Western News

Chigwell residents intensify call on Gov’t to honour relocation plan

Horace Hines

Thursday, October 18, 2012    

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CHIGWELL, Hanover - AS heavy rains lashed the flood-prone community of Chigwell last week, area residents intensified their call on Government to speed up a relocation exercise that was promised to them more than two years ago.

Still fresh in their minds is the devastation of the farming community, when heavy rains brought on by Tropical Storm Nicole in September 2010, forced scores of them to evacuate their homes, due to rising waters.

The residents also suffered millions of dollars worth of losses in crops and livestock, as the water rose to as much as 60 feet in sections of the community.

In the wake of the catastrophe, then Minister of Water and Housing Dr Horace Chang announced plans for the relocation of more than 600 residents of the community.

They were to be moved to Government-owned lands in the vicinity of Old Pen and Nyerere Farm in Hanover.

The residents were also advised that they would be compensated for the crops and livestock that were lost.

But to date, neither the relocation exercise nor the compensation for their crops and livestock have materialised.

President of the Chigwell Community Group Vangi Thelwell told the Observer West that the recovery process for a number of community members has so far been painfully sluggish.

"People have been recovering on their own and going back to where they were living and it is not that they have recovered fully because people lost crops during the flood and they have not been compensated for any of what they have lost," she explained.

Livestock farmer Alphanso Hill, whose large herd of sheep drowned in the flood, said he has lost hope of any restitution from government.

"I have given up. It is just pure talk and no action. I just have to do what I can on my own," he said.

According to Thelwell, the residents believe that the relocation plans are just empty promises.

"In terms of the housing situation people just make promises and nothing has been forthcoming. We haven't seen anybody come and nothing has been done in terms of the housing situation," she noted.

"We are hoping though that the relevant authorities will come and assist us in whatever way they can because people will have to be relocated and I don't think we have fully recovered from what happened to us two years ago".

In the meantime, the residents are hoping and praying that there will not be a repeat of the September 2010 flooding in the community.

"This year we are just watching, hoping and praying that nothing happen because I don't think we are in a position to encounter anymore of this. We have not recovered from the last time to have that again. So let us just hope and pray that nothing will happen," Thelwell remarked.

When contacted, Dr Chang, who is now the opposition spokesman on housing, water and environment, told the Observer West that it's now up to the present People's National Party's administration to undertake the relocation exercise.

"We (former government) had identified lands at Old Pen to relocate them. It is for this government to pursue that because the Commission of Lands had identified some lands... it is just a question of putting the money together to relocate them," he explained.

Efforts to get a comment from Eastern Hanover Member of Parliament Dr D K Duncan yesterday were unsuccessful.

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