By Manlafi Saidykhan
I have been flabbergasted with the current demolition works at Jabang Estate by Physical Planning in the name of averting the flood. We must know who is executing the demolitions.
I wish to inform the readers that Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation or SSHFC as it is normally called does not issue building permits and lacks the statutory mandate to demolish properties of individuals. A building permit is an official approval issued by Physical Planning that allows property owners or their contractors to proceed with the construction or remodelling of a project on their property. It is intended to ensure that the project plans comply with local standards for land use, zoning, and construction. It seems that many have missed the bigger picture of the whole narrative, especially on the social media.
The fact is that those buildings currently being demolished by Physical Planning had full permits from this same department to construct their properties in the first place. It is mind boggling and paradoxical that Physical Planning would approve a building plan and once it is constructed they simply come and pull it down at very short notice when they should have known better that the area is unsuitable for building.
I Have documents from my brother’s property in Jabang which show that plot owners are advised by SSHFC to first seek approval from Physical Planning before they construct their dream homes. After granting my brother approval several years ago to proceed with the construction of his dream home, he received a demolition notice from Physical Planning that his property which costs several million dalasis must be demolished because it is on the waterway. Why put the cart before the horse? Why being reactive?
Furthermore, evidence from the Jabang Committee indicates that Physical Planning had been part of the technical committee of the Jabang Real Estate Project just like Nawec, NRA, Department of Works and Gamtel. The Ministry of Lands and Surveys also approved the master lease and consented to sub leases for Social Security to sell the over 820 plots to its customers. And yet they did not inform Social Security of the flood risks. They also went further to approve the residential building permits.
Readers should be informed that my consultation with the Jabang Committee or Village Development Committee as some may call them and the demolition notices served to customers proved that Physical Planning did not even have the courtesy to inform or copy SSHFC in the first place before demolishing people’s properties. When the incident happened, the Jabang Committee consulted Social Security who promised to contact Physical Planning for clarifications.
I also learnt that several years following the project’s inception, Physical Planning sent a letter to Social Security informing them that some of the plots they had approved to date could be on the waterway. If they had planned well, this should have been communicated at the time of allocation of the estate to Social Security and before the approval of the Master Lease by the Lands Ministry. And by all standards, Physical Planning having known the area to fall on a waterway should not have issued development permits to the affected customers.
It pains to see my brother and his neighbours go through this frustration with Physical Planning.
I must thank the Minister for the Environment, Minister of Information, Minister for the Interior, and the Gambia Government as a whole for taking the primary responsibility in assuring compensation to those whose homes have been demolished by the Physical Planning.
Going forward, Physical Planning should have active surveyors and technicians to assess the suitability of plots before offering building permits to avert the current situation from recurring.
It is a well-known fact that Physical Planning and the Lands Ministry approves, offer leases and building permits without visiting the sites. They should also work with the NDMA, NRA, NEA and relevant authorities to ensure that plots and building plans being approved are suitable and free from causing adverse environmental impact-to avoid putting the cart before the horse and thus limit the current land crisis emanating from the Kombos.
The author, Manlafi Saidykhan, is a student studying Urban Planning at the University of Leeds, UK. He can be reached on the email: [email protected]