#GrandTurk, Turks and Caicos Islands – February 19, 2018 – Shanty construction will be a thing of the past in the Turks and Caicos Islands once the legislation recently passed in the House of Assembly gets to flex its muscles and lift the country to more resilient buildings.
The tone resonated on all sides of the House of Assembly at the start of the month, as Minister of Infrastructure, Housing and Planning, Goldray Ewing got his amendments passed for a tougher policy stance on unlawful construction. The Minister said it is in the name of taking country laws more seriously.
The Minister explained that he is prepared to lose the votes, lose the popularity and will not run interference with the way the law is meant to play out. His advice to those building without Physical Planning Department approvals was firm and unmistakably clear.
“I am warming persons in the Turks and Caicos who are breaking the planning laws and regulations to stop. lf you built your house last night, without planning permission, my friend, tonight you should break ‘em down. If the nail is halfway in, don’t send another lick on it, pull it out instead. Mr. Speaker we have to get serious about enforcing the laws in our country.”
For decades the country has watched government administrations offer tough talk on making the changes required to put an end to shanty towns which are prolific throughout the Turks and Caicos Islands. Now, the law has teeth with an undergirded element of enforcement which has seen more inspectors and development officers added to the Department this month.
“Mr. Speaker I have brought this because I know it is one of the major issues affecting this country and I will not pass the buck to the next government. What we have to do today, we will do it today. I will not kick the can down the street. People might say they hate me, people might say they are not going to vote for me the next election, well Mr. Speaker, I don’t care, if you are not going to vote for me because of this, then Mr. Speaker I don’t need their vote.”
Hurricanes Irma and Maria offered to the country an opportunity, Minister Ewing had expressed to Magnetic Media in a previous interview. Hon Ewing believes the reconstruction which is now necessary after 80% of buildings were damaged in the pair of September 2017 storms will enable his team to eradicate bad building through a new fine system, which demands proper oversight by the Physical Planning team.
“I am saying from now, my hands are off this. I will not interfere with Planning (Department) activity. They have my blessings to carry out the law.”
The Minister, during his wrapping up on February 5, 2018 in the House of Assembly said the plan is not to bog down the courts with complaints and civil cases, but to offer a stern solution to discourage illegal building in an effort to also ensure more stringent and safe construction codes.
“Persons don’t have to go to court and be prosecuted. If they are given a notice or a ticket, go and pay the fine – break down and clean up. It is as simple as that.”
The amendment to the Planning Ordinance will not only introduce a system where unauthorized constructions will be ticketed, similar to the road traffic system, but it will support migrant laws.
“I will be pulling on Section 10 of the Immigration Status Ordinance and Section 18 of the PRC (Permanent Residency Certificate) Status Ordinance to make sure I deter folks from building without permission. Because if they don’t break it down, they will be prosecuted in a court of law and if they be found guilty, they can very well get their status revoked and get deported out of this country. I will be calling on Immigration to step up their efforts once someone goes to court under Planning Ordinance to follow through for me… we will have to be serious in our approach and consistent in our approach.”
In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, it was strongly recommended by organizations like the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, CDEMA that the Turks and Caicos use the reconstruction period to improve building codes and standards; structures ought now able to withstand winds of 200 mph or more.
The Turks and Caicos previously built for winds of around 140 mph, according to reports to Magnetic Media.
Hurricane Nicole – A symbol of climate injustice
By Deandre Williamson
Caribbean Climate Justice Journalism Fellow
#TheBahamas, November 29, 2022 – With the trauma of Hurricane Dorian still lingering, Abaco and Grand Bahama residents braced for Hurricane Nicole as they experienced another unfair blow of climate injustice.
As sea levels rose, triggering storm surges and flooding, the northwestern islands of The Bahamas were placed under hurricane watch. For many, this signaled that the fight for climate justice must continue.
Some residents on those islands evacuated their homes and fled to shelters hours before Nicole made landfall in The Bahamas on Nov. 9 as a tropical storm and strengthened to a Category 1 hurricane with winds up to 75 miles per hour.
“The wind was manageable. It wasn’t as bad as we thought. In our area we got maybe a limb or so that blew down. The power was out for a while, but thank God, we made it through it,” Abaco resident Mark Anthony Swain said.
Although the impact of Hurricane Nicole was minimal when compared to Hurricane Dorian in 2019, climate change is the underlying cause of the intensity and frequency of hurricanes in recent years.
When Nicole exited The Bahamas, the “all clear” was given, but the country isn’t clear from future hurricanes and the devastating effects of climate change.
However, it’s clear that The Bahamas and other Small Island Developing States (SIDS) need climate justice because they are hit hardest by the impact of climate change, are the least responsible and together bear next to no responsibility for the climate crisis.
While the Government of The Bahamas is fighting for climate justice, residents of Abaco and Grand Bahama are calling for more to be done to mitigate the impact of climate change.
Swain, who also experienced Hurricane Dorian, said the countries that are major contributors of carbon emissions in the atmosphere should do more to assist smaller countries in fighting climate change, so when hurricanes and other natural disasters occur, the smaller countries will be able to maintain themselves.
“I think these other countries that are contributing to the climate challenge that we are facing should be held responsible and accountable in that regard,” Swain added.
China, the United States, Russia, India and Japan are the top five countries with the highest carbon emissions in the world.
