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Informal Settlements Threaten Tourism

SIMONS: “Some of those same people are the ones that cook in the hotels, clean the rooms, serve at the tables.”

Informal settlements in the Turks and Caicos Islands are posing one of the greatest threats to tourism, according to Director of the Informal Settlement Unit, Retire Justice Carlos Simons.

Justice Simons, in a recent media briefing to bring the members of the press up to speed as to where the recently launched entity was with its operation, said such communities were hotbeds for all sorts of communicable diseases such as cholera.

The government lists informal settlements as constructions done outside of the plannings, land ownership, public health laws.

According to ISU Director, those communities are not equipped with proper sewerage, garbage, and other waste disposals, thus create threats of epidemics.

“We don’t want people discharging raw sewage from the surface land, or in any wells that should be used for washing or irrigating plants…it is unsafe, it’s an epidemic waiting to happen,” the ISU Director said. “One outbreak of cholera, for example, God forbid, can ruin our tourism industry.

Lightbourne: “Government is anxious and ready to develop and improve the facilities and infrastructure, but to do so at the moment is inappropriate.”

He pointed out that many persons who live in informal settlements – which are normally dense – work at the resorts, and interact with guests, and as a result could pass on a communicable ailment.

“Some of those same people are the ones that cook in the hotels, clean the rooms, serve at the tables. If it was to happen, we would be severely criticized, and rightly so, for not doing anything about it,” Simons stated, stating also that the source of electricity in those communities, for the most part, was a recipe for electrocution.

“We don’t want people getting electricity by a plug-in from the neighbor…it is unsafe,” he stated.

While some residents in those communities, including Dock Yard, the mother of all informal settlements in the Turks and Caicos Islands, who claimed that made representation to government for proper roads and other infrastructure, Simons said governments wants to improve those settlements, but the layout was prohibitive.

“The government wants to do that, as a matter of fact, the government disparately wants to do that,” Simons declared.

Permanent Secretary at the National Security Council, Tito Lightbourne backed up Simon’s claim, pointing out that that he was in a Security Council Meeting, where Premier Hon. Washington Misick was asking what ways, government could enter into those communities to lay formal infrastructure.

“I was at a particular meeting regarding the informal settlements with the premier, and he was asking, ‘how can we go into these communities and build road?’ How can we put infrastructure? How can we put lights? How can we cut back on the debris and the bush to make the community safer?’,” Lightbourne said, pointing out also that outside of the fact that Dock Yard was densely populated, settlement was constructed on private property.

“We understand that Dock Yard is private land…all private land. There is no Crown Land there. And so, until we understand and resolve some of the land concerns in Dock Yard, it would be difficult for government to go in and cut roads.

“But government is anxious and ready to develop and improve the facilities and infrastructure, but to do so at the moment is inappropriate,” Lightbourne noted, stating that government wanted to provide basic amenities that people in communities need, but stated that there are larger issues that first must be addressed.

In the meantime, Simons noted that there are areas in Dock Yard where the police must exercise extreme caution when entering, which he said could not be good in any civilized society.

“We also know, the police knows that there are areas in that community where law-enforcement are not welcome. There are areas in that community where emergency services do not have access if there was a fire, and the fire engine has to go there. If someone has to be taken to the hospital in an ambulance there would be no access,” the ISU director disclosed.

He said in many cases the informal construction of houses in that community came out of necessity, while in other cases it was a direct flouting of the law.


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