Roofs have been stripped and lots have been cleared as NIDCO readies the land for the ANR Robinson Airport Expansion Project in Tobago, but residents in the Crown Point area are still being told that they don’t have to worry as only surveys are currently being done.
However, for many, the sounds of buildings being demolished and trees and vegetation being cleared by heavy equipment yesterday signalled distress.
Residents in the path of the project said they were given notice by NIDCO, the managers of the project, that the company would be undertaking pre-construction condition surveys in the area from September 21- October 12. However, they said it was only when they observed roofs being taken off, lots being cleared and a house being demolished that the seriousness of their current situation sank in.
Rhonda Hackett, who represents the PEECE Movement, the group of residents who say they intend to stand their ground until they are fairly compensated, said she believes that more than just studies were currently being done.
“In the start, we were told that they would not create any major disruptions and they would start on one section and when they are complete they would move as they expand and then persons would be asked to evacuate,” Hackett told Guardian Media yesterday.
But she said that plan seems to have changed as so far, one building had been demolished and several lots have been cleared. She said the area actually identified for the survey is far away from where work is currently being done.
“My observations is that payments would have been made to persons who accepted payments in early June who were given a ninety-day period to evacuate their property regardless of what their status is and that period would end around now.”
She said residents affiliated to the PEECE Movement continue to hold their position in spite of ongoing work.
However, while some residents have decided to stand their ground, others say they are scared as they don’t have deeds for the properties they occupy.
Sandra Singh is one of those residents. Yesterday, she said she and her family have been living at their location for over eight years
“They told us that the people who have deeds, they dealing with them first and after they will deal with the other side.”
Singh is one of 150 residents who will have to be relocated to make way for the airport expansion project. She said she is awaiting further instruction from NIPDEC but when she and others saw buildings being taken apart yesterday they began to worry.
“We had sleepless nights. A lot of people complaining because they don’t know where they going and you hear a lot of rumours that they putting us in the road and all kind of thing, but one person came the other day and told us don’t listen to what they saying, they treating the people fair but I don’t really understand what going on,” Singh said.
Singh, who shares her home with her daughter and two grandsons, said they don’t have anywhere else to go and have decided to stay on the property until NIDCO advises them of their options.
Contacted yesterday, however, NIDCO chairman Herbert George said the project is currently still in the design phase.
“We are doing the designs now and when that is complete we will move some ground,” George said, adding the land acquisition process would precede the construction phase of the project.
He said negotiations with members of PEECE are still ongoing but several residents have decided to accept the offers made to them. Residents like Sandra Singh, he added, will be treated in accordance with the law.
In response to queries from Guardian media, NIDCO said it was seeking to acquire 126 properties and had so far reached agreement with 72 owners. It added that 68 approvals for payment had been made and 48 property owners had actually received their payments.