Home­own­ers fac­ing re­lo­ca­tion for new De­mer­ara bridge want fair com­pen­sa­tion

-Ming says lands not for sale

Stabroek News Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - By Mar­celle Thomas

Ahead of the start of con­sul­ta­tions this week, East Bank res­i­dents liv­ing in the path of one of the pro­posed ap­proach roads for the new De­mer­ara Har­bour Bridge have said they are hop­ing for ad­e­quate com­pen­sa­tion from gov­ern­ment if they have to move.

Project Man­ager Rawl­ston Adams told Sun­day Stabroek in an in­ter­view on Fri­day that a meet­ing is sched­uled for Tues­day to be­gin en­gage­ment with res­i­dents liv­ing on the East Bank.

Adams noted that the bridge will land on the east bank of the De­mer­ara River, a short dis­tance from the Pri­ti­paul Singh In­vest­ments Inc, where an ap­proach road will con­nect it to the East Bank of De­mer­ara Pub­lic Road.

Since the ap­proach roads will have to cater for three lanes of traf­fic, more space is needed and gov­ern­ment is seek­ing to ac­quire the lands from about three home­own­ers at the in­ter­sec­tion where Hous­ton ends and McDoom be­gins.

“For us to de­sign the in­ter­sec­tion prop­erly, we have to widen the road and it is that process that will need the ac­qui­si­tion of prop­erty. The same thing on the other side at Ver­sailles, where the bridge will land at the bank of the river,” he ex­plained.

Adams pointed out that he did not want to get into much of what the dis­cus­sions will en­tail but said it was a move to sen­si­tise the res­i­dents of the ar­eas on the plans for the bridge.

Sun­day Stabroek vis­ited three home­own­ers whose lands would fall in the path of the ap­proach road on the East Bank. Two spoke with the news­pa­per on the con­di­tion that their names would not be pub­lished, with one ex­plain­ing that he did not want to ap­pear “anx­ious to sell and end up get­ting lil bit money” and the other cit­ing per­sonal rea­sons.

They all said that they knew through the press and from an in­for­mal meet­ing with rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the min­istry that their homes are in the path of the road. None in­di­cated any ob­jec­tion to mov­ing but they ex­pect to be justly com­pen­sated.

“I don’t mind mov­ing be­cause I would want to move from so near to Agri­cola but them can’t move me from a pub­lic road house and ex­pect to give we Hubu Back­dam and $10 mil­lion,” one of the home own­ers said.

“Look them gat to get the new bridge and we un­der­stand that ’cause the old one brukad­own, but that don’t mean them gon’ come gi meh lil money in meh hand and seh gwan duh side. Them gat to mek it right and you well know that if de price right, any­body guh move,” another added.

Yet another was more con­cerned about her neigh­bour than her­self, as she ex­plained that the woman had un­der­taken con­struc­tion works so that her home could be ex­tended be­fore the Christ­mas hol­i­days. The woman said that those in au­thor­ity should has­ten the meet­ings and ne­go­ti­a­tions be­fore oth­ers in­vest in their home’s in­fra­struc­ture, only to have it de­mol­ished.

Adams said that the sen­si­ti­sa­tion pro­gramme and the process to ac­quire the lands would only be­gin af­ter a de­ci­sion is made on the ex­act co­or­di­nates of where the bridge will land on both sides of the river. So far, the ex­act co­or­di­nates have been plot­ted for the Hous­ton side, while the min­istry is still con­sid­er­ing the land­ing on the Ver­sailles side.

“On the western side, we know we are land­ing in

Ver­sailles. Whether it is 150 me­ters up or down, that is still be­ing dis­cussed… and that is where we are at try­ing to find an area with the least so­cial im­pact and best lo­ca­tion, tak­ing into con­text all things engi­neer­ing,” he stressed.

