–upper East Bank Demerara area will cater for over 50,000 persons
–with plans to develop over 3,000 house lots within five years, says Minister Croal
WITHIN the next five years, the government will be moving to develop over 3,000 house lots at an area along the upper East Bank of Demerara, as part of its plans to establish a new urban district called Silica City.
It is envisaged that the area, once developed, will be home to over 50,000 persons within the next 20 years.
The plan for the establishment of this new city was outlined by Minister of Housing and Water, Collin Croal, during day five of the Budget 2020 debates.
According to Minister Croal, some 3,800 acres of state lands within the Soesdyke and Timehri areas have already been identified for immediate development.
The intention behind this project is to create an urban centre which would supplement Georgetown.
Silica City, he said, as conceptualised in 2013, is envisaged to tackle the issue of non-coastal urban settlement development and the challenges of climate change and rising sea levels.
It is also important for urgent attention to be given to the development of Silica City, since a non-coastal urban settlement which has various services and amenities, would attract investment, create employment, and offer alternative urban settlement.
The vision for Silica City, Croal said, is to have a vibrant, sustainable, resilient and modern city, which is in keeping with the Low Carbon Development Strategy, Guyana’s international commitments (Paris Agreement and UNFCC) and Goal 11 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
The “smart city” approach, the Housing Minister noted, is proposed for creating a new city that is compact, pedestrian-oriented, energy-efficient, interconnected and sustainable, comfortable, attractive and secure.
A key area of focus, he added, is the preservation and enhancement of the valuable, natural and cultural resources of the area.
Further, Minister Croal related that a preliminary development concept was completed, identifying the key features of the smart city approach in terms of residential and non-residential development, transport and infrastructure, sustainable urban drainage, conservation and tourism district, waste management, alternative energy, technological aspects and agriculture.
Consultations, he told the House, are ongoing with the utility companies to coordinate the development of their infrastructure, since it is anticipated that a shared utility corridor will cater for all utilities to be routed underground.
Minister Croal detailed designs are being prepared for a golf course/resort facility and an eco-industrial park. Further, streetscape designs are also underway.
Additionally, he said designs will commence this year for a first phase housing development within the proposed residential zone of the new city, after the block and topographic surveys are completed.
This proposed developmental project is reflective of Budget 2022, which, Minister Croal said, is good for the country.
“It has no new taxes, includes more benefits for ordinary citizens, projects that the construction sector will grow to 40.3 per cent and presents a clear and cohesive plan for Guyana’s development trajectory. I’d like to call on the opposition members to embrace it, share it, and support it.
We want the same thing – a united Guyana, a developed Guyana, One Guyana,” Minister Croal said.
Notably, he said that the government has already surpassed the house lot allocation targets set for the first two years, by allocating more than 10,000 house lots to date.
“We’ve handed out 1,266 land titles and transports, built 50 low-income houses at Prospect, 133 moderate-income homes at Cummings Lodge, Onderneeming and Amelia’s Ward and 100 houses for young professionals at Providence. We’ve distributed 228 home improvement subsidies to the tune of $114 million and significantly upgraded the infrastructure in housing developments in Regions One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Nine and 10. The combined totality of our achievements in fewer than two years far outweighs those of the members on the other side during their five-year reign of taxes,” Minister Croal said.
RESUSCITATED THE HOUSING SECTOR
Within the past 18 months, the government has not only resuscitated the housing sector, but it has also sought to make the services offered at the agencies connected to the Ministry of Housing and Water more accessible to citizens.
To this end, Minister Croal said: “We recognised that meeting the demands for approvals by local and international investors and customers of the CHPA and GWI required a faster and more efficient solution. Our government has committed to making doing business easier and reducing the red tape involved in government transactions.”
Minister Croal said that the present system for approvals for permits is paper-based, cumbersome and time-consuming and, as a result, critical transactions could take months in many cases to be completed. In this regard, the ministry has begun the process of implementing a single-window electronic processing system.
Technicians, he said, are analysing the existing system and its infrastructure, and a new system is being designed.
Meanwhile, he said the anticipated recommendations on legislative and governance changes to enhance the efficacy of the system are being advanced.
“When the full implementation of the electronic single window system is completed this year, we can expect a more integrated agency approach to services, more efficiency and a significant reduction of processing time for planning and building permissions,” Minister Croal related.
He continued: “Mr. Speaker, we have already created an online portal which allows house lot applicants to upload their applications from the comfort of their homes, or offices by using smartphones, tablets, laptops or similar devices.
“Once those documents are uploaded, the CHPA will issue an email acknowledging receipt of the documents and from then on applicants can request status updates from the portal rather than traveling to Georgetown or regional offices. I hasten to point out through that we know that not everyone has access to computers, so those applicants can still visit their housing officers – we have appointed three new housing officers, in Essequibo, Berbice and Lethem, and, or the regional offices of CHPA.”