EPA launches new process for new bridge over Demerara

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-mangroves should be removed

-the public has 30 days to appeal again

The EPA yesterday launched a new process for the approval of a new bridge over the Demerara River and stuck to its controversial opinion that an environmental impact assessment (EIA) is not required even though protected mangroves will have to be removed.

Thirty days have now been reserved for the public to appeal the decision.

An earlier approval process for the new bridge was halted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at the appeal stage after it was severely criticized by environmentalists and civil society activists for failing to provide the reasons why an EIA was not necessary.

In its opinion published yesterday in the state-owned Guyana Chronicle, the EPA corrected this flaw by providing a link to the reasons why it decided that an EIA was not necessary.

The EPA said yesterday’s notice superseded all others.

According to the opinion, the EPA “after considering the application has determined that it will not significantly affect the environment and is therefore exempt from the obligation to conduct an environmental impact assessment (EIA ), as stated in Section 11 of the Environmental Protection Act., Cap. 20:05, Laws of Guyana… this notice hereby replaces any previous notice regarding this proposed project.

Those likely to be affected by the project and wishing to oppose the non-requirement of an EIA by the EPA are invited to appeal to the Environmental Assessment Board (EAB) within 30 days of publication. the first opinion.

Based on the project summary, replacing the existing 43-year-old floating bridge is essential for a number of reasons ranging from exceeding its lifespan to costly and regular maintenance. The project summary also indicates that there is an increased vulnerability to disruptive incidents on the bridge and that it limits passenger capacity due to the long and slow retraction process.

The Demerara Harbor Bridge (DHB) was built by the British company Mabey and Johnson and commissioned on July 2, 1978, and connects region three (Essequibo-West Demerara Islands) to Meer-Zorgen on the west bank of the Demerara River with Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica) at Peter’s Hall, East Bank Demerara.

The new bridge is expected to land near Nandy Park on the east bank of the Demerara River and at La Grange / Meer-Zorgen in the West Bank. Based on the information provided, the bridge is expected to land about 700 meters inland from the east side of Demerara and will be raised 50 meters at the start of the channel – which is closer to the east side. The descent is planned at the rate of 5%.

The scope of work in the design / build contract included the complete design and construction of a two-lane (four-lane) carriageway, a hybrid center-span cable-stayed bridge with box-section approach bridge structures in concrete / T-beam, and must include bridge collision protection, a navigation span to accommodate Handymax vessel navigation aids, lighting, signage and all other ancillary works, an access road with a minimum of 50 meters to the abutments, toll collection buildings and ancillary buildings on the West Bank of the Demerara River.

In August, the EPA announced that it would not require an EIA for the project, which is expected to significantly alter the region’s landscape, both during and after construction. Since then, the agency has come under heavy criticism for its decision not to require an EIA for the DHB project and several other development companies that would have a significant impact on the environment.

Reasoning

Yesterday’s notice provided people with a link to the reasons for its decision not to require an EIA. The EPA’s publication of the reasons for its decision is now becoming a trend following calls from various environmentalists and transparency activists.

The EPA said its conclusions were drawn based on existing data, a technical review, field observations / inspections, engagement with residents and the exercise of its discretion.

Regarding the biodiversity aspect of its reasoning, the EPA stated that the impacts are not potentially significant despite the requirement to clear approximately 2,360 m2 (47.2 mx 50 m) of mangroves at La Grange. Providing a rationale, the reasoning proposed “… No endangered species are found in the region. Snowy Egret and Scarlet Ibis are seen in the area. This withdrawal is considered negligible as the impacts will be minimal and localized since the area is already affected by human activities and the withdrawal will be limited to a relatively small and localized area.

The EPA said the impacts will certainly occur, but the risks are considered medium and therefore mitigation measures have been proposed. These measures include the limited and gradual clearing of mangroves and an assessment of affected mangroves after construction is completed. It also offers, in compensation for destroyed mangroves, the planting of trees, shrubs and grasses resistant to fire.

At Versailles / Malgre Tout, WBD, a short walk from the proposed landing site of the new DHB, a large swath of mangroves has been cleared for the construction of a land-based facility to service the oil and gas sector. A recent World Bank climate report said coastal areas that have mangroves suffer 40% less damage during storm surges than other coastal areas.

The EPA said it had found that around 24 lots would need to be acquired to facilitate the landing of the bridge at the east end of the Demerara, but due to the small number of households to be relocated, it considers the problem “weak and not potentially important ”. He notes that the bridge will pass around 40 households in Nandy Park and Providence, but estimated that despite increased traffic and subsequent business activity, the risk remains minimal.

With the potential for nominal contamination of the Demerara River as a result of accidents due to minor fuel / oil leaks / spills during construction and operation following accidents, the EPA said that since Surface water in the project area is not used for drinking, so the risks are considered negligible and do not bring any significant change to water quality. He justified this opinion by stressing that the Demerara river and the drainage canals “suffered from inherited contamination, in particular from residences and industries upstream and downstream of the project site”.

The possibility of sedimentation and stormwater runoff, during construction, is high and as such, the EPA has stated that erosion and sedimentation measures will be implemented as a means of mitigating the impacts. He added that no more than 300 liters of fuel would be transported to the Demerara River in order to reduce the impacts in the event of a spill.

With a construction of such magnitude, it means that there would be an increase in traffic, noise and dust pollution. However, the EPA says that sprinkling materials on the construction site, properly maintaining machinery, and covering materials stored at the site would reduce impacts on air quality in the area.

The increase in noise is also considered “not potentially significant” since there will be specified hours of operation and noise abatement measures implemented.

“The overall significance of the environmental impacts of this project is considered low to medium and manageable from a technical, social and financial point of view. The overall social impact of the project will be positive. Therefore, this proposed project is exempt from performing an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), in accordance with Section 11 (2) of the Environmental Protection Act, Cap. 8:05 p.m., Laws of Guyana. Although the EPA has exempted this project from the requirement of an EIA, it is recommended that an Environmental, Social and Management Plan (ESMP) be prepared for this project, ”EPA said.

Although he mentioned the pile driving for the new bridge in the context of noise generation, he did not address the geotechnical and other implications of this structure compared to what currently exists.

In early November, the government announced that it would hire the China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC) to build the bridge since it submitted the lowest compliant bid. The company has yet to accept the award and enter into negotiations with the government regarding the contract and design of the bridge.

The CSCEC, in its tender document, set the cost of constructing the bridge at US $ 256,638,289 and this is based on the Design, Build and Finance (DBF), or Design, Build, option. financing, operation and maintenance (DBFOM).

Negotiations were due to begin after President Irfaan Ali returned from the United Nations Climate Change Summit (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, but the president’s office did not say whether the process had started.

1st decision

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