RADHICA DE SILVA
Senior Multimedia Reporter
Despite assurances from Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan that reconstruction of the permanent Manzanilla/Mayaro Road would commence in six weeks, angry taxi drivers downed tools on Friday, staging protests in Mayaro and leaving commuters stranded.
The taxi drivers, who work the Sangre Grande/Mayaro route, expressed frustration over the dilapidated state of the temporary Manzanilla Bypass Road and the government's failure to fulfil its promises.
On Friday morning at the junction of Peter Hill Trace, the taxi drivers staged a placard demonstration to voice their grievances.
Joel Lezama, one of the protesting drivers said, "Last week the Kiss truck get stick. We are fed up. We could hardly buy food to eat because the little money we have has to go to fix our suspension in the car. Every week we are spending money to fix the car."
Another driver Ancil Oliver said not enough is being done to repair the temporary bypass road and they were not prepared to spend more money every week on vehicle maintenance.
Minister Sinanan had previously informed the taxi drivers that weekly maintenance would be carried out on the temporary bypass road.
However, the drivers claimed that the minister had not followed through on his promises, leading to financial strain due to frequent vehicle maintenance caused by the deteriorating road conditions.
On Sunday, Minister Sinanan, appealed for patience, reassuring residents that the permanent road construction will begin by August.
He explained that the government had opted to build a temporary bypass instead of closing off the road and inconveniencing thousands of people.
Sinanan highlighted the challenges in the area, stating, "It is a very sensitive area, and we know the bypass road cannot stand up to the weather, which is why we are working with different agencies such as the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) and the Institute of Marine Affairs (IMA). It is not just about the road. It is about coastal erosion on one side and protecting the swamp on the other side." He emphasized the need to protect both the coastal area and the Nariva Swamp, a vast expanse covering 235,000 acres.
Regarding the construction of the permanent road, Minister Sinanan provided an update on the upcoming phases.
He said: "The tender of phase one of the Manzanilla/Mayaro Road, which involves the removal of material from the road, will start in a month. Next week, five more packages will go out, and within the next six weeks, you will see the start of the rebuilding of the new road."
Sinanan also dismissed a call from Mayaro MP Rushton Paray to use petroleum-based binders on the road, explaining that it would adversely affect the swamp, making it an unviable option.
When questioned about the possibility of seeking international expertise for the road works, Minister Sinanan expressed confidence in the local competence available.
He mentioned that the PURE Unit responsible for the road was collaborating with The University of West Indies, the EMA, and the IMA, ensuring access to any necessary information.
As the taxi drivers' protest continues, commuters from Sangre Grande were left stranded and frustrated with many unable to go to school and work. Guardian Media will update this story as it unfolds.