minister for the Environment Kenred Dorsett said yesterday the government recognizes the seriousness of the shanty town problem.

Dorsett said he intends to formally release the report this week.  He said in some cases, there will be prosecutions connected to the existence of these illegal communities.

Researchers found that there is a “marked indifference to the extremely unhealthy conditions by those that occupy the shanties”.

Many of the former residents of Mackey Yard, which was destroyed by fire more than two years ago, have built off Milo Butler Highway with no building code, no permit and no inspection regime, the report said.

The researchers also found that there is an abundant use of Bahamian pine trees for the purpose of producing coal for commercial purposes.

They said commerce is alive and well in many of the areas surveyed.  Liquor stores, convenience shops, web shops, livestock, cock fights and coal production were all noticed.

The report warns of a serious and growing threat to public health.

Researchers said “the presence of discarded human usage, waste, combined with the presence of domestic livestock is evident”.

They warned, “In time, many of the animals from these yards will enter the food chain — as owners of the livestock observed in one particular shanty — and be sold to grocery and wholesale meat outlets as well as [used for] their own consumption.”

When asked if he was aware what his animals were consuming, and that the animals may be contaminated with microorganisms from human excrement, one livestock owner said he saw nothing wrong with the animals consuming the discarded, spoiled food and human waste, the report said.

It said the teams of researchers observed, in almost every shanty town, the presence of human and animal waste.

It appears to be a cultural norm for the occupants of the shanties to “construct” their abodes with living and sanitary structures functioning as separate units, researchers concluded.

“The disposal of human waste, in particular, feces, present several primary public health concerns…” the report said.

Researchers said the conditions of shanty towns and the increasing populations  afford “optimal conditions for increases in vector activity, as well as an increase in the disease organisms the vector are hosts to”.

The report said the Haitian migration, and subsequent squatting, are focused primarily in New Providence and the Family Islands with larger population concentrations like Abaco and Andros.

“It was observed that most, if not all of these shanties are government crown land, issued to individual Bahamian citizens and families for the purpose of agriculture and horticulture,” the report said.

“However, in most cases they are blighted with overuse of the soil, and in other instances, contamination of the water lens beneath them, as was noted in the first Haitian village survey two years ago.

“These communities are informally organized in illegally constructed dwellings without government-issued building permits, Environmental Health-issued sanitation certificates, and typically water sources that may be suspect…”

Researchers said an increasing trend is the increase in the number of Bahamians (people who claim to be Bahamian citizens based on one parent being of Haitian progeny) while others claim outright Bahamian ancestry.

“Several of the respondents to the research inquiries demonstrated gross indifference to personal health risks associated with the act of discarding refuse and human waste,” the report said.

Researchers also documented a number of other public health concerns.

• Today’s National Review section takes a more in depth look at the shanty town problem and the findings of the team of researchers.

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