by Rhodri C. Williams
In following housing rights issues, I have been increasingly struck by the frenetic pace of innovation demonstrated by local authorities worldwide in forcing people out of their homes. The first ‘aha’ moment came when I read about the use of sand pumps by workers draining a lake in central Phnom Penh to literally flood the homes of families in the adjoining neighborhood with mud. The next noteworthy development came when Israel – admittedly a country with some tradition in this regard – began notifying Bedouins in the Negev Desert that they would be charged for the periodic demolition of their homes.
However, China has set the bar at a new level and deserves full recognition for their initiative. As reported by the BBC, the Chinese authorities have responded to one village’s failure to comply with an eviction order (their village was flooded by a dam but they moved back to the shore of the resulting lake without permission) by refusing to issue official documents to the residents, effectively rendering them stateless:
“When [children] are born, when they grow up, when they to school, get married, find a job, there is no way to show they exist,” [one resident] says. “When they die we just bury them.”
In recognition of the tireless work of the anonymous bureaucrats who labor day and night to come up with such outside-the-box solutions, I have decided to begin a formal series in TN on innovations in forced evictions. Whenever I read of a new practice that demonstrates unusual initiative, I will ensure that it gets the exposure it deserves. Readers are encouraged to submit nominations anytime.