New Demerara Bridge can proceed without RDC’s no-objection
The construction of the New Demerara Bridge can proceed without a no-objection from the Region Four Regional Democratic Council (RDC), Minister of Public Works Juan Edghill has told the News Room.
The Minister was responding to reports in the media that the RDC Chairman Daniel Seeram has withheld his no-objection for the project, citing no public consultations were done with residents who will be affected by the construction of the bridge.
The Minister was asked directly about what it would mean for the project if the government does not receive the no-objection from the RDC.
“I don’t think it means anything for the project,” Edghill responded. He said he foresees no serious blockage for the construction of the new bridge.
However, the Public Works minister stated that he did not see the correspondence being referenced in the media that was sent to the ministry by Seeram withholding his no-objection for the project.
“Any responsible government will pay attention to a no-objection or an objection once it has merits,” Edghill stated.
Nevertheless, he said he hopes that the concerns raised are legitimate and do not stem from politics.
Edghill said: “This is a national project, it is beyond politics, it will benefit all of Guyana, it is an absolute necessity…it has been delayed, this should have happened before.”
When contacted by the News Room, Regional Chairman Daniel Seeram also said that he is not opposed to the construction of the bridge, but contended that residents must be included in the decision-making.
“The worst thing we would want is a project of this magnitude happening and we have a major pushback from the populace,” Seeram said.
According to him, no-objections are essential for major infrastructural projects like the new bridge.
On November 2, the ministry wrote to Seeram requesting his no-objection for the project; six days later Seeram and three councillors did a site visit to where the new bridge will land at Nandy Park, East Bank Demerara.
The Regional Chairman told the News Room that after the site visit, he was informed that the Eccles/Ramsburg Neighbourhood Democratic Council has given a no-objection for the project.
Seeram claims that the no-objection was done independently by the NDC Chairman Anand Kalladeen without consultations with residents or councillors.
Further, Seeram said when he contacted the ministry, he also found that no consultations were done with the residents.
“In view of that, I believe that the people of the area, the residents should be given that consultation, that public consultation with the necessary appropriate persons being present to answer their questions,” Seeram said.
He said since it was published in the local media that several properties would have to be acquired before construction of the new bridge can commence, his office is being bombarded with calls and questions to which he cannot answer.
According to him, residents that fall within the alignment of the new bridge – Continental Park, Nandy Park, Peters Hall, and Providence – are asking questions about noise pollution, air pollution, drainage and irrigation, and utility management once construction commences.
“I am somewhat in an unfavourable position because I do not have the answers to these questions.”
Seeram is calling on the ministry to conduct a public consultation with engineers, and other government entities involved in the project.
“This is a project that everybody should welcome but at this point, I can tell you that many of the residents have reservations and we should clear up these reservations before we move forward with such a project,” Seeram said.
Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in August determined after a rigorous screening process that the construction of the new bridge will have no significant impacts on the surrounding environment and therefore, an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is not required to be conducted.
The government recently announced that the new four-lane high-span fixed bridge will be constructed by China State Construction Engineering Corporation at US$256.6 million.
The new structure will make an impact some 700 metres inland from the bank of the Demerara River, this will fall within the Nandy Park area; from there a new four-lane will also be constructed and will extend to the Diamond – Eccles highway.
With an elevation of about 50 metres above the channel in the Demerara River, it is also expected that there will be no daily retractions.
For the residents who will have to be relocated, the government must provide fair compensation, attorney-at-law Sanjeev Datadin recently told the News Room.
The other side of the bridge will land at Meer Zorgen/La Grange on the West Bank of Demerara. No properties will be affected on this side.