Daniel Benitez (Café Fuerte)
HAVANA TIMES — The Inspection Office (Direccion de Inspeccion Integral) of Cuba’s province of Artemisa (west of Havana) has discovered 140 swimming pools that were built illegally in homes within the province, in violation of a piece of legislation that has for years barred Cubans from securing a license to construct them on their properties.
The provincial director for urban planning, Jorge Berrios, told the local press that authorities have not been able to “reduce the pace at which these pools are built,” pointing out that they are working to “adopt measures and bring the list of offenders up to date.”
It is estimated the 140 pools discovered are only a sampling of a widespread phenomenon in Artemisa, a phenomenon that has spread throughout the country.
The official stressed that the National Housing Institute, prohibits since 2006, the granting of licenses for the building of swimming pools. The ban was ratified by the Executive Committee of the Council of Ministers, which, through a complementary resolution passed in 2014, bars authorities from issuing licenses or authorization for the construction of pools.
Concealing the Pools
To obtain building permits, many home owners disguise what ends up being a swimming pool as a water storage tank or cistern.
In the note published by the provincial newspaper El Artemiseño, housing and building expert Yanet Trapaga commented that most of these unlicensed swimming pools are concentrated in the neighborhoods of Reparto Nuevo, Centro and La Matilde and that those that draw their water from natural sources or reservoirs must be demolished.
The main arguments used by the government to deny home owners permits to build swimming pools are the country’s water shortages and the allegedly negative impact that these would have on supplies of the precious liquid.
Officials acknowledge that fines aren’t “having the desired effect” and that the lack of rigor in enforcing instructions to cover up or demolish illegally built pools isn’t helping.
Berrios announced that the next step will be to carry out the demolitions, and that the offenders will be required to cover the costs of this (a figure she did not mention).
Reports from Neighbors
As is common, most of the information about the existence of these swimming pools is coming from reports filed by neighbors, or so the provincial newspaper claims, calling for greater order and discipline so as to prevent these illegal practices.
Many of these pools are rented out for birthday and wedding parties, at prices that range from 50 to 100 Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC), depending on the size of the pool and the number of guests.
People are wondering about the true reason the building of these pools is being prohibited and punished.
“When will the prohibitions stop? Isn’t it time for freedom, in the full sense of the word? Wouldn’t it be better to limit the size of the pools rather than prohibit them altogether?” a commentator who identified himself as Abel Gonzalez commented on the newspapers’ digital site.
Locals see a contradiction in the fact State stores sell inflatable swimming pools that the population cannot fill because of water shortages.
“If I had the money and bought one of the pools they sell at stores – and they have some as big as 5 by 4 meters – what would I do with it? So, why does our government sell them if we can’t fill them up with water? I don’t understand anything, but it seems we don’t really need to understand the law, just abide it,” another commentator said.
The Raul Castro government has staged a nationwide urban planning battle to prevent unlicensed constructions around the country. Numerous houses have been demolished because they lacked the building permits required by current laws.