Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister said Bahamians’ complacency created the shantytown problem that exists in the country.
“It should never have come to this,” Bannister told reporters on Abaco on Friday.
“If we as Bahamians did not let these things come up, we would never have come to this situation.
“If we had not been so complacent, we’d never have let these communities grow up the way they’ve grown up.”
He added, “We have to stop being complacent. We have to ensure that people who make decisions hear our voices and we have to ensure that these things don’t happen. And they are happening now on every island.
“They are happening in New Providence, in Andros, Eleuthera, Exuma, throughout the country. We have to stop it and we have to make sure it doesn’t continue.”
He continued, “As Bahamians, we have to take pride and ensure that we stop it now wherever it’s happening and that we reclaim the land that really is land for Bahamians, and that we utilize it in productive ways.”
Bannister said only an event like hurricane Dorian could have allowed the government to do what is necessary to clean up the Abaco shantytowns.
“One of the things that came out of this is it took what lawyers refer to as an act of God to put us in a position where we can clear this,” he said.
The minister urged other government officials to ensure that shantytowns in other parts of The Bahamas are properly cleared.
“I want to just say to my colleagues, the attorney general and the minister of agriculture who are seeking to do this same thing in other areas of the country, we have to ensure that we clear these areas properly,” he said.
Last week, it was revealed that the E. coli found in the groundwater in North Andros was traced back to nearby shantytowns, according to officials.
Tests of well water in the area in January revealed that 72 percent of the samples contained E. coli.
Bannister cited health hazards observed in The Mudd shantytown in Abaco in his plea to the government and the public.
“You all have seen where the open septic tanks were,” he said.
“You’ve seen the open dumps that were here.
“These are serious health hazards for our county and our communities and we have to ensure that this doesn’t happen again and it’s happening in too many other places.”
While he said it is unclear what the land the Abaco shantytowns occupied will be used for in the future, Bannister assured it will be for Bahamians.
“But one thing I’m going to tell you, this is going to be for Bahamians and that’s important,” he said.
“This is part of our heritage. This is something that belongs to us and we have to use it appropriately. We can never ever, ever let this happen here again and where it is happening we have to stop it now.
“This is a lesson for us as Bahamian people.”
Early in its term, the Minnis administration announced plans to demolish shantytowns in The Bahamas.
In August 2018, Supreme Court Justice Cheryl Grant-Thompson handed down an injunction blocking the demolition of shantytown structures.
The government is seeking to have the injunction lifted.
After Dorian, the government issued an immediate six-month ban on the construction of new buildings in Abaco shantytowns.