Regularising danger - Governments' decisions to formalise some squatter communities short-sighted
Head of the Mona GeoInformatics Institute, Parris Lyew Ayee, is warning that the frequent decision by Jamaican political administrations to formalise unplanned squatter communities across the island is nothing more than "regularising danger".
According to Lyew Ayee, the decision by administrations, over the years, to issue titles where no permission was granted to build dwellings is contributing to some of the flooding being experienced across the island.
"I am not here to condemn a law or a policy. The issue is one of enforcement and what is already in place," Lyew Ayee told The Sunday Gleaner as he argued that while law-abiding citizens must obey the rules, squatters are not forced to obey.
"You try to build an extension to your carport that impinges on the sidewalk and you will see how quick you get an enforcement notice to cease and desist. But when squatters do it, Operation Pride then gives them a title," added Lyew Ayee.
He argued that Jamaicans must be incentivised to do the right thing as construction such as those on gully banks, river beds, or natural waterways, which have no approvals, have been destroyed by angry waters.
According to Lyew Ayee, waterways have simply reclaimed their original courses, taking no prisoners.
"If the building approval says you have to check off a checklist that says the four corners of your property must have certain specifics, if putting a gate here will cause traffic pile-up, then definitely not. That is for those who must obey the law," said Lyew, as he argued that state agencies must specify and enforce the types of constructions they will approve.
He said that in many instances, persons building in the way of danger have used the arguments that it has not happened for decades so it cannot happen.
Lyew Ayee further charged that disasters were the result of a slew of different processes, including the dumping of garbage indiscriminately and the building of "fool fool houses".
"Let us not rule out the monster that is called corruption. Let us not rule out the elements of those requiring exemption, which create precedents.
"Let us not forget the part where you can deny it, and people still build there anyway. When you enforce one and not the other, it encourages non-compliance," added Lyew Ayee.
The Mona GeoInformatics head is urging state agencies to use the data available on where to build as this is much better than someone's memory of where flooding took place years ago.
"People need to understand that governments should not need to tell them to do the right thing," said Lyew Ayee, as he noted that decades ago, Jamaicans who were building had only The Gleaner as their source of information as to where to build to avoid flooding.
"In 2017, there are no excuses. We need to raise the bar of expectation on ourselves," added Lyew Ayee.