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Residents in path of New Harbour Bridge request new homes on East Bank

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Residents of Houston on the East Bank of Demerara were earlier this week briefed by officials from the Ministry of Public Infrastructure on the possible land acquisition for the construction of the New Demerara River Bridge.

Residents from four different households turned out to the meeting which was held with Senior Engineer (Central Transport and Planning), Mr Ronald Roberts, Transport Planning Officer (Economist), Ms Ramona Duncan, and Socio-environmental Officer, Shawn-Ann Greene.

In a statement from the Ministry, Greene explained that the community meeting was an effort by the Ministry to foster a transparent process as the project gets underway.

She added that all of the previously identified homes might not be affected by the determination of the final design of the bridge. Nonetheless, all of the residents will be privy to the necessary information.

The residents were shown the proposed alignment for the new bridge and additional project details, including findings from the Feasibility Study and Design. “More detailed economic, social, and environmental impact assessments will be conducted when the project moves beyond its preliminary stages and these assessments will take into account many of the residents’ concerns,” the Ministry said.

The Ministry said residents shared that their main concerns were being evicted from their properties without adequate notice and not being adequately compensated. The residents, the statement added, said that while they had no issues with relocation, they would prefer new homes on the East Bank of Demerara or somewhere close by.

“We’ve established lives for ourselves in this area; we’re accustomed to this life and we want to continue those lives as best as possible,” one resident explained.

In turn, the Ministry officials emphasised that sufficient notice would be given if the removal of homes becomes necessary. Furthermore, the officials shared that the Ministry of Legal Affairs would be negotiating directly with the residents on compensation while the Lands and Surveys Department will be conducting the valuation process to ensure that residents are correctly reimbursed for their homes.

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 fly-over bridges and 11 km of connecting roads on the eastern and western banks of the Demerara River, providing 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.

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