–but squatters scuttling plan
THE South Liliendaal Progressive Development Group has pinpointed squatting as the main cause for several health hazards and safety issues experienced in their area, also called Block ‘X’ Liliendaal or ‘A’ Field, Sophia.
Listed among the main repercussions of squatting are the illegal utility connections, crime, and flooding due to improper waste management.
In an interview with the Guyana Chronicle, Group President James Hermanstein, a pensioner, he told of their efforts to reverse the present negative realities in the community.
Hermanstein said he and a few others came into South Liliendaal as pioneers in 1992 and did their own land clearing, canal cleaning and demarcations as community members for the benefit of all.
But all this would soon change, Hermanstein said, when, after about 30 years, the canals which were once so clean that they were used for bathing, cooking and washing became overrun by vegetation and garbage.
Since then to now, he said, not much has changed, which is why the group of some 15 members, young and old, male and female, has organised themselves as an NGO to restore the community to its former glory.
“We decided to see if we could motivate people again to have this kind of self-help development in our area,” Hermanstein said.
“We decided that we are going to get people who are serious about community development, and are willing to give their time and energy for its development.” he explained.
Some of the works completed by so far by the NGO, include the clearing of the eastern and western canals where ‘moco-moco’ bushes had grown some 15 feet high.
This was done with the help of Chief Sea and River Defence Officer Kevin Samad, of the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, who lent them a machine to do the job.
But for all their efforts to positively influence their community, Hermanstein said, squatters who mainly occupy dams in ‘A’ and ‘B’ Field Sophia-Pattenson, continue to contribute to consequences, even dangerous ones, affecting the safety of the residents.
“Some places the machine couldn’t go because of squatters when really the machine is supposed to run on the dams, but because of the squatters occupying those dams, the machine could not have gone,” he said, adding:
“Before 2015, there were about 15 of those squatters; now they’re 65 and they’re building still at this present time. And that’s why the crime has increased in this area, because some of these people that they call ‘poor people’ their shacks have TV, fridge and the likes and they use illegal current and water 24 hours a day.”
Hermanstein said that following the clearing of a nearby area, an entire illegal “pipe network” was discovered, while the NGOs working to clear the bushes near the Sophia Primary School revealed a series of illegal electric wires which are hazardous to the children traversing nearby.
“One of our major dangerous issues is the illegal wires that they attach to their homes… Because we cleared the place, the children now want to take shortcuts and they run through these illegal wires,” he said.
Added to this, he said that some squatters have built shops over the canals and they habitually throw their waste in plastic bags into the canals which causes flooding. Also while many shacks are used for “pleasure purposes” and “places to harbour thieves”.
He also highlighted the issues of the illegal erecting of buildings for renting purposes; deplorable street conditions; and the non-functioning of the Civil Defence Commission (CDC) setup in the area in 2015.
With the foregoing issues in mind, Mr. Hermanstein is now calling on the relevant authorities to take action and to execute existing laws to prevent the area from becoming “a shanty town”.
“My ultimate call is for the authorities to listen to what we are saying in the community; to look into the serious situation and not to encourage the squatters to continue there; to help us to get the whole area to become beautiful and a better place where everybody can be comfortable. We will work with them if they allow us to,” Hermanstein said.
In the meanwhile, the NGO is constructing a 35ft x 4ft walkway from Block ‘X’ to Pattenson, as the present make-shift one is unsafe for crossing. Persons have also been robbed there because of the overgrown bushes.
Hermanstein said the construction all came about, thanks to Minister of State Joseph Harmon, who back in May gifted the development group with a $200,000 donation from his own pocket. The money was used to assist in the purchase of material for the completion of the bridge.