Squatting on Crown lands is quite extensive and is expanding, creating a major headache for Government.
This finding was contained in the 2013 Auditor General’s Report which was presented in the House of Assembly and released to the public today.
The report said: “Squatting has been a part of the Barbadian landscape for some time. It is estimated that there are hundreds of these illegal structures in a number of locations across the country.”
The Auditor General Report noted that squatting on Crown Lands exists at such areas as Belle, My Lord’s Hill, Howells and Ivy, St Michael; Bath Tenantry, St John; Six Men’s St Peter and Licorish Village, St Michael.
The report went on to say that the amount of land squatters currently occupy has not been surveyed so there is no clear indication of the acreage occupied.
Pointing out that the illegal occupation of Crown Lands also extends to areas adjacent to highways, the senior Government officer said: “In addition to the use of state land for housing, areas adjacent to highways are being used illegally for vending of bread, eggs and coconuts. This act is growing and often impedes pedestrian passage along footpaths and sidewalks. It also encroaches on areas set aside for motorists to pull off the main carriage way when experiencing difficulty, or required to stop for an emergency. The use of sidewalks and carriage ways to sell items is contrary to the Highway Act, Cap. 289 and these areas should not be used unless there has been permission obtained from the Chief Technical Officer in the Ministry of Transport and Works.”
The report stressed that squatting on government property is a costly exercise to government and, in some instances, threatens the quality of the underground water supply.
“This is especially so in the Belle Zone 1 area where there has been the infusion of nitrates and bacteria into the water supply. To stop further deterioration in the quality of the water supply, the consultants have recommended the building of a Reverse Osmosis Plant which was estimated to cost BDS $50 million,” the Auditor General said.
The report noted that when persons illegally occupy Crown Lands, it is the responsibility of the Ministry of Housing to ensure that the squatters are informed and removed as expeditiously as possible.
Highlighting the challenges confronting the Ministry of Housing in dealing with squatting, the Auditor General said: “The ministry has requested a number of persons to vacate state property over time, but this action has not been successful as the squatter community has been growing. There is no evidence that any legal action has been taken to remove squatters. The records indicate that there has not been enough monitoring of the situation.”
Among the recommendations suggested by the Auditor General to address the situation are: the laws against illegal occupation of Crown lands are enforced; further attempts are made to implement the decisions made by Cabinet; Crown lands are policed on a regular basis and prompt action taken to curb the spread of unauthorised development; once Crown Lands have been cleared of squatters, measures are taken to prevent any further illegal occupation and development; an up to date survey is carried out by the Ministry of Housing to determine the extent of squatting on Crtown Lands; the reasons for the increase in squatting are ascertained so that government can adopt the correct strategy in combating the phenomenon and cost benefit analysis is undertaken on the Reverse Osmosis Plant.