An excavator at work at Monteil Trace, Fyzabad, the site of the proposed Fyzabad Interchange, which is part of the Debe to Mon Desir segment of the Solomon Hochoy Highway Extension to Point Fortin - Photo by DEXTER PHILIP
Report Backs Debe Section of the Highway
A watchdog report on the proposed Debe to Mon Desir section of the Solomon Hochoy Highway extension to Point Fortin has given the Government the green light to proceed with the project.
This was announced by Works Minister Emmanuel George at yesterday's post-Cabinet news conference at the Office of the Prime Minister in St Clair.
The report, which was commissioned by the Government 60 days ago, was produced by a group led by the Joint Consultative Council (JCC) but was up to late yesterday unsigned by the group or its chairman, Independent Senator Dr James Armstrong.
However, George said the report, which appears to be a preliminary offering, has in essence stated that the highway should be built.
Asked why he has chosen to give details of the report given that it is unsigned and may not be a final document, George said he wanted to bring the good news to the population.
He also could not say when a signed copy will be available to the State, or how much the report will cost and who will pay for it.
The Debe to Mon Desir section of the highway ignited a controversy last year, with scores of Debe residents protesting at having to be moved so the highway could be built.
The residents are supported by environmental activist Dr Wayne Kublalsingh, who staged a three-week hunger strike outside the St Clair office of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, until the report was commissioned.
The Highway Re-Route Movement, as the civic group calls itself, has proposed an alternative route and has cited potential ecological damage if the State adheres to its original plan.
George said yesterday the report states otherwise.
"The report finds the chosen route to be overall superior."
George said the alternative route, according to the report, is seen as not providing for traffic growth in the future.
He said the report also allays fears that the construction of the highway will cause flooding in its environs.
What the committee appears to have a problem with, George said, is the manner in which the authorities approached the project.
More consultations with affected residents, environmentalists and other stakeholders should have been held, the Minister added.
George said there were also some "errors of fact" in the document, which showed that the committee should have consulted more with bodies such as the Environmental Management Authority (EMA).
"The report also speaks to the way things should be done in the future," he said, adding that the State plans to take the suggestions "in good spirit".
In a telephone interview yesterday, Kublalsingh called the report a "landmark document" but declined further comment until the report becomes publicly available.
The document is expected to be available to the public via various agencies, including the website of the JCC, by noon today.