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Opposition MPs visit Amaila Falls road

Several opposition parliamentarinans on a site visit of the Amaila Falls road (GINA photo)

Members of the Parliamentary Opposition, the Alliance for Change (AFC) and the A partnership for National unity (APNU) were today given a guided tour of the Amaila Falls Hydropower project site and the access road leading to the site.

Describing the visit as timely, APNU Parliamentarian Dr Rupert Roopnarine said they were pleased to have the opportunity to be on the ground. “You see reports but it is only if you’re coming here to see what is actually happening, especially with some of the difficulties involved, that you grasp the project. From what I see reasonable progress is being made”.

APNU Parliamentarian Joseph Harmon remarked that they had been afforded an excellent opportunity to see the road and challenges facing the contractors. “The fact that we have been able to see sections of the road has highlighted the need for government to make this kind of opportunity available for us as members of parliament so that we can get a better understanding of the challenges they face in completing the project… We have asked questions and received appropriate responses”.

The visit was deemed as a “A signal in the government’s willingness to be more open with opposition members as it was unreasonable to expect their buy-in on a project of such magnitude,” according to APNU Parliamentarian Ronald Bulkan.

For the AFC’s David Patterson, the site visit was “A timely and interesting effort to review the progress on the project and it was much appreciated”. He said that he was pleased with the progress on sections completed and his party will pronounce on its findings after a due-diligence report is completed by the Inter American Development Bank (IDB) and a second follow-up visit is done in the next three or four months.

Public Works Minister Robeson Benn accompanied by his ministry’s top engineering staff said it was essential for stakeholders to be aware of the efforts that are being undertaken to ensure Guyana’s largest ever project is successful.

Minister Benn said the visit was put forward by President Donald Ramotar as a way to let the Opposition members have a ‘look-see’ and understand the challenges faced in completing the project.

“I think we had a significant day in terms of seeing how we as Guyanese could develop our resources, in partnership with others for the further development of our country…in spite of our differences in parliament of elsewhere, they should only support and not override national interest”.

In April, the parliamentary opposition voted to cut funding for the Low Carbon Development Strategy programme under which money was catered for the Amaila Falls project. Prime Minister Samuel Hinds who has oversight for the energy sector had pleaded with the Opposition not to cut the budget and laid out reasons why such a huge project should not be jeopardised.

He said the cut in the expenditure from the Guyana Redd + Investment Fund (GRIF) will greatly compromise the Amaila Falls development and, so, frustrate the efforts of the Government to provide Guyanese with a much cheaper source of electricity, protected against increases in the cost of petroleum products.  Specifically, the proposed cuts will prevent the completion of the Amaila Falls road in good time, and the equity investment by the State in the Amaila Falls Development.

At the last post- Cabinet briefing, Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr Roger Luncheon stated that amidst significant challenges, the end- of -year deadline to complete the all – weather road to the Amaila Falls Project remains a target. The road is crucial to accessing the hydro site located in Region Eight, but according to Dr Luncheon, the magnitude of the work required to complete the road has presented formidable challenges.

“It (construction) provides for an all-weather road that spans so many of the geographic regions, moving through flat surface, moving through forested… the riverain communities and finally in section seven, lot seven into essentially virgin lands,” Dr Luncheon said.

Thus far, works in sections prior to seven have progressed satisfactorily, and according to Dr. Luncheon, “additional contracting power” has been summoned to fortify efforts to complete works in the crucial sections, particularly where the site will be built.

The road project has had its fair share of challenges including a major stumbling block with the termination of the road contract to ‘Fip’ Motilall of Synergy Holdings who failed to meet obligations under the terms of the contract awarded to him.

Government had given consideration to contracting China Railway First Group Company Limited to complete the final sections. It was contracted to build the plant after signing off on a loan agreement in 2010 along with the Guyana Power and Light Company, Sithe Global and China Development Bank.

The US$840M Hydro Electric Plant involves the construction of a hydropower plant in the area of west-central Guyana, where the Amaila and Kuribrong rivers meet. Electricity produced at the plant will be delivered to Guyana’s capital, Georgetown, and its second largest town, Linden, by a transmission line. The project, once completed, will result in significant foreign exchange savings and a regular supply of inexpensive, reliable electricity for Guyanese.

The project is a fundamental component of Guyana’s LCDS, and will significantly lower the nation’s carbon footprint while reducing its long -term energy costs and exposure to imported oil price volatility.

The road way will be seven meters wide with a 20- tonne capacity; while bridges crossing creeks will have a 120-tonne capacity. Dynamic Engineering has been awarded the $393 M contract to construct a four- span bridge with steel caissons across the Kuirbrong River.