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Report states: Highway economic cost-benefits not determined
The Highway Review Committee (HRC) was unable to make an adequate assessment of the economic cost-benefits of the Debe to Mon Desir segment of the $7.5 billion Point Fortin Highway. This was outlined in a 257-page report compiled by the HRC which has made its way to the public domain.
The HRC’s significant concern with the Debe to Mon Desir Highway “is whether or not the lawful authority responsible for this large public expenditure is conforming to due process, including observance of various oversight statutory requirements for environmental management, the development of land, and due consideration of socio-economic impacts of the affected persons.”
The HRC found that there were significant shortcomings which warrant further interrogation in order to move forward. The report headed by Independent Senator Dr James Armstrong was set up by the Joint Consultative Council to review the highway after a three-week impasse between the Government and Dr Wayne Kublalsingh, leader of the Highway Re-route Movement (HRM). The committee was appointed to conduct the review within 60 days.
However, the HRC stated that with the complex and sensitive issues involved in this project, it “certainly could not be addressed within the confines of this 60-day review period.” Should the Government decide to proceed with the construction of the Debe-Mon Desir segment, the HRC noted, shortcomings resulting from the inadequacies of proper assessment of the likely impacts on the human and natural environment must first be determined and resolved.
The “summary findings” on page 5 stated that planning of the proposed highway “needed to have been undertaken as part of a comprehensive plan that seeks to balance land use and transportation needs of south west Trinidad and to do so with a minimum of disruption of human communities.”
On Thursday, Minister of Works and Infrastructure Emmanuel George said the review found the route proposed by the Government to be superior and that it allayed fears that ecological damage and flooding would occur as a consequence of the highway’s construction.
However, under the sub heading “Economic Cost/Benefit Considerations” the report stated the HRC was unable to make an adequate assessment of the economic cost-benefits of the highway segment.
EIA does not detail quantifiable benefits
It is felt that the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and other documents presented did not detail any quantifiable benefits that may be incorporated into a cost-benefit analysis. “Further, while some adverse impacts were anticipated, such as the acquisition of houses, disruption of current and traditional land uses, and loss of business opportunities, there were no quantifiable indicators to make informed assessments.”
Given the limited land space that is available in T&T, and the large land-take associated with road infrastructure such as highways and interchanges, the report stated that planners need to come up with mechanisms and approaches that would effectively address long-term congestion problems and provide the accessibility that is needed to improve connections between the various areas of the country without severely impacting the lives of people.
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