Last update: 12-Dec-2013 8:49 pm
Thursday, December 12, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Point Fortin Highway report: Govt offered to build new communities
The Government’s bid to settle with Debe and Mon Desir communities affected by the Point Fortin Highway had included not only offer of land to build new communities but also farming acreage, “disturbance payments” and counselling, according to a National Infrastructure Development Company (Nidco) report on the highway issue.
The company’s preliminary report also stated the Government had found a way to reduce the width of the Point Fortin Highway in populated areas and reduce the number and acreage of properties to be acquired.
In the wake of the continuing hunger strike by Highway Re-route Movement leader Wayne Kublalsingh, now being reported internationally, the Government released documents concerning the Debe to Mon Desir sections about which the movement is protesting.
Several groups had called for the release of a technical study and COP leader Prakash Ramadhar last week had asked Works Minister Emmanuel George to release documents on meetings of the Government’s team with the movement on the issue. On Thursday, Communication Minister Jamal Mohammed said the documents would be made available to the media.
The June 2012 report done by Nidco, released yesterday, stated the document was meant to address the movement’s concerns. It outlined how Brazilian OAS Ltd contractors won the bid over China Railway Construction Corporation Ltd, Construtora OAS Ltd and GLF Construction Corporation. Project completion date is 2015.
The report stated that on February 13, the movement requested a meeting with the Prime Minister to request that the proposed Debe to Mon Desir segment of the highway be discontinued and to propose an alternative route. It noted all of the movement’s concerns.
Subsequent to discussions between the Prime Minister and several members of the Cabinet with the movement, the report stated the Works Ministry met on April 18 with Nidco and the movement to discuss the group’s concerns and determine the way forward. The movement reiterated its concerns of flooding and saltwater intrusion, disruption of communities, cost of the segment and that members directly affected by the highway did not wish to move.
The movement also stated the lands proposed for relocation at Petit Morne were not acceptable to its members. The report noted that Nidco was about to begin additional studies which would address the concerns of the stakeholders and the wider community in greater detail.
“Additional studies will involve reviewing the existing road network in the subject area and determining a logical network that could accommodate the traffic entering and bypassing the Debe/Penal/Siparia to Mon Desir segment, based on existing and future traffic volumes and pertinent constraints,” the report stated.
Documents stated that impact on communities could not be avoided, only mitigated. It added that the Government sought to minimise impacts on communities by relocating persons residing in several communities affected by the highway between Debe, Penal and San Francique to a new development at Petit Morne.
It stated: “Persons would be given land at Petit Morne to build a new community, inclusive of land for schools, early childhood development centres, religious activities (temple, mosque), sporting facilities and recreational green areas. Government has also agreed to set aside land for farmers who will be affected (two- acre plots).” Documents stated that the Government’s policy was also to acquire lands for the highway by private treaty.
The report stated that disturbance payments may include but were not limited to:
(a) Cost of seeking and finding a new location in which to continue whatever the claimant was disturbed in doing
(b) the legal and other professional costs that would be incurred in securing the new location
(c) any construction costs that might be necessary in adapting the alternate location to meet any special needs
(d) any costs that might be incurred in adapting or replacing such items of soft furnishings that may need to be altered or replaced
(e) any loss of business profits temporarily or permanently as a result of the dislocation
On the movement’s flooding concerns, the report noted flooding of the area occurred on a perennial basis, and “flooding will continue to be part of life for the region (with or without the highway) if action is not taken to address the problem.” It was noted flooding was due to inadequate carrying capacities of the drains and increased surface run-off.
It noted Nidco was mandated to undertake detailed engineering studies of the South Oropouche River Basin with detailed designs of the proposed solutions.
The report stated that the Works Ministry and Nidco “are making every effort to mitigate the flooding concerns of the region by addressing the issue on two fronts, by studying and implementing a plan for mitigating flooding in the entire South Oropouche River Basin and by ensuring that increased runoff due to the highway structure is addressed.”
The report also stated Nidco had taken all necessary steps to assist the communities affected and to consult and collaborate with the residents and persons to be served by the highway.
“Nidco has made arrangements to mitigate the negative impacts expected from the process of land acquisition and construction and continues to carry out additional technical studies, including studies on traffic management, road materials and water management to reduce the negative impacts and increasing the benefits which the highway is expected to bring,” it stated.
Movement’s alternatives raised concerns—report
The Highway Re-route Movement’s proposals that the Point Fortin Highway be stopped at Debe raises “serious concerns” according to one of the Government’s technical reports. It examined the movement’s proposal for traffic to be rerouted from Debe to Mosquito Creek and for upgrade of local roads in the area. It stated that under the movement’s proposals:
• Residents of the region will not receive the benefits of a modern highway facility that they deserve (highlighted above)
• There will be no reduction in road-user costs in the form of savings in vehicle operating costs and travel time costs for the people.
• The highway route has provisions for a utility corridor to accommodate WASA, T&TEC and other service providers to accommodate future expansion and maintenance of their infrastructure that will be required to service the communities effectively well into the 21st century. This benefit will be lost as the local road network cannot facilitate the anticipated improvements.
• Traffic congestion will continue in Debe, Penal and Siparia and worsen over time. A review of the local road network shows that even if the Government improves the existing road network (which is ongoing), connectivity to the main population centres, such as Debe, Penal, Siparia, and Fyzabad, will still have traffic congestion and safety problems today, which will worsen considerably when one accounts for the projected traffic volume expected in 20 years.
• Traffic congestion also will be exacerbated with the imminent construction of the South UWI Campus at Debe, the development of industrial parks through eTeck, and the new hospital to be built in Penal. These facilities will generate additional traffic with the attendant problems and inconveniences.
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