New Demerara Bridge: There must be fair compensation for affected residents, says attorney 

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By Isanella Patoir

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As per Article 142 of the Constitution of Guyana, citizens should not be deprived of their properties and have a right to own their property. However, a law made based on this Article allows for the acquisition of land for public purposes, such as projects that will benefit the nation.

One such project is the construction of the New Demerara Bridge, one of the most significant public infrastructural projects to be undertaken in years.

In an interview with the News Room, attorney-at-law Sanjeev Datadin explained that in cases like these the law must provide compensation for the affected residents. Datadin said fair compensation is imperative for the residents.

“So, what happens essentially is the land is for the greater good of the country and as result, the government has a right to engage with the legislation and to follow the procedures which it sets out, which is pay the persons fair compensation,” he stated.

Attorney-at-law Sanjeev Datadin

Datadin said the acquisition of lands by the government is fairly new to Guyana and with the country on a developmental path, there would be cases of such in the future.

He explained that in the handful of cases recorded in Guyana dating back as far as 1970, there was no resistance to relocation but rather there were complaints of citizens not being paid for the full value of their lands and properties.

“The resistance was ‘you are not paying me fair compensation for my land’,” Datadin said.

Datadin highlighted that private lands were acquired for the construction of the Linden/Soesdyke Highway and projects such as Lake Capoey.

VALUATION OF PROPERTIES 

The valuation of lands and properties will be done by the government valuation office. Datadin stated that the residents will not be allowed to do their valuation but will be entitled to confer with the valuation office.

He explained that in some instances the government hires a private company to conduct the valuation.

“I rather suspect that the valuations that would apply in relation to what I understand not to be land but to be land with houses on them – that there might be a difference to someone who has only a plot of land there, versus a person who has a plot of land with a house and then, of course, there will be a difference if you have a one-story bungalow house or two stories.”

One of the properties that falls within the alignment of the bridge (Photo: News Room)

The News Room visited the area and spoke with several residents on Tuesday who said they were not officially informed that they will have to relocate.

Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh told reporters on the sidelines of an event at Providence on Wednesday that the government will be engaging the residents soon.

“I know for sure they have looked at the alignment, they have examined where the bridge is going to be coming in and where it is going to land and what the implications are going to be for the current location of properties.

“And if they have not engaged with the persons to be affected, I have no doubt that they will be engaging them in due course and providing whatever support might be necessary in the circumstances,” Dr Singh said.

The site where the bridge will land at Nandy Park, East Bank Demerara was visited by a team of engineers as well as President Dr Irfaan Ali and recently the Region Four Regional Chairman Daniel Seeram.

The bridge will land within the vicinity of Nandy Park and the Ramada Princess Hotel (Photo: News Room)

The government recently announced that the new four-lane high-span fixed bridge will be constructed by China State Construction Engineering Corporation at a cost of US$256.6 million.

Once completed, there will be no daily retractions since the new bridge will be elevated about 50 metres above the channel in the Demerara River.

Additionally, the new structure will make an impact some 700 metres inland from the bank of the Demerara River. The landing will be in the vicinity of Nandy Park and the Ramada Princess Hotel at Providence on the East Bank of Demerara and Meer Zorgen/La Grange on the West Bank of Demerara.

At Nandy Park, a new four-lane road will also be constructed and will extend to the Diamond – Eccles highway.

Meanwhile, following a rigorous screening process, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined that the construction project for new bridge will have no significant impacts on the surrounding environment and therefore, an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is not required to be conducted.

 

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