By Samuel Sukhnandan
Those residents whose homes fall directly in the area that has been earmarked for the new Demerara River crossing have been put on notice by the Public Infrastructure Ministry that they have some two years before they are relocated to a suitable location.
One of the affected residents, whose home will have to be torn down to facilitate the construction of the opening of the bridge, told this publication that this was disclosed during a recent meeting with the affected residents and staff of that Ministry. The resident who asked not to be named said that the team also conducted measurements around the area.
But according to the resident, while this time might seem long enough to relocate, he hopes that his family of six could be given proper notice as to what would take place. The man said he was prepared to relocate as he saw the bridge as development for Guyana, but he was also hoping that his family would be properly compensated and given a location to rebuild which was not far from the current area.
The residents were told by the Ministry officials that the Legal Affairs Ministry and the Communities Ministry would be responsible for compensating them and assisting with their relocation. “They had a brief discussion about the layout and plan and where the road is going to be built and who it is going to affect. They didn’t give us a date on when we will receive compensation, so we are waiting. It’s a hard thing to just pack up and leave, but it is something that has to happen,” he added.
Another family whose home would be directly affected said that they were also prepared to move given that the Government does not rob them of their due compensation. The household, which has about half a dozen people living there, explained that the market value for those homes could be in excess of $30 million and they were not willing to accept anything below that. Two of these homes are located close to the bridge that separates Houston from McDoom on the East Bank Public Road.
During the first meeting, the proposed alignment of the new bridge and additional project details, including findings from the feasibility study and design, were shared with residents. The residents were informed that more detailed economic, social, and environmental impact assessments would be conducted when the project moved beyond its preliminary stages.
The new Demerara River bridge, which will connect Houston on the East Bank and Versailles on the West Bank, will be a medium-level bridge with three vehicular lanes and a central movable part in the form of a lift span to allow for the passage of ocean-going vessels.
The project will also include the construction of two flyover bridges and 11 kilometres of connecting roads on the eastern and western banks of the Demerara River, providing a seamless connection to the existing road network. The new bridge is expected to alleviate traffic congestion, reduce travel time and distances, and provide a level of service never before experienced on Guyana’s roadways. Construction is scheduled to commence in 2018.
But according to the pre-feasibility study conducted by Dutch company LievenseCSO Engineering Contracting BV, some four houses and a nursery school were cited for demolition.
According to the Dutch consultant, if the bridge is positioned at Houston, it would affect the nautical procedures between the present harbour limit and the existing bridge alignment.
In the case of the river channel used by oceangoing vessels, a bridge at Houston will mean that the nautical procedures and ‘lead lines’ in the harbour area shall also have to be redesigned to ensure safe shipping.
The political Opposition has repeatedly questioned the rationale behind the selection of the Houston-Versailles location for the new Demerara River crossing.