Race on to meet June deadline…President inspects Amaila Falls hydro road project
As contractors race against time to complete access roads leading to the Amaila Falls hydro project site in Region Eight, a team of government officials led by President Donald Ramotar visited the area on Monday to check on progress.
The roads are critical for start of the project, with financial closure expected by the third quarter of this year. Not finishing the roads in time could very well see financing, being considered by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), among other institutions, being delayed. It could have implications in the financing costs also.
With the hydro project expected to be Guyana’s largest project ever, costing at least US$840M, delays will be the last thing government would want.
The access road contract, originally estimated around US$15M ($3B), had been awarded to Synergy Holdings for the upgrade of approximately 85 kilometres of existing roadway and the design and construction of approximately 110 kilometres of new road.
Synergy Holdings was granted the road contracts, despite public protests that its owner Makeshwar ‘Fip’ Motilall, did not have the relevant experience for the road works which was through rough terrain. However, government persevered and last January, after the work fell months behind schedule, the administration ended the contract with Synergy.
It has now been awarded in parts to a number of companies. Even government, through the Ministry of Public Works, is tackling a portion of the work.
According to a government statement, the inspection by President Ramotar on Monday brought a greater understanding about the challenges ahead of the June deadline when completion is expected.
“A helicopter reconnaissance by the Head of State, in the company of Minister of Public Works, Robeson Benn, and Technical Consultant, Walter Willis, provided insight into the state of preparations on the physical infrastructure beginning from the Mabura trail into the Essequibo River.”
The officials landed at Butukari for a first hand inspection of the river crossing conditions before continuing the aerial journey up the Kuribrong River into an area Minister Benn described as one of concern, and which grants physical access to the falls.
According to Minister Benn, fair weather and low water levels made it possible for the team to visit critical areas and to have an understanding of the unresolved issues.
The IDB loan for the project, according to President Ramotar recently, hinges on a set of safeguard measures that were advanced following environmental impact studies that were conducted.
Government has insisted that the hydro project, providing some 165 megawatts of power, will ease Guyana’s dependence on fossil fuel and increase its productivity.