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Govt, re-routers told to unite for a solution
The independent team that reviewed the Debe to Mon Desir stage of the San Fernando to Point Fortin Highway has concluded it should not proceed unless the various issues that came up were addressed, team leader Dr James Armstrong says.
He is urging all parties to work together. Speaking about the team’s technical report at a press conference yesterday, Armstrong said while the State was responsible for some deficiencies, the Highway Re-route Movement’s position did not conclusively demonstrate the highway should not be built.
Joint Consultative Council (JCC) chairman Afra Raymond, who hosted the media conference, said the committee report was expected to be published on the JCC’s Web site last night.
Raymond said there was an arrangement for the National Infrastructure Development Company (Nidco) to “make a contribution” to the report’s cost and although Nidco was not funding the exercise, there was a million-dollar ceiling.
The JCC received Armstrong’s report on February 4. Armstrong said he requested an extension but did not receive it. Saying there were no winners or losers in the review, Armstrong urged all parties to take the “high road.” He added: “There are several outstanding issues that have to be addressed to determine if one should proceed with this segment of the highway and if so, and (with) what kind of impact. And you would need to address to mitigate that impact.
“I would like to see Nidco and the HRM and all parties working together to address these issues on how to proceed. “I hope it can be used to reconcile a number of positions and bring people together. I really hope this is a lesson for us all to bring opposing parties together.”
Armstrong said several deficiencies, for which the State was responsible, were found, especially in the environmental impact assessment/certificate of clearance process. He also noted a limited social impact assessment approach.
The team found the economic cost-benefit analysis to be “quite deficient” also, he said, and those issues had to be considered in future if such projects were being done. There was also some deficiency in public participation and he added there should be an approved public participation process.
Armstrong said the Town and Country Planning Division gave only outline approval and certain requirements concerning the Environmental Management Authority were not met. The overall problem was in the process, Armstrong said. He said development had to be about people and there were things that could be worked out if people approached things differently.
The review was not on whether the highway should be built, Armstrong pointed out, but on the impact of the Debe-Mon Desir section on residents. He said the highway idea had been around since 1984, before the PP administration, and was the first time T&T had a project of that scale.
Armstrong was critical of situations where people “took one-liners” and used them to their own advantage and said he still sensed combative approach on the issue which would make the review in vain.
He said if people did not take the lesson of the exercise on board they would be “hard learners.” He dismissed the perception that the report fell short, saying the team could not say simply if to build or not.
Armstrong said the all-local review team was assisted by three regional experts on the environment and social impact assessment aspects. The full text of the JCC report can be downloaded at: http://guardian.co.tt/news/2013-02-18/download-highway-review-committee-...
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