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Progress vs environment
Destruction of fertile agricultural lands, capping of 65 oil wells, relocation of 300 houses and permanent flooding in the Oropouche Basin are some of the concerns raised by the Highway Re-route Movement. The group, which is expected to mount a legal battle against the State, is opposed to the second leg of the Government’s $7.2 billion highway from San Fernando to Point Fortin.
The project is divided up into three sections—Golconda to Debe, San Fernando to Point Fortin and Debe to Mon Desir. It is the latter segment that is generating conflict between residents and the Government. According to the National Infrastructure Development Co (Nidco), the project involves the construction of several segments totalling 47 km of four lanes and 2.5 km of two lanes (excluding ramps but including connector roads).
The highway has been designed to American freeway standards. It will be accessible by interchanges at Golconda, Debe, Penal, Siparia, Fyzabad, Mon Desir, St Mary’s and La Brea. The controversial segment which links Debe to San Francique Road involves an approximately 6km section of a new four-lane highway which begins at the proposed Debe Interchange and ends at the San Francique Overpass.
Government also plans to link San Francique Road to the Fyzabad Interchange by building a 6.3km section of four-lane highway. However, the Re-route Movement says building this segment will entail removing 300 houses and 179 acres of fertile land, permanent flooding in Oropouche and capping 65 oil wells.
The Highway Re-route Movement’s proposal is to remove the Debe to Mon Desir section entirely and instead build a new highway section between Debe and Mosquito Creek, La Romaine. The group recommends that the Government repair, widen and add to bypass and connector roads along the existing road circuit in Oropouche, which would feed into the new highway sections from San Fernando to Point Fortin, Golconda to Debe and Debe to Mosquito Creek.
If this is done, activists say Government will not have the arduous task of removing oil and gas transmission lines, relocating entire communities or destroying valuable agricultural land.
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