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US$45M to study Mazaruni hydropower potential

A US$45M pre-feasibility study is being undertaken by the governments of Guyana and Brazil to determine the potential of a hydro development project in the Marazuni, Region 7.

And the project, if successful, will see the Linden-Lethem road being upgraded as part of an agreement between the two South American neighbours.

At a press briefing Monday, Prime Minister Samuel Hinds, told the media at NCN studios that the government had embarked on exercises to brief stakeholders in the Upper and Middle Mazaruni. The studies will begin next month with the prefeasibility study being undertaken for a year and another year for the feasibility study.

The project will see two plants being set up in the area; at the Upper Mazaruni, a plant with an uninstalled capacity of 3000 megawatts while at the Middle Mazaruni , a plant with an uninstalled capacity of 1500 megawatts. The costs for the projects will be carried by a consortium comprising two Brazilian companies which are undertaking the project. 

Flanked by Foreign Affairs Minister, Carolyn Rodriques-Birkett and Amerindian Affairs Minister, Pauline Sukhai among other officials , Hinds stated that earlier this month the  political parties , private sector and the National Toshaos Council were briefed on the project . He added that he led a team last week to several Mazaruni communities where they interacted with residents on the project. The Regional Democratic Council (RDC) of Region 7 was also briefed on the project.

PM Hinds reported that discussions so far with residents in area of Upper Mazaruni included concerns about flooding as was the case in the 1970s when similar interactions were undertaken.

“We informed them that with the advancement of technology, that there is a totally different approach to the design which would reduce the reservoir significantly in the vicinity of 90 percent or more in comparison to the 1970 design.”  He added that this was confirmed by a preliminary review done by the Brazilians.

Minister Rodrigues-Birkett, stated that the project was part of a regional initiative and noted that it was on a priority list which was decided upon by UNASUR. She added that when the Takutu Bridge was commissioned, Former President Bharrat Jagdeo , and then Brazilian President Lula Da Silva  discussed the idea of having Brazilian companies supply energy from Guyana.

Responding to a question regarding the Essequibo being a “disputed area,” she said “ we cannot foresee any questions at this point in time but I think this is why it’s more important that we do it with Brazil.”

With regards to the project’s benefits, she said, “we all know that Brazil needs additional energy and she is willing to buy from who is willing to sell.” The minister noted that Guyana also needed clear and efficient energy supplies and it could create a new source of revenue locally.

According to Rodrigues-Birkett, the excess energy from that project, along with any from the one at Amaila if realised, would be sold to Brazil.

Meanwhile, Rodrigues-Birkett said the planned project was highly connected to the development of the Linden /Lethem road, a thoroughfare which has been hit by weather-related problems over the years. She said the two countries had decided that the two projects should be developed together.

“This is why you would see in the design studies, we are moving to designing what the road should look like,” she said. The minister added that the road would cost a “handsome sum.” According to the foreign minister, Brazil also decided to  frontload the development of the road if the hydro-project was feasible.

The Brazilian consortium’s director, Rodrigo D’Olveira, said that the two companies which form the consortium were both reputable entities worldwide. He noted that the studies would include a hydrometric or hydrology study which would entail studying the river, river flows, local vegetation and other assessments.

The second aspect includes hydro-physical studies with an aerial assessment of the area. Guyana Energy Agency (GEA) Head, Dr. Mahender Sharma told the briefing that the benefits of such a project would only be known when a detailed assessment was done.

A Memorandum of Understanding was signed in 2011 between governments of Guyana and Brazil for the development of the energy sector here. Government is hoping that the initiative will boost the Amaila Falls project as part of its  long term plans to develop the sector.