‘Gypsy’: Scrap scrap-iron industry
By Miranda La Rose Saturday, April 21 2012
On the first day work started on the construction of the Marianne River Bridge in Blanchisseuse thieves stole an iron part valued at $400,000. This prompted acting Tourism Minister and Minister of Arts and Multiculturalism Winston ‘Gypsy’ Peters to call for the scrapping of the scrap metal industry.
The 140 ft long and ten-foot wide bridge, which spans the scenic Marianne River, was built at a cost of $2.7 million.
Known as a Bailey bridge for its builders who designed the pre-fabricated bridges for emergencies, it was commissioned yesterday in a simple ribbon-cutting ceremony by Minister of Works and Infrastructure Jack Warner in the presence of Arima Member of Parliament Rodger Samuels, Peters, and a number of residents.
The new bridge is fitted alongside the 100-year-old suspension bridge which is now closed to traffic. The old suspension bridge, Warner said, will be preserved as part of the heritage of the area.
“It will be rehabilitated and will be used for pedestrian traffic only,” he said.
The new bridge, Warner told the media following the opening of the facility, will be used for vehicular traffic and will accommodate a weight of five tonnes. It was built by SIV Construction Services Limited.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure Cheryl Blackman told the media that the iron — which was a transition part (that links the road to the actual bridge) — was stolen the very day it was installed.
The ministry, she said, purchased two Bailey bridges last year for emergencies and the transition part from the bridge in storage replaced the stolen one.
According to Warner, “We had to cannibalise one to finish the other.”
Very critical of the theft of the iron, Peters said, “scrap the scrap metal industry. It is becoming a menace to this country.
Calling on residents to protect the new bridge, he said, “there is only one way in and one way out by road. Police your property.”
Loney Charles, a Blanchisseuse resident, thanked the Ministry of Works for responding quickly to the pleas from the community, in February, when the suspension bridge was on the verge of collapse. The Bailey bridge was built in two months and one week.
“It is the first time that we got anything done so quickly in Blanchisseuse,” Charles said to a loud round of applause from community members present.
Blanchisseuse Village Community representative Joseph Esau said that though the population of Blanchisseuse was relatively sparse, the bridge will provide better access to hundreds of hikers and nature lovers, and tourists who enjoy the pristine rainforests. “They go to places like Paria and beyond, even as far as Toco,” Esau said.
Four-wheel drive vehicles will now be able to go across the river and traverse rugged terrain, but Esau said, “Beyond the bridge, don’t drive. Walk it.”
On April 2, thieves used a welding torch to cut off beams from a bridge in Point Fortin. Warner had proposed closing down the scrap iron industry but scrap iron dealers have objected saying they and their workers would be on the breadline.