He was joined by Minister of Agriculture Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, Minister of Public Works Robeson Benn and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) Lionel Wordsworth, and several other Government Ministers.
“This is only part of total infrastructure projects that we are planning in our country…for us really to have rapid economic growth and for us to improve the quality of our lives, we have to invest in infrastructure to facilitate and encourage economic development and so this is part of that whole project,” the President told the Region Four residents gathered.
The Head of State pointed out that the project, which was conceived after repeated flooding was experienced in the area, has importance from an economical, as well as humanitarian stand point. “I myself have gone in those areas in times when there were floods, and I could attest to the way it wrenched our hearts, you will be less than human if you went to see the condition that the people were in, water flooding their homes. I remember going at one time and speaking to people right up to their step from a boat,” he said.
The President said what was more impacting was seeing farmers, some of the hardest working people in the world, putting in their labour and having to continuously witness it being destroyed or see their animals lost. “It was those conditions that formulated the ideas that we had to do something, because we had to make the choice of releasing water into the MMA, knowing full well that it will destroy people’s farms, but the alternative to that was having the pressure on the walls break and flood the whole coastal area..” he said.
Reducing the impact of the flooding on the farmers’ crops, also helped to improve production and productivity, which is extremely important, given the global issue of food security, the President said.
The commissioning of this phase of the project also addresses the issue of providing improved infrastructure for the growing number of vehicles that now traverse Guyana.
He expressed the hope that the other three components of the project will be accelerated, so that the entire transformational project can come on stream.
Following the floods of 2005 and more so in 2008, government through the NDIA explored the previous options of re-introducing relief measures to maintain a safe conservancy water level in militating against hydrological storms, particularly rainfall, resulting in water level rising above the safe threshold.
Minister Ramsammy said that the project in its entirety deserves celebration by all, for the reason that it was a signal achievement for Guyana, coming forward as a result of Guyanese intervention. He noted that the design was done by a Guyanese company, and whilst DIPCON Construction is a Trinidadian company, it has become much like a Guyanese company. “Guyanese engineers, Guyanese workers have constructed the Northern Relief Channel and this first component that is opening for vehicular traffic was done by Guyanese workers, and if we cannot celebrate that together, something is definitely wrong with us,” he said.
He noted that Guyanese too must be proud of it for the reason that it is a climate change adaptation project and it testimony to Guyana not only acknowledging climate change, but as well doing something about it. “When all is said and done, the Northern Relief Channel at Hope will be recorded as a significant input that Guyana has made to climate change in our country,” he said.
Minister Benn congratulated the Ministry, the NDIA, the engineers, the contractors and labourers for successfully bringing that component of the project to completion. He said it will ensure Guyana continues to optimise its food production by reducing the risk of flooding in the Mahaica/Mahaicony/Abary (MMA) areas.
He particularly recognised DIPCON, for being a ‘reliable development partner in Guyana’ for 19 years especially on construction work, moreso roads and bridges. “They have been with us for the long haul over all of these years, and their effort in Guyana really has to be recognised, whilst we have gone through the ups and down of developing our country, all of these years,” Minister Benn said.
Guyanese engineers and workers are learning more, and are become more formalised on the issues of safety and engineering excellence. The bridge is a single example as to how they can and are growing in terms of expertise and delivery.
The project faced many challenges during the construction phase. Wordsworth explained that during the pile driving phase, the position of the crane was a challenge due to limited working area on the western pier especially during the driving of the raking pile.
He said too, that the contractor originally said in their work proposal that the concrete beams for the bridge would be cast at DIPCON’s Owerwagt Plant, however it turned out only the bearing piles and the 17.5m short piles could have been cast. “The longest 40m beans were considered too heavy, and there was no available truck capable to transport the long span beam. Also it was determined to be impossible to be traversed around some of the turns on the main roadway, between the plant yard and the site, and as such much more time had to be spent on site preparation work,” explained. There was also period of brief delay due to the inadequate supply of aggregate for casting of concrete works.
The bridge has a length of 74.4m and a 47m sloped approach on both sides. As part of quality control as per contract and standard engineering guideline, Geotec Associates of Trinidad and Tobago was hired to conduct four tests on the pre-stressed concrete piles, to confirm the allowable bearing load for the foundation. Additionally some concrete samples were taken among the concrete cylinders, taken for laboratory testing for further analysis by another Trinidadian firm. The jack used to stress the strands in the 40m beams in the span was calibrated by the Guyana National Bureau of Statistics (GNBS) and personnel from Dywidag on the part of the contractor.
Immediately after the commissioning of the bridge, the structure was opened to traffic. The road diversion which vehicles were using to traverse the East Coast Highway in the vicinity of Hope will now be closed to facilitate the remaining works towards bringing the other components of the project to fruition.
The bridge has a 12-month defects liability period, which commences Saturday.
Also in attendance at the ceremony were Minister of Health Dr. Bheri Ramsaran, Minister of Labour Dr. Nanda Gopaul, Minister of Culture Youth and Sport Dr. Frank Anthony, and Minister in the Ministry of Finance Juan Edghill.