New Demerara River Bridge construction: Peters Hall residents refusing Govt compensation given 1 month notice to relocate

…now asking for “fair compensation”

The Guyana Government has issued eviction notices to over a dozen residents of Peters Hall, East Bank of Demerara (EBD) after negotiations to acquire their lands for the ongoing construction of the new bridge across the Demerara River have failed.

Works ongoing on the new bridge across the Demerara River

In a statement chronicling the acquisition process, the Public Works Ministry disclosed that of the 21 properties that government was looking to acquire, only six residents had accepted the compensation packages while the remaining 15 property owners have refused the offer, citing their dissatisfaction with it.
Among the offers in the compensation packages are a free plot of residential lot (commercial and industrial where applicable) or house with lot; monetary compensation to the market value of the resident land/ building; monetary compensation for crops, and accommodation affording the resident time to rebuild.
However, with no progress made during the several engagements held between government officials and the property owners over the past year, Notices of Eviction were issued on Tuesday, May 7, 2024 to those 15 residents, informing them that they have to relocate within a month.
The notice, sent by Public Works Minister Juan Edghill, explained that while engagements with the residents were unable to yield an ‘amicable consensual financial package’, Government is pressed for time given that the project is ongoing.
Hence, the decision to proceed with the compulsory acquisition of the properties in accordance with Sections 6 and 7 of the Acquisition of Lands for Public Purposes Act, Cap. 62:05.
“You were informed that in light of the failure to arrive at an agreement on the compensation to be paid, the Government will engage the High Court in accordance with the Act for a resolution of that matter. Therefore, Title to the property now vests in the Government…”
“You are aware that the Government owes certain obligations under the contract for the construction of the said bridge which requires the Government to deliver to the contractor vacant possession of the said property. As a result of the Government’s inability to discharge these obligations, the contractor is unable to access the area for works. In the circumstances, and with sincere regret, the Government wishes to notify you that you are to vacate the said property within 30 days from the date hereof. If you fail to do so, the Government will be forced, as a matter of last resort, to evict you from the said property and demolish the same,” the notice detailed.

Fair compensation
However, the affected residents are contending that they are willing to relocate but want a “fair” compensation package.
Speaking with reporters on Wednesday one resident, Fannet Belgrave, called for equal treatment of everyone. She noted that some persons who have already agreed to move were given higher compensation than what is being offered to the remaining persons.
“It’s not fair what they’re doing; it’s not fair to people. Nobody don’t mind moving but treat everybody equally… I would say more time [be given to residents to relocate] and my main thing is, if you want people to move, treat everybody equal,” the elderly woman demanded.
Another resident, Joseph Class, estimated that his property is valued at $100 million with the fruit trees in his yard, which ranges from sucker, cane and Psidium.
“This place got big value. The place is a rich place. You plant anything, right away it coming up… But where they gon put we is a lil choke-up thing with a house there, another house [right next door] and from the front step straight to the road; you can’t do no planting. Everything will be finished,” Class stated.
The man noted that the residents will be meeting as a collective with their lawyer soon to ascertain the way forward.
In May 2022, a US$260 million contract was signed with China Railway and Construction Corporation Limited (CRCCL) for the construction of the new bridge across the Demerara River.

Works on the bridge, which will stretch from Nandy Park, East Bank Demerara (EBD) to La Grange on the West Bank of Demerara (WBD), started in May 2023 and is expected to last for two years.
The hybrid-designed bridge will feature a modern four-lane structure, cycle lane, with a 2.65 kilometers length, driving surface of about 23.6 meters and will have a lifespan of some 100 years. It will replace the current floating structure that has outlived its 10-year lifespan but serve as a critical link to connect several regions with the Capital City.
This move by the government is compulsory in acquiring the residential properties, as the December 2024 deadline inches closer for the completion of the infrastructure.
Last month, Government started this acquisition process by publishing an order, dated April 4, 2024, to acquire land for public purposes. That order is intended to make land between Peters Hall and Providence available for the Government to build connecting roads for the new Demerara River Crossing.
Back in March, it was reported that the piling phase is approximately 38 per cent completed and would be completed within four months.
In addition to the ongoing foundation work, the contractor is also engaged in constructing two pre-cast factories situated on the East and West sides of the project site. These factories are specifically being developed to manufacture pre-cast beams for bridge construction.
Works on the new bridge started in May 2023 and currently has a massive workforce of 650 workers including 120 who are Guyanese and about 85 Venezuelan migrants. (G8)