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Minister on highway report: Some facts inaccurate
Government is continuing consultations with Debe-Mon Desir residents about their relocation, resettlement and compensation while construction on the Point Fortin Highway continues, Communications Minister Jamal Mohammed said yesterday. He also criticised some of the content of the report, saying it was factually inaccurate. On Monday the report of the independent review committee on the Debe-Mon Desir segment of the highway was made public.
Head of the independent review team, Dr James Armstrong, said the technical report noted deficiencies in the process followed by the State, although the Highway Re-route Movement, which has protested the construction of the segment, did not conclusively demonstrate the highway should not be built.
Armstrong urged all parties to work together to sort out the issue before proceeding with the project. He said the review was not to decide whether or not the highway should be built but was about the impact on residents of the segment in question. Works Minister Emmanuel George was unavailable yesterday despite several calls.
Mohammed said there would be further consultations with the people who lived in the area in question while work continued on the highway. He said: “Consultations are indeed required to finalise issues, such as relocation, resettlement and compensation, so there is continuing rapport to work that out properly.”
Mohammed said he had no problem with the report except for the claim of deficiencies concerning the Environmental Management Agency and the requisite certificate of clearance (CC). He said the team completed the report without contacting the EMA. Mohammed added: “The CC was approved by the EMA a long time ago and the review team didn’t consult the Ministry of the Environment or EMA about it. “So they have said things in the report that are factually inaccurate.
“As far as Government is concerned we have the CC already and approval was granted by the relevant body so there is no problem with the project on this.” He said: “The report did not cover everything. Most of its recommendations I see refer to technical aspects of the project and things that are being worked on.
“Work continues, for example relocation and related aspects. Once there is need for further talks with people of that area, that will be done. It’s not a major obstacle.” Mohammed said the review team’s recommendation that all sides should try to work the situation out was fair. “But,” he said, “the project must not stop. The issues they have called for attention on should not impact greatly on the final outcome of the highway, so everyone on all sides should be calm. We are building the highway.”
He added: “We congratulate Dr Armstrong for his efforts but progress on behalf of the people must proceed. There’s no reason to stop for any of the reasons (in the report) so far. “Everyone must indeed come together to try and resolve it, one way or the other, but we must be able to continue the project at the same time.” Officials connected to the project said compensation for residents was contributing to inflating the $7.5 billion project’s cost.
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