MOU to govern use of interior roads

A Memorandum of Under-standing (MOU) that governs the use of hinterland roads was launched yesterday and the framers hope this will settle conflicts now arising with the use of roads built by loggers.

This MOU is generic and is formatted to allow the names of the builders and the users of the road to be inserted.

Prime Minister Samuel Hinds told the media at a press conference yesterday that the MOU sets the stage for access to hinterland roads which are costly to build and to maintain.

On average, Hinds explained, it costs US$30,000 to US$40,000 or $6M-$8M to surface one mile of road with loam or other materials and another $1M per year per mile to maintain the road.

These roads, it was said, deteriorate easily, particularly in the rainy season, but they are essential for the development of the hinterland, and for the increasing number of coastal residents moving there, as well as for the nation’s tourism.

This MOU seeks to regulate the relationship between builders and users of the roads, since there is need for collaboration among those who work in the hinterland so the cost of the infrastructure can be spread, Hinds said.

Involved in the framing of the MOU were the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission, the Guyana Forestry Commission and the Lands and Surveys Commission along with the Ministry of Transport and Hydraulics and the Ministry of Agriculture.

Agriculture Minister Robert Persaud, who was also at the press conference, noted that the document took some time to formulate and was on the table since 1994, when the focus was on a coordinated approach on infrastructure. During that period there was a low level of conflict, he said, but by 2000 road users increased and more serious conflicts developed. This was followed by formal written complaints in 2003 through the Prime Minister’s office and a number of meetings were convened, he said, but these were not very helpful in reaching a final resolution.

But last year a first draft was formulated and this was refined and later submitted to Cabinet through a memo by Persaud, which was then referred to a Cabinet sub-committee and was later endorsed by Cabinet.

This generic document, the minister said, allows for specific agreements between parties and for the payment of tolls. It will give assurances that only legitimate commercial users can use the road, while residents can use the roads for subsistence activities without paying tolls. The tolls to be paid will be regulated by the Transport and Hydraulics Ministry and will be paid to the builders of the roads. This will be done after a permit is issued to the builders detailing that the tolls can be collected and from whom, as well as the approved general usage of the roads.

Tolls collected are expected to go towards maintenance of the roads.

In Appendix B of the MOU, a description of the road maintenance activities was set out. These include the removal of soil, vegetation and other materials that would obstruct water flow to be cleared from ditches; turnout drains, culverts and bridges to be kept clear and in good working condition at all times; road surface maintenance to be performed as needed; and cross-fall and road shape to be maintained to allow effective drainage.

This section of the MOU also states that surfacing gravel or loam should be pushed to the road edge or into drains; bridge decking, foundations and side walls to be checked regularly; any debris that has been pushed into the water-course shall be removed; water should flow freely under bridges; silt traps should be cleaned regularly and construction/upgrading should take place in the dry season only.

Hinds said that there was wide consultation beginning in 1994 towards an MOU. He said this after he was asked to comment on the Miners Association saying they were not consulted.

Detailed in the MOU are terms and conditions of usage of the roads such as the weight allowed to cross bridges, users’ risk, rules for using the road and substances not allowed on the roads such as the selling of illegal drugs, firearms and the bartering, borrowing or lending of chattel from or to the road building workers.

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