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Design of new Demerara River bridge yet to be approved; nearby residents left without satisfactory answers

Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 July 2023, 21:11 by Denis Chabrol

Residents of Peter’s Hall and surrounding areas at a stakeholder consultation on the new Demerara River bridge that is being constructed.

The design of the new Demerara River Bridge is yet to be approved, a Ministry of Public Works Engineer told a stakeholder meeting primarily with nearby East Bank Demerara residents who complained bitterly that they did not get proper answers to their questions.

Engineer Siddiq Khan told the consultation at the Peter’s Hall Primary School that government was getting ongoing advice by the Italian firm, Politecnica, which is expected to soon give its stamp of approval to the design of the bridge. “The design is essentially very safe because it’s going to be approved very shortly. We have already conducted all the tests, the design has already been studied by Politecnica and very soon it’s going to be approved because we had some comments,” he said. Mr Khan explained that many hurdles have been examined and so the public should be assured that ” the design is a very strong design.”

He said the Demerara River was modelled in China and a technical study has determined the type of soil on the riverbed to calculate the structure, and the flow-rate of the river.

He seemed unprepared for many of the queries such as what is the proposed buffer zone between the bridge and residents, and the exact area where the eastern end of the bridge would land and where the road would begin.

In response to repeated concerns about the shaking of buildings when trucks pass by homes, he said there was a grievance mechanism by the Italian firm, Politecnica,  that would also consider claims for the contractor to compensate residents for damage to their buildings during the project that is expected to last two years, a “very ambitious schedule.” He said the decision to compensate would be informed by a “condition survey” of properties that are adjacent to a right of way where heavy duty trucks would be traversing.

Mr Khan sought to allay fears by residents that they would not have to endure noise pollution and heavy vibration from pile driving. He said no piles would be driven. “First, we’re going to have a steel case and just like oil and gas, we’re going to insert the reinforcement in that case and then concrete will be poured into it. Right so there’s going to be no pile for the main bridge structure,” he said.

Though workers would be working around the clock, Mr Khan promised residents that every effort would be made to perform different tasks during the night to avoid terrible noise pollution.

Mr Khan declined to provide detailed time-lines for each phase of the project on the grounds that that is not normally done.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Senior Environmental Officer, Shawn Lall said after the consultations are held and concerns are addressed in the Environmental Management Plan for that project, that document has to be examined by his agency to determine if it is adequate, and recommend changes to cushion the impact of the project on the environment. He said so far the EPA has deemed the Demerara River project risky. “We have a compliance strategy at the EPA where this project is rated as a very high risk project which would require us to monitor it at least quarterly,” he said, adding that it was the responsibility of the developer to submit all required documents.

A number of residents was peeved that the stakeholder meeting was held after the project had started on January 1, 2023.  “Nobody came around to the residents. We’ve been treated very, very unsafe. You can’t sleep in the night, then or night. All the things are falling off the wall,” an elderly resident said.

Republic Park resident, Kathleen Whalen said the officials  must collect the concerns , have them addressed and return to the residents for a follow-up meeting.

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July 2023