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NDP, tell us about your Trans Island Road

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EDITOR: Ever since the people of Rose Hall rejected the NDP over nine months ago the level of criticism of the Cross Country Road (CCR) has faded sharply.

The project timelines and benefits especially those linked to the planned Argyle International Airport have been clearly outlined and the first phase is well under way.{{more}}

In 2004 the NDP made numerous statements in the media categorically opposing the CCR, sighting various issues, which include the environment; absence of a precise route; relevance; and benefits. They also raised dubious claims such as La Soufriere will affect the road; the proposed route had sink holes or was prone to slippage, that a 350-foot-wide strip of forest would be cut across the island; (totally untrue); that our water taps would run dry, (when our water catchments are unlikely to be affected); and no EIA will be performed; (It was announced repeatedly that an EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment will be done).

Standard joke

As the ULP Government rolls out project after project it has also become quite common for the opposition to say “Oh it was already in the pipeline”. This has now become something of a standard joke where for a number of these projects conceived under the previous government, the proverbial pipeline required serious unplugging from a ULP plumber. The opposition is often quick to use every opportunity to oppose, but in the fullness of time and enough rope, the NDP always seems to hang itself.

Last week Adrian Fraser joined the discussion on the Cross County Road publishing without comment that the Old Colonial Government and legislature contemplated building a road from the Cumberland /Hermitage Valley to Three Rivers in 1904 and again in 1940.

It should be noted that in 1904, roads were largely built by hand but today the equipment and engineering experience that is now available makes road building in mountainous areas anywhere in the world a much simpler feat. It should also be clear that the ULP Government does not plan to introduce arable agriculture in the interior. Rather it will explore the possibility of agro forestry and reforestation of deforested areas. However, it is clear that Dr. Fraser did not study the Ivo Jackson Report and has now joined others in trying to mislead the people.

During 2003 and 2004 Consultations on the Cross Country Road were conducted in Spring Village, South Rivers and Rose Hall. The Ivo Jackson Environmental Cataloguing Study determined that a more suitable northern route from Rose Hall to Ferguson Mountain was the preferred corridor of two proposed routes. The more southern route from Cumberland / Spring Village to South Rivers which is the route referred to in Adrian Fraser’s Article was rejected.

The approach adopted in the Construction of the CCR is quite sound: 1. Forming an initial Technical Advisory Team 2. Environmental Cataloguing 3. Digital Mapping (unavailable in 1940) 4. Development of detailed engineering designs towards a precise route; followed by 5-The EIA: The EIA was never conceived to be a step, which would have determined if the road should be built. Any notion that an EIA should be done in the beginning, before the other four (4) steps is flawed and an incorrect approach.

Too embarrassed

Amidst the efforts to confuse and mislead Vincentians, at no time has the NDP or Dr. Fraser ever come clean and revealed that they had the Cross Country Road in the pipeline. After the 1998 elections the NDP adopted several ULP proposals and set about over two (2) years 1999, 2000 and early 2001 to plan the construction of their version of the (CCR) called a Trans Island Road, (TIR). They did not simply keep this project in the pipeline; they had gone as far as actually applying to the European Union (EU) for funding and had even traced out their preferred route on the map which was the old unacceptable Cumberland / Spring Village route.

Similarly to the Ottley Hall project, Eustace and Mitchell did not reveal much of the details of the plans for the roads to many in the NDP who are now too embarrassed to even admit the existence of these plans.

Two of our most important official government documents developed by Eustace’s Ministry of Planning; The 1999 and the 2000 Country Strategy Paper spelling out the NDP’s proposal, were sent to the European Union (EU) for funding. The 2000 document even had a map showing the NDP Trans Island Road going through Troumaca, Rose Hall, and Hermitage in the Cumberland Valley and crossing the central range to the back of Greggs and South Rivers.

The NDP’s route for this Trans Island Road is similar to that of the ULP’s CCR in one respect only. It also starts in Troumaca and Rose Hall, however, quite surprisingly, rather than travelling north-easterly through Palmyra and Newfoundland towards Ferguson Mountain, the NDP’s road dips south-easterly into Hermitage then over the mountain range to the back of Greggs then South Rivers.

The ULP’s route clearly avoids Cumberland, Hermitage and South Rivers which are major sources of our drinking water and hydroelectricity, The NDP’s road goes right through them. The NDP’s Trans Island Road had an estimated construction costs of only EC $20 Million and gave similar benefits and reason to that of the ULP.

Hypocrisy

The NDP also placed 70,000 in the 2001 budget for preliminary assessment of the road. With the level of NDP criticism of the current project, this revelation is clearly the height of hypocrisy and deception. Why didn’t Dr. Fraser publish these documents? How can the NDP criticise the project when all evidence suggest they would have built the road themselves. Non-the-less, the NDP sees this as being consistent with their primary role of providing opposition.

Did Dr. Fraser or even Cummings know about the NDP’s Trans Island Road (TIR)? And why didn’t they criticise the NDP for their plans for such a road?

In the fullness of time if you give deception enough rope, it will hang itself. Why have Eustace and the NDP done everything to keep this a secret? He cannot deny knowledge of these plans as he was the then Minister of Finance and Planning and Prime Minister. Why haven’t they come clean and admitted they had advanced plans for this road in the pipeline? Why has the NDP tried to stain the name of St. Vincent and the Grenadines by writing to environmental groups all over the world? Eustace should come clean and explain to the nation the NDP’s own plans for a Trans Island Road, less everything else Eustace says must also be suspect.

Jerrol Thompson

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