By Jarryl Bryan
The Government has taken a decisive step in the process towards building the new Demerara River bridge, with an order being issued that empowers officials to survey and acquire private lands, regardless of whether the owners want to sell.
The order, dubbed the Acquisition of Lands for Public Purposes (New Demerara River Crossing and Connecting Roads) Order 2017, is dated August 23; long before the Ministry held consultations with those to be affected on October 10. It was signed by Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson.
An advertisement appeared over the weekend in the State-owned Guyana Chronicle indicating that Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson has issued the order to commence the acquisition of lands.
According to the particulars of the Order, the land which will be targeted includes portions of Houston and Rome, East Bank Demerara. It sets out that a strip of land along and within the South half of Plantation Houston will be acquired, while strips of land in the North of Rome and in a westerly direction by the river would be in the cross hairs of Government.
The Ministry will also be acquiring land on the West Bank of Demerara; specifically, it will be acquiring land within the southern half of Versailles; by the river itself; by the northern cadastral boundary of Goed Fortuin and private lands.
In addition, a strip of land connecting New Road, Vreed-en-Hoop to the new La Parfaite Harmonie access road, will be appropriated by the Government. This road passes through Schoonord, Murdocks Land, Malgre Tout, Klien Pouderoyen and Vreed-en-Hoop.
According to Patterson in the order, “the Commissioner of Lands and Surveys, together with his agents, servants or work men, is hereby authorised to enter upon the said lands decided hereunder for the purposes of surveying or otherwise examining such lands with a view of acquiring the whole or part of such lands for the construction of a public work.”
Patterson in the advertisement also notes that the Order was made under Chapter 62:05 of the Acquisition of Lands for Public Purposes Act. According to Section 5 (1) of the Act, “When any order aforesaid has been made the person authorised shall have the power to do all or any of the following acts.”
“(a) to enter upon and survey and take levels of any land in any locality within which the public works are intended to be executed or to dig or bore into the sub-soil of that land (and) to do all other acts necessary to ascertain whether the land is adapted to that purpose.”
Floating at 1.25 miles, the Demerara Harbour Bridge is a strategic link between the eastern and western banks of the Demerara River. It facilitates the daily movement of a large numbers of vehicles, people and cargo.
The structure was built in the 1970s, but was opened in July 1978 with the expectation of lasting only 10 years. However, some 37 years later, it is still floating. Under the previous Government, concerted efforts began at replacing the structure. The current Government signed a contract with a Dutch company, LievenseCSO, on December 9, 2016, to conduct a feasibility analysis.
This feasibility study determined the proposed location of Houston-Versailles as the most ideal. In the feasibility study, some four houses and a nursery school were cited for demolition.
Residents in the vicinity of the site for the new Demerara River bridge at Houston had indicated to this publication that they were in the dark over the Public Infrastructure Ministry’s plans regarding the removal of several homes to facilitate construction of the crossing.
Following an article by this newspaper, officials from the Ministry visited the residents and assured them that the Attorney General’s Chambers will be negotiating with them a compensation package among other things.
Diplomat and long-time People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) official, Clarissa Riehl, had fiercely resisted Government’s move to take control of a plot of land she owns at Middle and Carmichael Streets, under the Acquisition of Lands for Public Purposes Act.
The Official Gazette of September 24, which published the Order made by Minister Patterson on September 22, 2016, identified the property as the East quarter of Lot 92 Middle and Carmichael Streets.