Environment and Housing Minister discusses portfolio on radio show and outlines plans going forward
NASSAU, Bahamas (August 29, 2017) – In his first sit down interview since assuming office, Environment and Housing Minister Romauld Ferreira as a guest on Ed Fields Live, Kiss FM 96.1 radio show on Monday evening, described his ministry as very large with a dynamic portfolio and discussed the myriad of challenges and outlined plans for going forward.
Minister Ferreira called both environmental rights and affordable housing a subset of basic human rights.
Touching on housing he said, “Affordable decent housing gives people a chance to live with a certain amount of dignity in their lives and it gives them a chance at the Bahamian dream which is home ownership.”
The biggest challenge for home ownership he pointed to on the island of New Providence was the availability of land to meet the needs of the thousands of applications for homes.
The other challenge he said was affordable housing whereby the average Bahamian could afford the home. He said the ministry was faced with the need to introduce new technologies to bring down the price of housing by delivering houses at effective price points while simultaneously adhering to building codes.
Said Minister Ferreira, “There are literally thousands of people wanting a home so this desire to have a home is a deep and fundamental desire in the hearts of most Bahamians and my job, our job as a government, is to give effect to those desires and those hopes and dreams.”
In addressing the environment, one of the many challenges Minister Ferreira explained was the current state of affairs whereby interlocking issues seemingly on name alone appeared to be under the Ministry of the Environment and Housing, when in fact antiquated regulations prevented directives from his ministry.
Minister Ferreira used the real problem of oil seeping into the waters at Clifton Pier Power Station as an example.
He explained: “The power station is operated by BPL. The oil comes there, it leaks into the ground. Once it hits the water table that water is actually owned by the Water & Sewage Corporation. It migrates through the rock, hits the ocean. The cleanup at the ocean level is actually the Ministry of Transport. If it hits the seabed then you’re dealing with submerged lands, that’s the Office of the Prime Minister. And if there were any kind of excavation involved to get it, you need an excavation permit, that’s the Ministry of Works, that’s Conservation and Protection of the Physical Landscapes of the Bahamas Act. And if you were to build something to help remediate it or recover it then that’s the Building Controls Officer.”
Minister Ferreira emphasized that “nowhere in that scenario is a permit issued from the Ministry of the Environment.” He said, “And so we’re in a situation where we need to bring forth into the 21st century the regulations as it speaks to the day to day operating procedures to guide these things from the Ministry of Environment.”
Speaking on the New Providence Landfill, Minister Ferreira said the ministry was in the process of issuing Requests for Proposals once again to bring remediation to the problem as only two groups responded to the initial requests made by the previous administration. He said one of the proposals was a waste energy proposal and the other presented a tipping fee scenario where fees would be charged for use of the landfill.
He said the ministry will develop terms of reference for the new RFPs and give people sufficient time to understand the processes, to understand the dynamics of a RFP including a financial component and adequate time to submit a comprehensive proposal that would be similar and not incongruent as the two previously submitted.
“And as we said before the residents around the landfill have endured a great deal so there’s some human rights issues there that you need to be sensitive to and on top of all of that the landfill is a national asset whether we accept it as such or not,” said Minister Ferreira.
Added Minister Ferreira, “I feel very honoured and privileged to have this opportunity to serve as Minister of Environment and Housing. I am an ecologist and attorney. I have devoted my whole life to these issues.”