BEC probing if shanty towns receive illegal power
The Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) said yesterday it is investigating whether Haitian shanty towns are receiving electricity illegally, according to the company’s public relations officer Arnette Wilson-Ingraham.
Calls for an investigation arose after fire destroyed more than 100 makeshift homes in a shanty town off of Carmichael Road on Boxing Day. Firefighters told reporters that the fire was a difficult one to suppress because it spread from the rear of the tightly packed houses.
“It was very difficult to reach because there was no access road to get to the rear of these buildings where the fire first started,” Fire Services Director Superintendent Jeffrey Deleveaux said Sunday.
Wilson said a BEC field team is investigating if an electricity pole is in the midst of that Haitian village there legally and if it was being tapped by the residents of that shanty town.
“There is an investigation underway,” she said.
However, she contended that it was up to the Ministry of Works to determine if a dwelling is a legitimate one before a pole is put down to provide electricity to an area.
Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Works Colin Higgs said his department simply gives occupancy certificates if dwellings meet the country’s mandated building codes.
Higgs contended that none of the buildings in the shanty town surrounding BEC’s utilities would have met even minimum building codes and therefore would not have been allowed to receive electricity through BEC.
Many shanty town residents also utilize generators to produce electricity.
Higgs insisted that The Bahamas has to do a better job of enforcing the law with regard to illegal dwellings like the ones found in Haitian villages throughout The Bahamas.
“If they shouldn’t be there, we should be enforcing the law to shut them down,” said Higgs. “It is a serious problem throughout most of the islands.”
He added that it is a well known problem that individuals in these shanty towns tap electricity from BEC’s utilities and then disburse it throughout much of the settlement using long extension cords.
Higgs said officers involved in building control, building planning and town planning have to come together to investigate these poorly constructed, makeshift homesteads in order to prevent tragedies like the one on Boxing Day, which displaced almost 40 families.
“We have to ensure that structures are built to meet the building codes,” he said.
Three months ago fire destroyed several homes in the Marsh Harbour, Abaco shanty town known as the Mudd. That fire displaced almost 40 families as well.