Highway Re-Route Movement @ Siparia Magistrate Court – July 23, 2015 – Trinidad & Tobago

HELTER SKELTER HIGHWAY
The proposed Debe to Mon Desir highway has become a helter skelter highway. In its rush to expedite works before the general elections, the Government, the state company NIDCO and the OAS are resorting to helter skelter practices and work. The Government is rushing helter skelter to make it difficult for any new political dispensation which might come to office after September 7th to re-route Debe to Mon Desir.
First, it is running over privately owned lands without paying compensation. This is in respect of the proposed roadway between Debe interchange to San Francique Road Penal. From Gandhi Village to San Francique Road lands are being overrun with road construction without compensation being paid to legitimate title holders.
Second, the OAS made a lay-down yard on Gopie Trace, storing approximately one hundred tons of gravel. Three weeks ago works at this lay-down site stopped. This gravel was hurriedly picked up by trucks and shuttled to Mon Desir. The weight of the gravel left a twenty foot deep crater on the lagoon. It is now half filled with floodwater.
Third, NIDCO has steadfastly badgered and harassed families who live next to the proposed Mon Desir interchange. The tone of letters and language to homeowners make as if they, NIDCO and its lawyers, are the legitimate owners of the property; and the property owners are being delinquent by not accepting compensation. The truth is that NIDCO wants to rush a piece of highway between Sewlal Trace in Fyzabad and Mon Desir, push for an interchange at the latter site, to make it difficult for any future alternative Government to re-route.
Fourth, at Suchit Trace, the Ministry of Works, NIDCO and the OAS made a huge helter skelter technical blunder. Fearing negative feedback from the floods on the Eastern embankment of this highway segment, they broke the bank of the Oropouche River, the key river artery in the district, and dredged a channel to take away the water. They were hoping for water to flow from the Oropouche Lagoon into the river. Instead the water flowed inland from the river, flooding half the village.
Fifth, the drainage pipes being used to connect water from the waters on the Eastern side of the highway embankment to the Western are limited hydraulic tools. These drainage pipes are being laid at intervals; they cannot capture sheet flow moving from East to West across the Lagoon. In order to attempt to capture sheet flow the OAS engineers have dug a channel alongside the Eastern embankment; but this, as mentioned before, has backfired; high-tide salt water pushing upwards from the sea is backing into the lands, destroying crops, marooning humans and animals, and destroying homes and valued household effects. This pushback by the sea and river water at high tide causes salt water intrusion, destructive to soil and vegetation.
Sixth, following the flooding on Suchit Trace, the MP for the area made a damage-control stopover. So much was lost, so much cleaning up had to be done, the people were bitter and sick with anger. The official explanation coming from these government worthies: “clogged drain.” They promised the people hush-up money and too late re-location. The OAS, Government, corporate groups are attempting to hide or belittle the immense suffering of the people.
Seventh, farms are being cut off from their owners by the highway construction. On Tuesday 21st July, Mr Devanand Sugrim, a successful commercial farmer, was disallowed access to his farm, which was flooded, to take pictures. The OAS and Trinidad and Tobago police prevented him from crossing the Oropouche bridge construction site to get onto his farm. He had to take the long uneconomic route around; the construction has permanently cut off vehicular road access to his farm. He and his wife and son have to tote their bags of produce on their shoulders and head.

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