by Samuel Sukhnandan
The creation of squatter settlements has long been an issue for many developing countries, including Guyana, but the new government wants to address this issue through a more comprehensive relocation and regularisation plan which it hopes to roll out in the coming years.
Junior Minister of Housing and Water Ms. Susan Rodrigues told News Talk Radio 103.1 FM/ Demerara Waves Online News on Wednesday that this is a top priority for the new government and by extension her ministry, but admitted that it will take hard work to get the job done.
At present, the only problem to starting this process is the lack of available lands. “We are working with squatters from all across Guyana in trying to address this issue, but the problem we are faced with at this time, is there are no lots readily available for allocation. And in moving them, we must have a place for them,” she explained.
The minister nevertheless noted that the ministry has a database which will help in deciding how and where squatters could be relocated to. In the meantime, the government will work to expand housing by making more lands available to not only squatters but eligible Guyanese applicants.
Ms. Rodrigues revealed that aside from Sophia, the ministry is working to address another situation regarding squatting in Tuschen, East Bank Essequibo. The minister said the aim is to relocate squatters rather than regularise these settlements, providing them with better communities and access to basic amenities.
While admitting that there has always been a challenge when it comes to relocating and regularising squatting, Ms. Rodrigues said it would require the cooperation of the persons in these situations. “Some of them are prepared to cooperate and others are not, but we must do what is best and in consultation of course,” she added.
Since assuming the role of minister, Ms. Rodrigues said she and her colleague minister Mr. Collin Croal have both been examining the issues related to squatting and are looking for solutions to the issue. But the most immediate one, is finding suitable lands to relocate as many people as possible.
Squatters in Sophia and Durban Backlands have already engaged both ministers to air their concerns. The ministers have already made it clear that strict regularisation plans will be considered but noted that the government will not encourage further squatting.
In January of this year, the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) had revealed plans to move to complete the regularisation of 173 squatting areas throughout Guyana. The authority had said that under the regularization project, some 24,000 will be made legal.
Currently, there are more than 700 structures that occupy state reserves in Georgetown and its environs. This excludes other squatter settlements in other parts of the country.