Grand Bahama resident Randy Deleveaux, who was on the island during Hurricane Nicole, agrees that more should be done concerning the climate crisis because The Bahamas is in a hurricane zone based on its geographical location.
“We know that every year rain, sun or shine, it appears as if we are going to have a hurricane, whether it’s a major one or not a major one,” Deleveaux said. “As a matter of fact, even though the ones we consider not major, we still have to take more necessary precautions because Dorian taught us we can’t take nothing for granted.”
Deleveaux suggested that the government should ensure that every household is equipped with storm shutters, floatation devices and life jackets.
“There are so many things that the government can do and persons can do in relation to hurricanes because we always have to prepare,” he added.
“Every time we have a hurricane coming, persons have to run and scrap for plywood to put on their windows. We need to move from that and be able to properly prepare.
“Look at our coastal erosion and stuff like that because of the hurricanes. I remember one time you could go on the beaches and see sand, now some of these beaches don’t have no sand like that because of hurricanes and we’re not even looking at the impact that is having on our coastal and marine life. We don’t replace the sand. There is so much things we can do.”
Loss and Damage
But no matter how large or small a hurricane measures on the Saffir-Simpson Scale, there is always loss and damage associated with a storm.
According to Prime Minister of The Bahamas Philip Davis, during the Caribbean Regional Heads of Government Meeting in Preparation for COP27, more than 50 percent of The Bahamas’ outstanding debt can be linked to the impacts of the hurricanes between 2015 and 2019.
The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), in its damage and loss assessments (DaLA) synthesis, noted that The Bahamas has lost more than $4.2 billion over the past seven years as a result of Hurricanes Joaquin, Matthew, Irma and Dorian.
Abaco and Grand Bahama are still rebuilding from Hurricane Dorian and, although minimal, the damages from Hurricane Nicole are being assessed.
Prime Minister Davis was in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt attending COP27 when Hurricane Nicole passed through the northwestern Bahamas. At COP27, he called on world leaders to get real about ensuring that loss and damage are compensated for.
“We do not have a significant carbon footprint in the world. Yes, we do have a significant carbon sink in the world. But yet still, after this hurricane has passed, who’s going to have to pay for the recovery, reconstruction and for normalizing the lives of my people?” Davis said in a video interview.
Climate justice fights for solutions to the climate crisis that would result in reduced emissions and industrialized rich nations sharing the burden of the crisis by helping SIDS handle the severe effects of climate change.
Swain lost his home during Hurricane Dorian and there are others who also lost their homes and some are still living in trailers in Abaco.
Without insurance, Swain is rebuilding his home, but the progress is slow.
He explained that the Disaster Reconstruction Authority and other NGOs promised to help him, but they haven’t delivered on their promises as yet.
“We will, out of pocket, try to do some things to get us along,” Swain said.
Hurricane Dorian caused a housing shortage in Abaco and the demand for a home is great.
According to Swain, because of the demand and desperation to find a home, the rent in Abaco is skyrocketing.
“You can find the average apartment, two bedroom, going for no less than $1,500. In some instances it’s over $2,000,” he said.
After negotiations and hearing the pleas of Small Island Developing States, COP27 closed with the announcement of a loss and damage fund to compensate countries impacted by climate change. This is a huge step in the fight for climate justice.
This story was published with the support of Climate Tracker’s Caribbean Climate Justice Journalism Fellowship.
Member, The Bahamas Press Club 2014
Caption: Flooding in Abaco caused by Hurricane Nicole. (Photo/Abaco resident)
Police Academy Commissioner Shot Dead in Haiti
By Sherrica Thompson
Reports from the police are that Harington was shot dead on the grounds of the police training facility in a gang-controlled neighbourhood in the country’s capital of Port-au-Prince on Friday, November 25.
The spokesperson for the National Police of Haiti (PNH), Inspector Garry Desrosiers, in confirming Friday’s killing, said the commissioner was “shot in the head not far from the Academy” and the attackers “stole his [Harington’s] vehicle and kidnapped his driver.”
Harington’s killing is the latest in several attacks against law enforcement in Haiti. The killing also happened at a time when international leaders are trying to help Haiti’s political leaders control the surge in gang violence in the country.
The police have not released any information on who might be responsible for the commissioner’s death.
St Kitts and Nevis Welcomed the World’s Largest Cruise Ship
By Sherrica Thompson
#StKittsandNevis, November 29, 2022 – The twin island of St Kitts and Nevis is about to chart its busiest cruise seasons yet as the world’s largest cruise ship, the Wonder of the Seas, made its inaugural call to Port Zante in the country on Thursday, November 24.
About 6,495 guests arrived on the ship, with 2,259 crew members on board.
The oasis class ship was welcomed by Prime Minister Dr. Terrance Drew, who led a delegation on board last Thursday to host a brief plaque exchange ceremony.
“You have confidence in the destination by adding St Kitts and Nevis to your now largest vessel, the Wonder of the Seas, with a passenger capacity of 6,988,” the Prime Minister said.
The Chief Executive Officer at the St. Kitts Tourism Authority, Mr. Ellison Thompson, said the ship’s visit was a result of the country’s comprehensive negotiations with stakeholders.
“The destination’s ability to secure a vessel with a 6,495-passenger capacity today, November 24, is the result of comprehensive negotiations between the Ministry, the Authority, and cruise lines. As a result, we are gradually seeing the fruits of our marketing and strategic efforts, and we take pride in celebrating such a momentous occasion,” Thompson said.
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