Residents in the path of new Demerara river bridge lament lack of consultations

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…as construction to commence in new year

Residents in the vicinity of the site for the new Demerara river bridge at Houston, East Bank Demerara (EBD) have indicated that they are in the dark over the Public Infrastructure Ministry’s plans regarding the removal of several homes to facilitate construction of the crossing.

It is expected that construction of the Houston-Versailles bridge across the Demerara River will commence in the new year. The relocation of several buildings were deemed necessary to facilitate the construction of road overpasses that would lead to the new bridge.

Residents are calling for official word on which of the homes will be removed

In the feasibility study conducted by Dutch company LievenseCSO Engineering Contracting BV, some four houses and a nursery school were cited for demolition, but on Monday, residents in the area claimed that no consultations were held to confirm the exact homes that would be moved. This has left an unsettling feeling among the residents who say that all information relative to the plans is relayed through the media.

“Nobody hasn’t come and tell us anything as yet; we’re just seeing this thing in the newspapers and on the news. They’re doing all these feasibility studies, saying that the bridge will commence next year, but nobody ain’t telling us anything,” a grandmother, who lives in a yard with several homes, noted.

Another resident claimed that she, along with members in the community, first suspected major road works would be conducted when they saw persons in construction gear measuring out their plots over extended periods of time.

“Every time, they’re sending people to measure – from last month to this month, they measuring all the time, nothing else, they are saying. When my small cousin does be home alone, they does carry he and ask he for measure (the premises).”

An artist’s impression of what the new Demerara River bridge will look like

The residents further added that they received no notices or letters from any authority on the move; with some saying they cannot image life anywhere but in their transported lands on which many have resided for over 40 years.

“Is 45 years I living here – born and grow in this yard. We don’t know where we’re going [but, where I’m living now] is close to town and close to my work and to the school,” a father of one expressed. He highlighted that the Houston Nursery School, which is slated for removal, is a landmark in the area.

Meanwhile, Shawn Moses, 42, said that it was his neighbours who informed him of the plans to move some of the homes.

Some residents said that their plots of land have been in their families for over 60 years, which, according to them, makes the removal much harder to conceptualise. They are calling for officials to meet with them to discuss their future.

Government is moving to replace the current DHB at Peter’s Hall, EBD and Meer Zorgen, West Bank Demerara (WBD) owing to its age and mounting maintenance costs. However, in the recent weeks, there have been reiterated calls for a more transparent process as the project gets underway.

Meanwhile, if the residents choose not to move the Government can only evict them by invoking its powers of eminent domain and compensating them at market value.

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