Gov’t to aid Timehri North relocation but compensation not on table

-Benn tells residents

Public Works Minister Robeson Benn met with more Timehri North residents on Wednesday to discuss their relocation to facilitate the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, Timehri (CJIA) expansion project, and he assured government’s interest in helping but said it would not include compensation.

The Government Informa-tion Agency (GINA) stated that efforts are being made to finalise the relocation plan using information collected at the meetings held so far.

Persons living near the airport have been asked to remove from the lands they occupy so as to facilitate the airport expansion project, which includes an extension of the primary runway to a total of 10,800 feet to accommodate large transatlantic aircraft, along with construction of a new terminal building, acquisition of eight boarding bridges, and installation of other state-of-the-art equipment. But the government has met stiff resistance over the lack of a concrete relocation plan.

Benn met with of Phase 2 North Timehri on Wednesday, following a previous engagement with residents of Phase 1, who live very close to the airport and would be directly impacted by the extension project since they would be in line with the runway.

GINA said the Ministry of Public Works is collaborating with the Housing and Human Services and Social Security ministries, and the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commis-sion to fast track the relocation process. It added that so far a fair amount of work has gone into the development of a planned community in Yarrowkabra, where space will be available for schools, a health centre and play ground.

Benn was reported to have acknowledged the pains and anxieties of the relocation and said government wants to mitigate the problems as much as possible. To this end, Benn told the residents that while the government will not be able to compensate them for relocating—since equity cannot be placed on a house that would have been built without a legal title—it will explore ways to assist them, including the purchasing of a bus to provide transportation and assisting with cement mixers.

“Our effort here is to advance the process whereby the land required for the airport expansion and the establishment of safe areas for airport operations of an international standard are sequestered…that we get those lands and we put them to proper utilisation,” Benn was quoted as saying.

Benn recalled the previous meetings about the airport’s expansion and reiterated that the runway is too short for efficient and safe airport operations of an international standard and that the terminal is too small to handle efficiently the number of people who travel in and out of Guyana.

“This airport expansion project is a critical national development project… if we are unable to bring people to Guyana at cheaper airfares, if we are unable to handle them efficiently, if we are unable to have an airport that is safe—meaning that planes don’t run off the end or crash into people’s homes—or if we don’t have an airport that is secure from the risk of armed attacks, we would not meet the standards of an international airport, we would not be certified at the level which is necessary for this type of operation,” Benn said.

GINA added that apart from the residents, the Guyana Defence Force and Guyana Prison Service sites at Timehri also have to be relocated.

Meanwhile, it said CJIA Chief Executive Officer Ramesh Ghir explained that the purpose of the meetings was to engage with the persons living close to the airport, particularly those from Timehri North, to gather demographic information which would then be factored into an evaluation that would guide the decisions regarding relocation. Ghir also made available information and illustrations to the residents so that they would have a better understanding of the project.

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