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Govt plans PR drive to tackle re-routers
The Government is planning to tackle its concerns with the Highway Re-route Movement, not by consultation but by launching a massive public-relations campaign over the coming weeks. This was announced by Works and Infrastructure Minister Emmanuel George, who said a lot of misinformation was being disseminated to the public about the Debe to Mon Desir leg of the $7 billion San Fernando to Point Fortin Highway.
He said this on Tuesday during a tour of Moruga where his ministry, along with MP for the area, Clifton De Coteau, saw a number of landslips. The minister said he had done extensive research on the road construction, and would now engage in a series of television talk shows and radio programmes, in an effort to woo the public’s acceptance on the controversial route of the highway.
Accompanied by junior minister Stacy Roopnarine, George said after the planned campaign, he hoped also to convince members of the Highway Re-route Movement, led by Dr Wayne Kublalsingh. “A lot of the discussions had been on the basis of emotive responses,” said George.
“I think I need to give people a lot more factual information regarding the project so that they can make a more informed decision on why the highway should be built, and why it should be built where is was designed to be built.” But Roopnarine, whose constituency sits in the middle of the Debe to Mon Desir route, saw merit in the group’s concern that there would be an environmental and social impact on the area.
However, she defended the Government’s position, saying that over the past two years, work had been done to reduce flooding in high-risk communities. Roopnarine said the new highway will bring along with it a comprehensive drainage plan. “We have taken steps to alleviate the flooding problems and what we really want people to understand is that, yes, we know there are environmental concerns; yes, we know there are drainage concerns; and yes, we know that there is a social impact to this,” she said.
“But at the end of the day we have to make a decision that will address these concerns while at the same time, allow the Government and the country to have national infrastructural development.” George pleaded with the public to put its trust in the technocrats who in the past were responsible for the construction of the Sir Solomon Hochoy Highway and the Churchill-Roosevelt Highway, which had benefited the entire country.
He said they had been built when the old main-road systems could not handle the increased traffic over the years. George said the same principles that the former regimes used were being implemented for the construction of the San Fernando to Point Fortin Highway.
“The technocrats who have done this have done all the studies and so on,” he said. “They would have been done after considerable research and tests of soil and so on, dealing with the drainage issues. “We have to trust the technocrats in cases like these, as we have trusted them with the Solomon Hochoy Highway before and we trusted them with the Churchill-Roosevelt Highway.”
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