An aerial photo taken on Sunday of Anand Low Price Wholesale, a business located near the Mosquito Creek, South Trunk Road. The busines is one one of several that will have to be relocated, or give up property, to make way for the highway to Point Fortin. - Photo by Dexter Philip.

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Big business in way of highway

By Richard Charan richard.charan@trinidadexpress.com

MAN and mangrove will be impacted when the highway construction begins along South Trunk Road near Mosquito Creek, with multi-million-dollar firms having to give up land, or relocate businesses.

While all attention is being paid to the troubled Debe-to-Mon Desir segment of the highway to Point Fortin, the National Infrastructure Development Company (Nidco) is overseeing the acquisition of properties between San Fernando and Mon Desir.

The properties are located on or near the proposed lanes to be added to South Trunk Road.

Among the major businesses to be affected are Well Services, SM Jaleel, and Anand Low Cost Wholesale, a business located opposite the Shore of Peace cremation site.

During an aerial tour of the proposed route of the highway on Sunday, Nidco project manager Earl Wilson pointed out the affected businesses and homes along the path leading to Dunlop Roundabout, Point Fortin.

Nidco chairman Dr Carson Charles said the State was seeking to acquire the land for the highway without trouble.

"We haven't broken anyone's house and thrown anyone's possessions out in the road. We meet fences, we don't break them down. We are really constraining the contractor (Brazilian-based OAS Constructora) and challenging his work. We have really tried in this project to avoid hurting the community, while we make negotiations," he said.

However, the lack of information during the negotiation process is of concern to Anand Ramnarinesingh, owner of Anand Low Cost Wholesale, a 50,000-square-foot shopping complex near the south bank of the Godineau River.

Ramnarinesingh confirmed he had been served a notice that the State intended to acquire the land on which his business opened in April last year.

"They asked us to do a valuation and it was submitted. We are now waiting on a reply. So far there has been no compensation, and there is no time-frame being given."

Ramnarinesingh, who has several other business interests, said: "In my opinion, they are handling this badly. There is not enough information into the time-frame. When we call and ask, no one can answer. If you are running a business where you have to purchase stock and sell, this information is important."

Ramnarinesingh, who declined to give the value of his property, said: "We will definitely have to move, and we would like this addressed urgently because we would like to locate another site. We have over 150 employees."

SM Jaleel did not immediately respond to a request by the Express for comment. However, Wilson said the company would benefit from the highway, since its cargo trucks would have quick access to the national transportation grid.

Wilson also said that the area of mangrove to be removed along Mosquito Creek would leave no environmental footprint and was necessary for the dualling of the route.

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