Rousillac farmers formed a human barricade to stop workers from the T&T Electricity Commission from entering their private lands to construct two high tension towers.
The farmers said they have been planting over four acres of lands at Grant Trace Extension for decades but within recent times, T&TEC officials informed them that their plots will be acquired by the Commission to facilitate the project.
When T&TEC’s heavy equipment lumbered into the area, the farmers used their vehicles to block the machinery from entering the private lands.
Farmer Monica Kissoon said the Commission’s actions were grossly unfair as T&TEC had failed to negotiate with them or allow them the opportunity of evaluating their landholdings.
“They are not coming for negotiations with us and this is wrong. On Thursday I got a notice that they were coming to do work on the lands. We came here and they tell us they will buss through the fence and do the work so all of us hold on to the wire and I tell them that they have to roll over me if they want to enter the line,” Kissoon said.
She added, “They are telling us they putting up two high tension towers in the land. They said that they get all the approvals but they have to get approval from the landowner first.”
She claimed T&TEC later offered her $30,000 for land and $36,000 for the fence. Other farmers were offered $130,000 per two-acre parcel. Both offers were rejected and T&TEC did not accept any counter-proposal, Kissoon added.
“The T&TEC police carried big guns like we are criminals and the T&TEC official said our lands would be seized through compulsory acquisition,” she explained.
Meanwhile, spokesperson for the farmers Vedesh Beejai said T&TEC has indicated it will be using Section 37 to acquire the land.
“This is a misuse and abuse of Section 37 because no reasonable effort has been made by T&TEC to formally acquire the land,” Beejai explained.
He added, “A couple of years T&TEC informed the farmers that they are passing a high tension wire and acquiring a portion of the land. No negotiations were arranged between the farmers and the Land Acquisition Unit but on Thursday a representative informed them that they will be entering the lands with or without their permission. The farmers erected a fence and invoked the Trespass Act.”
Bhopal Harrykissoon said T&TEC was not dealing fairly with the farmers.
“They did not give us a chance to negotiate and come to a reasonable agreement,” Harrykissoon said.
Another farmer Devika Rampersad said T&TEC should provide reasonable compensation.
“This land is used for agriculture. We have our fruit trees and crops on this land,” she added.
She said the farmers had certificates of titles vested in their name and it was unfair for T&TEC to claim the lands without due process and compensation.
Another farmer Persad Rampersad said the farmers were facing a grave injustice.
T&TEC: New circuit, a critical segment of the electricity grid
Meanwhile, T&TEC, in a statement said it was proceeding to erect transmission lines from Union-Village, La Brea to Gandhi Village, Debe.
The line in question, the Union/ Gandhi 220KV circuit, which passes through Fyzabad and Rousillac, will serve as a secondary backup to take electricity from the country’s largest electricity generating company, Trinidad Generation Unlimited (TGU) in La Brea, to T&TEC’s transmission substation in Gandhi Village, from where it will be distributed across Trinidad.
“TGU provides approximately 50 per cent of Trinidad’s electricity needs during daylight and 60 per cent at night. The new circuit is, therefore, a critical segment of the electricity grid.”
T&TEC said in the event of emergency damage or failure on the existing lines—the new circuit will continue to supply electricity to the country, avoiding widespread outages.
“On completion, the Commission will be able to transfer power to the new circuit to conduct outstanding maintenance work on the existing circuit which is over 10 years old and, in its current configuration, cannot be taken out of service for any significant period to allow preventative maintenance.”
The Commission said the project is being conducted under Section 37 of the Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission Act, Chapter 54:70, which allows T&TEC to “…cause standards, together with fittings and fixings to be erected and electric lines to be laid and carried through, across, over or under any street…through, over or under any enclosed or other lands whatsoever….
“The proposed path for the new Union/ Gandhi 220kV circuit is the most feasible option identified by T&TEC’s engineers and mirrors the existing circuit from Union to Gandhi,” the Commission added.
“In the first instance has embarked on a process of negotiation to compensate private landowners who will be adversely affected by the installation of this line. If these attempts at good-faith negotiations fail, the Commission will be left with no option but to compulsorily acquire the affected lands in the best interest of the public.”
T&TEC said offer letters have been issued to some and the others are in progress.
“These offers were based on independent valuations. Despite claims to the contrary, the Commission has made itself available for negotiation with the owners and is awaiting their response.”
The Commission added, “It remains open to negotiating with the affected landowners for reasonable compensation but remains committed to completing in a timely fashion the installation of the Union/Gandhi 220kV circuit which is vital to meeting the transmission requirements of its power network in the nation’s best interests.”