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Economic impact of Niherst Science City

Monday, July 27, 2015

Just south of and contiguous with the newly-constructed Children’s Hospital in Couva, the Niherst Science City is being constructed. Whilst the initial expenditure on the first phase of construction is from governmental subventions, private funding is also envisaged, in the public/private partnership mode, for subsequent phases of development.

It is a good engineering habit to start from first principles. So exactly who is Niherst and what is this Niherst Science City about? Niherst is the National Institute of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology. It celebrated its thirtieth anniversary a few months. It spawned the Accreditation Council of T&T (ACTT) and Costaatt (College of Science, Technology and Applied Arts of T&T). 

Operations and activities, extensive and impactful, span from the community level with the Community Science Week to the international level with the NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration of the USA) research internship programme. It also operates the National Science Centre located of the Churchill Roosevelt Highway, D’Abadie. This is a rented facility and is proving to be inadequate for the increasing offerings and programmes. Hence the need to move to a larger and permanent location. 

The Niherst Science City is intended to be a high-tech hub that will facilitate discovery and learning, innovative R&D, technology adaptation, innovation, product design and commercialisation and futuristic entertainment and leisure facilities. This would be facilitated by the sporting, heavy industrial, medical, agricultural and university facilities within easy reach. 

The conceptual design includes several unique and novel centres and exhibits which incorporate high technology with culture; agriculture with history and advanced ICTs and robotics-based flora, fauna and folklore among its unique offerings. Renewable energy and sustainable, environmental architecture and practices are core and integral elements of the Science City.

It is with an immense sense of pride and pleasure that I indicate that the conceptual design is mine and do express sincere appreciation to the Board and management of Niherst and the Minister of Science and Technology for the unstinting support of the effort to bring it to fruition. 

So what will be the economic impact of the expenditure? It will be of the direct and indirect types and at the personal, community and national levels. The Science City is located in the community of Indian Trail, Couva. For a starter, the value of land in the immediate and surrounding communities, Preysal, Milton etc, have already appreciated significantly. Of course the Children’s Hospital did also have a big effect. So at the personal and community levels, citizens of the aforementioned areas have already reaped economic benefits. 

This project is being constructed in three phases and is likely to be completed in a decade or so. In the first phase (in progress), local engineering consultants and contractors are being utilised with the stipulation that people from the community with the requisite skill be hired. So jobs have been created and the numbers will as expand as the construction activities intensify. These will be available for many years.   

With the opening of the first phase, anticipated to be within the next 18 months, new permanent/contractual jobs will become available, particularly for science and engineering graduates. The entire facility, located on some 52 acres of land, will be landscaped and need to be maintained. Again, several jobs will be created during the actual landscaping process and the subsequent maintenance of the facility. As the area has been traditionally involved in agriculture, naturally people from Indian Trail and the surrounding communities will be viewed favourably.

In the spirit of good corporate governance and social responsibility, a meeting was held with the community on site, before the start of construction. They were informed of the above.

• To be continued.


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