THE EDITOR: The Highway Reroute Movement has been engaged in a struggle against the construction of the Debe to Mon Desir highway for nine plus years.
The struggle has been against successive governments that have been determined to construct this multibillion-dollar highway extension without providing robust, sound evidence to justify this massive expenditure nor to explain why it is such an essential, priority project in the midst of the many failing systems in the country, eg healthcare, criminal justice.
One aspect of this fight is about unfair land acquisition using what could only be described as an archaic, draconian law, but it is also a fight for economic, social, financial and environmental justice.
From a larger perspective, it is a fight for good governance, one characterised by transparency, accountability, one that follows the rule of law, one that is participatory, communicative and inclusive.
None of these characteristics has been demonstrated with regard to this Debe to Mon Desir highway project.
Poor governance leads to poor decision-making with damaging consequences. This highway project, for instance, is damaging to the economy, to the involved communities, to the environment and ultimately to the nation as a whole.
There has been many questions about the project, yet no reasonable, logical, evidence-based answers have been forthcoming.
I ask you to consider the following:
1.Why are governments so determined to construct this section of highway? Where is the evidence-based justification for it? The governments have not shown how this project is essential to the welfare of the nation.
2. Why was no proper cost-benefit analysis done for this multibillion-dollar project, one which will add to the national debt?
3. Why was no hydrology study done to determine the impact of such a project on the water-flow systems and flooding in the area, given the fact that it is an eight-to-ten-foot highway embankment being built over a large expanse of wetlands.
4. How much more land is being deforested and quarried to provide material for this project and what about the flooding impact of this in various parts of the country?
5. Why were the concerns and recommendations made by experts in the IMA and even the EMA scientists, and residents in the area, to follow proper process not heeded by the governments?
6. Why were the recommendations of the Armstrong Report, produced by an independent team of 19 experts and scientists, in fields all relevant to this project, ignored by the governments?
The report clearly states that no proper social impact assessment, hydrological study, environmental cost-benefit analysis were done. It clearly stated that no works should proceed unless a scientific process was applied. Yet, the governments did not take heed.
So, I hope people see that there are many facets to this issue and its impacts are far-reaching. I hope you see what this issue and issues like this really are – symptoms of a chronic disease known as poor governance.
I hope that one day people can see the bigger picture and understand that if you want leadership that yields authentic, sustainable development for all, then your loyalty should lie with the principles of good governance.