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EIA not holding up new road

Environment 03 Apr, 2024 Follow News

EIA not holding up new road

At a sitting of the National Conservation Council meeting which took place on Wednesday, Department of Environment Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie said that, contrary to what was being said in some corners of the island, the Environmental Impact Assessment was not holding up the progress of the East/West Arterial project.

Ms Ebanks-Petrie said the Environmental Assessment Board was “moving along” with the Environmental Impact Assessment. The EAB had reviewed all but two of the technical chapters of the EIA for the road, she confirmed.

She pointed out that there had been a lot of commentary in the public domain about the EIA itself and the fact that this “will stop the road etc.” and so she wanted to reiterate that the terms of reference were completed for the East/West arterial with an understanding that the Government had already taken a policy decision to build a road, so the EIA was never intended to compare a road as a solution to the traffic problems verses something else, such as a monorail or some other form of public transportation.

“That was never the intent of the EIA,” she confirmed. “The EIA was always about trying to identify the most environmentally, socially responsible route for that road. That continues to be our focus,” she said.

The DOE Director went on to say that the last chapter that the EAB reviewed and provided feedback on was the hydrogeology and hydraulics study that was being carried out by the NRA’s own consultants, a report which was outside of the EIA process, but was informing the EIA.

“There is a large amount of misunderstanding about the detail that is contained within the hydrogeology and hydraulics reports received from the consultants,” Ms Ebanks-Petrie stated. “At this stage, the consultants have confirmed that the data, the information, the level of detail, that they have provided in those reports will be sufficient for comparative purposes - for comparing the different routes in the EIA, for example, so they are able to meet the requirements of the EIA.”

What the studies did not do, however, was provide enough information or detailed data for the NRA to do any kind of design work or engineering work on the roads, she said.

“Our understanding is that the level of detail and design is only at about 10% of the design specifications for construction plans. That means there is a high level analysis of preliminary horizontal and vertical geometry and typical sections for the roadway and the bridges. The project is going through a shortlist evaluation to arrive at the preferred option for the roadway and, once this is selected, the engineering design can be further advanced to approximately 30%,” she clarified.

Mrs Ebanks-Petrie wanted to make it clear that the idea that if there were no EIA there would still be enough information to design and construct the road was not born out by the facts.

“The facts are, the level of data that has been supplied thus far in the hydrogeology and the hydraulics component of this road is not sufficient to design or build the road,” she advised. “I just wanted to make it really clear that it is not the EIA that is holding up the construction of the road and that seems to be the refrain we are all hearing.”

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