“In the con­struc­tion of a 1.4 kilo­me­tre bridge, 100 me­ters is nei­ther here nor there but we want to get it right in terms of af­fect­ing per­sons the least on the western side. Whether it lands here or there, it doesn’t af­fect the bridge and ori­en­ta­tion. The choice, when you are build­ing, would al­ways be to go through the va­cant prop­erty—the path of least re­sis­tance—and that is the con­sid­er­a­tion taken. From an en­gi­neer’s point of view, that is what we care about be­cause it would mean shorter con­struc­tion pe­riod, less is­sues in terms of so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact and that is what the con­sul­tant pro­posed, a purely engi­neer­ing so­lu­tion. There is still some [work] to be done be­cause you don’t have a project if you don’t have the land, so there is still ne­go­ti­a­tion and that sort of thing,” he added, as he pointed to var­i­ous lo­ca­tions on maps in front of him.

Not for sale

asked if the bridge will be at Ver­sailles on prop­erty owned by busi­ness­man Stan­ley Ming—as has been claimed by Op­po­si­tion Leader Bhar­rat Jagdeo— Adams re­it­er­ated that a de­ci­sion has not yet been taken.

“The con­sid­er­a­tion when you set up the project is not about who owns the land but from an engi­neer­ing and so­cial point of view what is the best lo­ca­tion… you choose a lo­ca­tion that gives you the least so­cial dis­rup­tion,” he said.

“We are look­ing at what is best. When Ver­sailles was cho­sen, we did not know Ming had lands there. It was cho­sen by the con­sul­tant who has noth­ing to gain. This is an in­de­pen­dent and rep­utable con­sul­tant that chose a lo­ca­tion. The lo­ca­tion cho­sen is here but you have this sawmill, this lum­ber­yard… You have these eight houses plus those prop­erty at the back. It is a lot of prop­erty to dis­rupt. Over there [on Ming’s land], you have lots of va­cant prop­erty but if the ap­proaches go through there, it would give the most awk­ward land­ing. The least so­cial dis­rup­tion will give the most awk­ward land­ing… so it is a de­ci­sion we still have to make. So one gives you less road and a cleaner in­ter­sec­tion but has far more ac­qui­si­tion and so­cial im­pact. We have to weigh the pros and cons,” he added.

Ming has said that the lands he owns at Ver­sailles on the West Bank of De­mer­ara will not be in the path­way for the new bridge and are not for sale.

Jagdeo has al­leged that the pro­posed lo­ca­tion for the bridge was en­gi­neered so that Ming would ben­e­fit from a sub­stan­tial ac­qui­si­tion pay­out from gov­ern­ment. Jagdeo said that this was be­cause Ming is a sup­porter of the cur­rent APNU+AFC gov­ern­ment and for­mer ex­ec­u­tive in the PNCR, the largest of the par­ties mak­ing up APNU.

The sit­ing of the new bridge be­tween Hous­ton and Ver­sailles was one of three pos­si­bil­i­ties that had been pro­posed in 2013 un­der the then PPP/C gov­ern­ment.

“I don’t want to be re­spond­ing to Jagdeo. That guy is just a repro­bate and I don’t want to waste my time and en­ergy re­spond­ing to him. If you keep re­ply­ing to Jagdeo, you have to do that ev­ery day be­cause ev­ery day he comes up with a new story which has no ba­sis in the truth. He could say any­thing he wants and it don’t bother me,” Ming told this news­pa­per, when con­tacted.

“The bad news for Mr Jagdeo et al is… very shortly Mr. Jagdeo is go­ing to find out that Mr. Ming doesn’t want his land to be sold and that the bridge is not pass­ing through his land…It will come out there but I am not the one to put it out,” Ming added.

Min­is­ter of Pub­lic In­fra­struc­ture David Pat­ter­son has also said that a fi­nal de­ci­sion has not yet been taken on the bridge ap­proaches but that Ming was “free to de­fend him­self.”

(Min­istry of An artist’s im­pres­sion of the new De­mer­ara Har­bour Bridge Pub­lic In­fra­struc­ture ren­der­ing)

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