Friday, January 19, 2018

Re-Route group: NewDebe works in breach

Carson Charles: Outlaw approach


Dr Wayne Kublalsingh and members of the Highway re Route Movement display a copy of the Report of the independet Review Committee, during a meeting of the group at its demolished camp site at the M2 Ring Road, Debe yesterday. PHOTO BY DAVE PERSAD

Dave Persad

TROUBLE is brewing again at the site of the proposed Debe Interchange of the Solomon Hochoy Highway extension to Point Fortin.

Shortly before midnight on Wednesday, earthmovers began clearing land to continue the interchange.

Members of the Highway Re-Route Movement met at the site of its demolished camp at the M2 Ring Road, Debe, yesterday, claiming the new construction was in breach of the recommendations contained in the Highway Review Committee's report, which 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".

Works Minister Emmanuel George could not be contacted yesterday, but an "outlaw" approach is how Carson Charles, chairman of the National Infrastructure Development Company (Nidco), which is overseeing the highway project, described the criticisms by the Highway Re-Route Movement.

Charles said construction will go on as the interchange will be necessary, even if the highway is to end in Debe. He said the interchange does not constitute the part of the highway under dispute, the Debe-to-Mon Desir portion.

The interchange will be needed to connect the highway to other roads, Charles said, and he chastised the movement for its approach to the issue.

"How is the highway to end in that case?" Charles questioned.

The clearing of land around the M2 Ring Road on Wednesday is related to the interchange, he said, and was part of the work already assigned to a contractor.

"There was never any undertaking that work would stop on the interchange. "The interchange was never part of any discussion. How is the highway expected to end? Even if it is to end in Debe, it will have to end with an interchange."

Speaking last week on the release of the report of the Highway Review Committee (HRC), Charles had said there was no commitment to stop work that had already started, but contractors on the job had agreed to slow down during the 60 days in which the report was to be collated.

Charles could not say yesterday if work was being speeded up with the release of the report, which, in essence, advised the Government to halt the project until all the necessary social, environmental and economical assessments were properly done.

It was a hunger strike by Re-Route Movement leader Dr Wayne Kublalsingh outside the Office of the Prime Minister in St Clair that led to an agreement that work on the disputed segment would be stopped.

Kublalsingh told the Express that OAS Constructora, the main contractor on the project, had returned to the south side of the M2 Ring Road and begun earthworks.

He said if the interchange were configured as planned, "it means they will have to continue the highway through the Oropouche Lagoon, and not change course. That's a big problem".

The Highway Re-Route Movement has objected to the highway passing through the lagoon and suggested an alternative route that will take the highway to South Trunk Road, Mosquito Creek.

Kublalsingh said, "What is happening here is in keeping with a number of actions of Government that we find very disturbing."

He said George had claimed the HRC report gave a green light to the project "when, in fact, it stated clearly that work ought to stop until they completed a number of studies before it goes ahead".

Kublalsingh said the Government was claiming the HRC report was preliminary when it was the final report.

"What they are doing is enabling themselves to add addendums to the report, and edit the report."

Kublalsingh said his body was too weak to survive another hunger strike and called on the public and non-governmental organisations to defend the findings of the report.

"This is now much more than the highway. It's about transparency and accountability."