This morning, three delegates of Mahebourg Asbestos-house Inhabitants, members of the LALIT – Asbestos house inhabitants Joint Committee went to the Ministry of Housing to present a letter to Minister Jhugroo following his volt-fas: the Housing Minister and Ministry was supposed to be responsible to a recontruction plan for people living in asbestos houses that the government sold to them as from the mid-80's. Now all he is doing is offering the same housing “facilities” that everyone else can apply for. All the government is offering to do is to remove asbestos houses without ensuring that people have a safe house to move back to.
The delegates together with Plaine Magnien delegates, nine in all, had met Minister Jhugroo at the Plaine Magnien CAB last Wednesday. He had asked them to come to a meeting at the Ministry this morning. The delegates informed LALIT of this and said that it would be best if delegates of all Joint Committees could come too as there needs to be a national plan for all asbestos-house inhabitants. So LALIT member Rajni Lallah rang up the Housing Minister Secretary to ask how many delegates could come. Minister Jhugroo rang her back himself on Friday just before the Cabinet of Ministers meeting to say that this was to be a meeting with his adviser and Ministry officials only, and that all they would do would be to inform delegates in his Constituency of the housing facilities already available. Rajni Lallah told him that these housing facilities did not amount to a reconstruction plan for asbestos house-dwellers as the Housing Minister and Ministry had pledged to do 4 years ago.
In the meeting this morning, the adviser and housing Ministry officials wanted Mahebourg delegates to distribute forms for these facilities to asbestos-house dwellers in their region. Instead, the three delegates asked the Minister's adviser to present their letter to the Minister to call on him to present a reconstruction plan with a time-frame. The delegates explained how most asbestos-house dwellers do not qualify for the “housing facilities” being offered. LALIT member Rajni Lallah presented documents to show that it is the Housing Minister that is responsible for presenting a reconstruction plan. How can people consent to having their asbestos house demolished and removed if there is no plan to reconstruct a safe house?
Here is the letter the three delegates signed and presented:
To the Housing Minister
Ministry of Housing
5 August, 2019
Dear Minister Jhugroo,
When you received delegates of “asbestos house inhabitants” of La Chaux EDC and Balance EDC (including the signatories of this letter) at Plaine Magnien CAB on the morning of Wednesday 31st July, you asked us to send delegates to the Housing Ministry to meet with you on Monday 5th August to discuss the asbestos house issue. Meanwhile, LALIT informed us that it received a letter signed A. Seechurn for your Chief executive on Friday 4th August in reply to a letter dated 29th May, 2019 (two months ago). In addition, you personally phoned Rajni Lallah (representative of both LALIT and the Komite Konzwin LALIT- Abitan Lakaz Lamyant ) who had rung up your Secretary to know how many delegates could come to the meeting on Monday. In this phone conversation, you informed her that:
It is Minister Sinatambou who is responsible for the asbestos housing issue;
The Monday meeting that was fixed with you will finally be a meeting between delegates of asbestos house-dwellers of your Constituency with your adviser who is to explain the same points as contained in your letter to LALIT.
The letter you sentto LALITcontains no plan for the replacement of asbestos houses: all it does is list the facilities given to all people of limited means who wish to apply for an MHC loan, or apply for a Purchase of Building Materials Grant or a Roof Slab Grant, or for an NEF house if they are registered in the Social Register. Asbestos house-dwellers are still living in asbestos houses despite the existence of all these schemes as either they do not qualify for them or else, the schemes are not enough to get their asbestos replaced by a safe house.
We have come today to your Ministry to call on you as Housing Minister to ensure that a specific and appropriate replacement of asbestos house plan be set up with a time-frame and that this plan be approved by Cabinet. We remind you that since 2015, it is your Ministry that has undertaken to ensure that this plan becomes a reality:
Your Ministry released an official Communiqué dated 22nd July, 2015 to announce a “Plan d'envergure” of “desamiantage” (See Annex 1). The Finance Minister pledged to disburse the necessary funds.
The Housing Minister presided the 2015 National Committee on Asbestos (6 Ministers were part of it). (Annex 2)
In Parliament, the former Environment Minister had already announced in 2015 that the removal of asbestos was under his responsibility, but that the reconstruction of houses would be under the responsibility of the Housing Minister, that is, your responsibility. We quote from Hansard:
“(...)Second, we are in the process of finalising how we are going to reconstruct houses; where we are going to reconstruct and what will be the modalities. That will be taken care of by my colleague, the Vice-Prime Minister, hon. Shawkutally Soodhun.”[i.e. the housing Minister]
(Hansard of 17th November, 2015, No.40 of 2015).
Rs100,000,000 was earmarked for “dealing with the asbestos issue” in the 2015 Budget. A member of the Komite Konzwin rang up the Audit Director's Office, and they said they have not come across any item to do with asbestos for 2015-2016.
We note that the last budget, a Rs 20 million provision has been made to the removal of asbestos, but there is no point in proposing people the removal of their asbestos house if no provision is made for the replacement of the house with a safe house. We remind you that the government actually sold these toxic houses to people, an irresponsible act, and therefore has the responsibility to replace them with safe houses. It is a public health issue. Asbestos is a toxic substance.
Signed by three delegates of asbestos house inhabitants of La Chaux EDC, members of the LALIT-Asbestos House inhabitant Joint Committees