Thursday, October 27, 2011

Squatting needs a serious look

Source: yutok, Post Courier, Wednesday October 27, 2011 
SQUATTING in towns in Papua New Guinea is a major problem.
It an issue that needs to be addressed by governments both national and at the provincial level. It is such a major problem that it is causing problems not only for the town management teams but tradtional land owners where towns are built.
Towns are on piece of land acquired by the State. Improvement and developments means available Government land have been used up and settlers, whether by choice or neccessity, are forced to setle on land that is not their’s.
Squatting consists of occupying an abandoned or unoccupied space or building, usually residential that the squatter does not own, rent or otherwise have permission to use.
Experts suggest that there are one billion squatters globally, that is, about one in every six people on the planet. Yet, squatting is largely absent from policy and academic debate and is not often seen as, as a problem.
In many of the world’s poorer countries, there are extensive slums or shanty towns, built on the edges of major cities and consisting of self-constructed housing built without the landowner’s permission. These settlements may, in time, grow to become both legalised and indistinguishable from normal residential neighbourhoods, but they uusually start off as squats with minimal basic infrastructure.
Uusually there is no sewage system, drinking water must be bought from vendors or carried from a nearby tap, and if there is electricity, it is often stolen from a passing cable.
Squatters do not care and will often forcefully stake “their claim’’. It is now the case in Lae, Morobe Province where customary landowners again find themselves at loggerheads with settlers encroaching on their traditional land.
For years, there has been running battle with lopcals and setlers in Lae. Customary landowners, in the latest effort stave off settlers, have now put a stop to the seeling of portions of land belonging to them from Nine Mile to 14 Mile, along the Highlands Highway outside Lae city,. The reason; increased social problems. Yes settlements are havens for criminals and criminal activities because most of those that live there are the unemployed drifting into town ion the hiope of landing jobs for a comfortable life. It is also however true that there is now a large portion of the formal worforce, living in settlements.
Settlements provide a cheap accommodation, and in the face of huge rentals in all urban areas,workers are forced to there. They just simply can’t afford real estate rentals at the prices being charged, except for a privileged few who are lucky enough to have their employers provide or pay for their rent.
One thing is for sure, these settlements are here to stay. What we need now is a good government plan to look at how the country manages this mance, now and in the future.
We should look at all options such as building affordable housing and which can be sold off to tenants, or setting aside properly designated areas for urban settlements. Something has to be done otherwise we will conti9nue to see probelms such as is hapening in Lae continue and with more and more people moving into towns and the population expanding, municipal services as well will put put under extreme presssure and nasty confrontations continue

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