Sea dam squatters at Herstelling, Grove to get house lots, help to build homes – Pres Ali

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President Dr Irfaan Ali addressing squatters in Herstelling

As Government works to improve the lives and living conditions of Guyanese across the country, President Dr Irfaan Ali on Saturday ordered that persons who are squatting along the sea dam (river bank) on the East Bank of Demerara be removed and given house lots to relocate.

The Head of State did a walkabout in the East Bank communities of Herstelling and Grove, where he engaged residents on a number of issues affecting them. Among the matters raised with the President was squatting along the sea dam in both communities.

At Herstelling, it was disclosed that approximately 195 houses have been illegally erected on the reserves at the sea dam. In response, President Ali indicated that the Ministry of Housing along with other Government stakeholders will be conducting a new housing exercise to ensure that the squatters are given house lots to relocate and have better living conditions.

“The [Housing] Minister is going to come and he’s going to make one final assessment [of the squatters to allocate house lots],” the Head of State posited.

Additionally, President Ali also instructed that those squatters already with house lots be given assistance to fast-track works so that they can be relocated as soon as possible.

Squatting at Herstelling sea dam

“All those who have house lots, we will do the steel and cement project for the foundation. And will get NBS (New Building Society), GBTI (Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry) and Demerara Bank to come and qualify them… Let them come now, we will give them the cement and the sand to build low-income homes and we will build on their land. So, we give them that offer and we’re aiming to complete those houses in eight weeks,” he stated.

Provisions for squatters

Meanwhile, it was disclosed that of the 190-plus squatters in Herstelling, more than half of them are Venezuelan migrants. To this end, the Guyanese leader committed to making provisions for them as well.

In fact, this assurance was given to a Venezuelan pastor, who resides in the community and informed the President that some 100,000 migrants are currently residing across Guyana. The Spanish national expressed his gratitude to the Guyanese leader for welcoming them after escaping hardships in their homeland.

“We’ll work with you guys so that we can create better conditions for [the Venezuelan] people to live also,” Ali reassured.

The President also ordered the Ministries of Housing and Public Works to work with community leaders to ensure that once the squatters are removed no one else returns to occupy the reserves.

He contended that communities have to be involved in the solution to societal issues and cannot just “throw-up your hands”. As such, the President told residents that when the lands are cleared, they need to play a part in ensuring that other persons do not take up occupation there.

According to Ali, this has been a reoccurring challenge.

“If you go through the history of this area and all the squatting on the dam, when they get [the house lots], a next set of the family moves in on the dam… That’s the problem we’re faced with… We’ll take strong action and when we take strong action, you have to come out and support us. But we can’t be continuing giving people house lots over and over again,” the President posited.

The Head of State engaging residents at Grove, EBD

Similar directions were passed during the Head of State’s visit to Grove, where he was told that most of the squatters on the sea dam have already been engaged to get house lots. As such, the Head of State urged that they be given the construction materials – steel and cement – as well as easy access to bank financing to start building their homes in the coming weeks.

Further, for those in the squatting areas, especially the young people who are not working, President Ali committed to have them trained to take up jobs in areas such as the construction industry which is in dire need of workers.

“Those who don’t have jobs, we can get them trained immediately to work in the construction sector because we are short on labour now in construction. So, if they want jobs, that’s not going to be an excuse because we can train them as carpenters, masons…”

“We can’t have children growing up like this. I’m not going to tolerate this nonsense. It’s not a choice for them to live under these conditions. They can’t make that choice. And as soon as [the squatters move] to their house, we’re going to remove [these structures on the sea dam] and you have to put rangers so that no new person comes out here,” the President stated while at the Grove sea dam.

Moreover, there were widespread complaints of dumping of garbage especially in the drains and koker canals, which leads to flooding in both communities. With regards to this issue, the President told residents that there is only so much Government can do and that they need to step up and take action to curb the wanton dumping of garbage.

The President being shown illegal electrical connection

At Grove, the Guyanese leader was shown a dumping site on the corner of a new road that was built.

“You can’t allow this – a brand new road and people dumping garbage like this… All of you living right here, you must know [who is dumping garbage] … These things are very painful. How can we move forward when this nonsense happens? We have to take collective responsibility. The Government can’t build, build, build and we’re not taking responsibility for anything,” he told the residents of Grove Back Street.

Earlier, the residents of Herstelling had complained of the same issue and the Head of State said to them: “If the people come with car and dump the garbage, all of y’all can get the car number. Everybody seeing the car or the pick-up – even the NDC Chairman says pick-up and cars coming – but if I ask y’all to give me a car number now or one pick-up number, y’all can’t give it… give me, with the NDC, a list of all the vehicles’ number and photographs of the vehicles that coming to dump garbage.”

Contending that collective responsibility needs to be taken, the President instructed that notices be given to residents, warning them not to dump garbage in the trenches and drains. To enforce this, the Head of State said a collective effort is needed and so he asked that rangers from the communities be identified to monitor such activities.

The President also directed Police Commissioner Clifton Hicken to have the Community Policing Groups (CPGs) involved in this exercise to maintain cleanliness in the villages.

Other issues raised during President Ali’s walkabout in the two communities include derelict vehicles on the streets and illegal electrical wires in the water ways.