A section of the new Petite Savanne at Bellevue Chopin
A section of the new Petite Savanne at Bellevue Chopin

Washed away by the rains of Tropical Storm Erika in August 2015 and its people evacuated by sea soon afterwards, the old village of Petite Savanne is being replaced by the new village of Petite Savanne located in a picturesque plateau in Bellevue Chopin, many miles away from the old Petite Savanne.

On Easter Monday 2019, the adult residents of the new Bellevue Chopin – Petite Savanne could be seen washing and drying clothes, children were riding bicycles and young men were slamming dominos. Bouyon music blasted almost too loudly from a home; a young girl playfully held a white kitten on the neck of her younger brother. The bright midday sun reflected from the new white paint of the buildings almost hurting the eyes, making photography perplexing. Someone had a sign outside a house selling "Coco Sticks". After sightseeing, Dominican tourists gathered in small groups eating KFC. Petite Savanne was coming alive again.

The new Petite Savanne is cozy, cute, confusing because the houses all look alike; it is beautiful, like a movie set, and somewhat containing because there are no backyards; there are just a few feet, only a few, of front yard, so the new Petite Savannians cannot grow what they eat and eat what they grow as they did in the evacuated, hilly, old bay-oil producing Petite Savanne. Their rural life, as they knew it, has been transformed forever, which may be a good thing or a bad thing. Dominican sociologists, a new subject for research is being created just for you.

But apparently the people who have been allocated houses, free, seem satisfied although there are some complaints, a source with close family links to the old Petite Savanne told the Sun.

One notable advantage of the new Petite Savanne is that the residents are nearer to Roseau, the capital. But a resident said the houses are so close to each other that you could hear your neighbours snore, "whereas in Petite Savanne everyone had a portion of land and could work".

At the moment there are 90 families living in the new Petite Savanne, our source said. The Government of Dominica allocated 38 houses in December 2018 and 58 in March 2019. Undoubtedly, the new village is a project in progress; one can see the skeletons of new houses standing on a hill above the occupied houses and in a valley below the village of Bellevue Chopin. Their flesh will be added soon.

"We did not want to just build buildings, homes, what we call homes. We wanted to build a community, to make you feel part of a community. Now, we didn't just take you from Petite Savanne and put you somewhere in a house; you can't turn left, you can't right," Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said in December 2018 when he allocated houses and handed over keys.

"A brand new health centre will be constructed with nurses quarters, a basketball court, a playground for the children, a brand new playing field, a market for the sale of fresh produce, agricultural produce and a massive commercial plaza where the barber and the coiffeurs, you know, the hair stylists, the supermarkets, all can have their businesses and take advantage of the economy and the opportunities here," Skerrit added.

He said the final 80 houses will be handed over in June 2019 bringing the total to 353 housing units in the Petite Savanne Resettlement Project funded by the Citizenship By Investment Programme (CBI) and constructed by the Barbados-based Montreal Management Consultants Est.