Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan yesterday poured cold water on fresh claims by environmental activist group Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) that the ministry has breached the Certificate of Clearance (CEC) for the proposed, multi-million dollar Cumuto to Manzanilla Highway.
“I think this visit is for you, the media, to see first hand what is happening and we expect that you then, will relay that back to the population,” he told reporters before a tour of the first phase of the highway in Cumuto, which is projected to be completed in 14 months.
The entire highway project, which is to be done in three phases, is expected to be completed in three years.
Sinanan, who was accompanied by Hayden Phillip, manager of the Programme for Upgrading Road Efficiency and other officials, made it clear his ministry had not breached the CEC.
In a statement on Friday, FFOS corporate secretary Gary Aboud claimed it had filed a direct private party action with the Environmental Commission.
The group’s latest legal action came days before its application for leave to appeal the dismissal of another lawsuit over the granting of the CEC, to the Privy Council. That matter is expected to be heard by the Court of Appeal tomorrow.
FFOS’ action came less than one month after the Court of Appeal dismissed a case brought by the organisation challenging the decision of the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) to grant a CEC to the ministry for the construction of the Cumuto to Manzanilla Highway.
The ministry had claimed victory in the court action, which effectively cleared the way for the ministry and its agent, the National Infrastructure Development Company Ltd, to proceed with the construction of the highway.
The highway has been a sore point for Opposition parliamentarians, some of whom have complained about its possible impact on the Aripo Savannas–a nature reserve.
Opposition senator Wade Mark also called on Government to investigate whether there is a “ten per cent kickback” from the $400 million highway project for the next general election.
NIDCO chairman Herbert George said there was too much misinformation about the project in the public domain.
“We have gotten enough false information in the media that we want to correct,” he said. “Once it is accurately reported, it will deal or counteract with the false information that we are so keen to spread.”
NIDCO’s project engineer Perkins Marshall said the construction zone of the first phase of the highway was located some 550 metres from the Cumuto Road.
“The buffer that is being expressed in the papers and in the media is, according to our CEC, 100 metres wide. NIDCO and its designers and the contractor will maintain a 100 metre wide buffer zone from the Aripo Savannahs,” he said.
Perkins said the Aripo Savannas boundary also borders the north boundary of the Trinidad Government Rail Reserve, which is 40 metres wide.
“So, if you are maintaining a buffer of 100 metres .... then you will get the Trinidad Government Rail Reserve 40 metres wide and then a further 60 metres of forest and then our construction zone will start.”