Highway Review Committee (HRC) chairman, Independent Senator Dr James Armstrong, yesterday listed a number of deficiencies in the multi-billion dollar highway to Point Fortin project.
Armstrong announced the formal publishing of the report yesterday at the Trinidad and Tobago Group of Professional Associations (TTGPA) in Woodbrook and detailed several shortcomings that should be addressed before the massive project could continue.
"In looking at all the submissions, we concluded that the highway segment in question should not really proceed unless the issues that came up were addressed," Armstrong said.
He said while some of the professionals found that the lack of information was not "catastrophic" to the project, he found that "was a matter of opinion".
"In effect there were several shortcomings that in our professional opinion it would be better for the Government and the other party to address these if you want to proceed with that segment of the highway," he said.
"What we found in general was that there were several deficiencies particularly in the EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) and CEC (Certificate of Environmental Clearance) process, " Armstrong said.
He said that requirements were also "quite deficient" in the Social Impact Assessment and economic cost benefit aspects.
"International best practice would clearly require that that sort of analysis be done," he said.
He said the project did not have the approval of Town and Country Planning and that the initial approval had actually lapsed.
"It got only outline approval, which in fact lapsed. Therefore you cannot have a professional body saying go ahead without looking at these things. There were certain conditions specified by the EMA (Environmental Management Authority), conditions to be met with respect to moving on to site and putting construction works and so on, we felt that those were not met," he said.
Armstrong said he knew interested parties would be expecting either a strict yes or no on the project, but with the information at hand and expert input, he could only ask for some consensus between the two groups as more dialogue was necessary.
When initially handed over early last month, the report had been seen as a victory by both the opposing State and the Highway Reroute Movement. Armstrong said both parties pulled "one liners" out of the report and claimed it as supporting their side of the argument.
With that said, however, Armstrong could not explain why Works Minister Emmanuel George interpreted the report as giving the Government project the "green light" to continue with the project.
"I have no idea what he was referring to or what he was talking about," he said.
Armstrong and his 19-member professional team were given 60 days to determine the feasibility of the $7.5 billion government project that also included the contentious Debe to Mon Desir section of the Sir Solomon Hochoy extension to Pt Fortin that triggered a three-week hunger strike by environmental activist Dr Wayne Kublalsingh last November.