EBD Highway stalled as squatters refuse relocation offer; 31 families comfortably relocated
By Isanella Patoir
Four families who are squatting on reserved lands earmarked for the construction of the new East Bank Demerara highway from Eccles to Great Diamond are stalling the progression of works as they continue to reject a relocation offer from the government.
With 31 families already comfortably relocated, the government plans to issue a final notice to the squatters who have been offered housing elsewhere.
In January of 2021, the Ministry of Housing and Water began engaging residents about relocating and with the construction already underway for the new highway, the government is working to expedite the process.
“There are four [families] that [have] bluntly refused to engage, they have bluntly refused to have any formal engagement, any informal engagements, absolutely no engagement. And so, that is where we are now,” Minister of Housing and Water Collin Croal told reporters during a visit to Mocha on Friday.
A total of 31 households started the relocation process but importantly, compensation packages have been approved for all 35 households, including those four families that refused to relocate.
“We keep re-assuring and we show them that we mean business in terms of the methodology that we have outlined,” Minister Croal said.
Twenty-six families have taken up the house lot allocation at Farm and Herstelling and 10 have already completely relocated to their new houses.
On Friday, Minister Croal engaged a few squatters who have refused to move and invited them to his office to meet with him.
The squatters who are refusing to relocate claim that there was never any engagement with them; others stated that the compensation was not enough and some said that they have cattle and other livestock that they cannot relocate.
“I build my house with new wood and I make eight children and I must move here to go somewhere and punish?” one of the squatters said.
Meanwhile, compensation for the squatters’ livestock and crops is currently being processed.
During the visit on Friday, the News Room observed structures being demolished at Mocha while over at Herstelling, residents were constructing their new houses.
“That new location has all the utilities in place, that is water and electricity. And the ownership document was given promptly upon the relocation and that was done by the state,” Minister Croal contended.
Sheldon Allen, 42, squatted with his wife and his five-year-old son at Mocha and a few weeks ago, he relocated to his newly constructed home at Herstelling.
“I relocate three weeks ago, my house finished…it took like three months and the [electricity] take like three weeks,” Allen told the News Room.
For him, the relocation process went smoothly. “I had no problems.”
Allen said his son will now be able to grow up in a safe environment.
“So far, this community look safe and I feel good here, from where we come from in Mocha, my son will grow better. We went living on a dam back there.
“Where we went, we wouldn’t get any title and here we get a title,” Allen said.
The Eccles to Diamond Highway is divided into twelve lots. The thoroughfare is currently 25 per cent complete.
The first section will allow traffic to flow from Eccles to Providence and it is expected to be completed by the end of July.