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Getting the municipal council to clear abandoned land to prevent spread of diseases
Living next to an overgrown or abandoned property (terrain vague) is not ideal as there are many risks and dangers. The most serious of them all is the health issue associated with land which is not maintained properly as it becomes the cause of many diseases. Most of the time, the person who owns the neglected property lives abroad and therefore does not really care what state it is in but sometimes owners have managed to buy a portion of land but do not have sufficient funds to start construction. These reasons, however, do not justify why you should have to put up with it.
Problems when you live close to neglected land
- Breeding grounds for mosquitoes which spread the chikungunya disease
- Becomes the home of rats and other vermins which can carry lots of diseases
- Used as a dumping place (bad odours in your home, attracts flies and diseases, feeding place for vermins and stray dogs & cats)
- Used by thieves for hiding and by drug addicts for illicit activities
- Fire hazard in dry seasons which can affect your property
- May obstruct footpaths
What you can do if you’re in this situation
You can either take the responsibility of clearing the land yourself or inform the council where you live in. Paying someone from your own pocket to do the job will cost you around Rs5000 for 300 square metres of land (about 80 toises). The people who do the job usually add some kind of poison to prevent the vegetation from growing back but it’s not foolproof though.
Since it’s the duty of the owner to look after his property, you can report this to the council though. The owner will be fined Rs10,000 if they do not comply with the council’s request to clear the land under the Environmental Sanitation Regulations 1995. Once you’ve reported an abandoned land in your neighbourhood, the council will send an inspector round for site inspection. If the inspector is satisfied that the property meets the criteria for overgrown land, the next step is to try to find who owns the plot of land so that a statutory notice is served to them. Failure to fix the problem within a delay of 10 days means a fine for the owner and the council will proceed with clearance of the land and the owner will have to bear these costs as well.
If the owner can’t be traced, the council will proceed with the clearing of the land themselves as it is an environmental health problem for the community but you will have to wait quite a while for this to happen.
My own experience
I contacted the Municipality of Beau Bassin/Rose Hill in mid April 2012 to report an overgrown land next to my house and they said the following day an inspector would visit the area. Surprisingly enough, no one came the next day and after a couple of days, I made another call and they told me that all inspectors were busy but someone would come soon. Days went by and I made several calls for them to come but all they did was take down my name and phone number and promised to call back but they never did. Frustrated with their false promises, I resorted to making an official complaint to the council and I had to insist so many times to get a reference number so that I can track the progress of the complaint. The person who logged my complaint told me they do not usually give out reference numbers but was doing me a “favour” by providing it to me. She said when the case is closed (after 30 days), then the reference can be given out. What’s the point of the reference when the problem is settled, eh?
Just to be on the safe side, I emailed the council as well explaining the problem. When making the complaint, I told the lady that I sent an email and was told that since it was a public holiday (May 1st), they did not get the email. No point really making her understand that the email would still be in their inbox, so I just left it as is. By the way, it’s been 3 months now and I’ve yet to receive a reply to my email!
Couple of days after the complaint, an inspector called me and came for a site inspection. He asked whether I knew the owner to which I responded no and he said that it’s going to take at least 10 days for them to make their enquiries but if unsuccessful, they would clear the property themselves. When asked how long the whole process is going to take, he answered within 2 weeks but mentioned that the council would not be able to clear the whole thing as it’s “too much work”, so they are going to clear only 5 metres from the wall of my house. To be honest, it’s useless doing this because it’s not going to be any better but I was so fed up with all their excuses that I agreed.
After the 2 weeks was over, I called them every now and then to see what was happening but they would only take down my contact details assuring me somebody would call me back but nothing like that ever happened. I called the complaints department again but they said, they can’t do anything and I have to contact the related department to put more pressure on them. What’s the point of even making a complaint I wondered?
6 weeks later I decided to give it a last try and managed to get hold of the person who came for inspection. He told me the priority has shifted elsewhere because they need to prevent an outbreak of diseases somewhere else so it’s difficult to tell when they would be able to appoint someone for my case. To take matters further, I phoned the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life to complain. The person I spoke to over there said they do not have a complaints department but I could send them a letter and they’ll see what they can do. Too much hassle for me therefore I called the Sanitary Department of Rose Hill instead and the person I spoke to told me that I should go see the inspectors in person and try to make them understand that it’s urgent. I knew then that nothing would be done and decided to forget the whole thing.
Luckily enough, that same day, an inspector called me and said that he was sending people round to clear the land. I was happy but skeptic. They did eventually come and did a rather good job but for what it’s worth, I would never bother again. Too much frustration unless you know people which brings us back to how much corrupted Mauritius is!
If u pay tax to the Municipal Council of BB/RH ... i mean anyone who pays tax ... to the MC BB/RH, just ask your Councillors to ask in the committee a detail breakdown ... how many hours does a driver (driving scavenging vehicles) works on average a day and what is the average overtime given per day to these people (after their supposedly normal working hours)?
Don't forget the cost per month in overtime?
Then, maybe you would get an idea what is happening.