Almost one-fifth of the area earmarked for the $3B Hope/Dochfour man-made canal has been cleared and despite rains, government says it is now moving to advertise for tenders for the construction of a number of critical structures.
Six excavators and a bulldozer were yesterday working to clear a 300-feet wide swath aback Hope, a few miles from the main road.
During an inspection of the works with the media yesterday, Minister of Agriculture, Robert Persaud, also disclosed that an estimated 40 farmers who would have had to be removed from the area, located on the East Coast of Demerara, have been compensated in excess of $110M with alternative farming areas found for them.
A few farmers still had rice and other cash crops and an excavator was seen working around one of the plots.
According to the Minister, work is proceeding in an extensive manner since February 5, with rains holding up activities in the area nearer to the East Demerara Water Conservancy (EDWC).
By this weekend, to save time, tenders will be advertised for the construction of a high level sluice outfall structure, a 300-foot long concrete bridge for the public road and a regulator that will control the flow of water from the EDWC to the canal.
The EDWC Northern Relief Channel, as it is called, was designed to reduce the flood risk of the farmlands and thousands of homes located along the Demerara Coast. In the past to save these homes and farmlands, excess water was released through the Mahaicony and Mahaica rivers, flooding homes there. A number of the residents from the banks of the rivers there have been relocated
But there were criticisms over the project with a number of critics, including engineers, saying it was not technically sound because of location and other factors.
According to Persaud yesterday, not only were internationally-recognized engineer consultants, Mott McDonald used, but local experts and companies were also consulted during the design phase taking into account the climate change threats and other critical factors.
Stressing that any breakage of the EDWC dam could be catastrophic to the East Demerara areas, the Minister pointed out that one flood alone in the area could see annual losses reaching US$15M…the current estimated cost of the canal…so in effect the canal make sense.
Additionally the canal can also be seen as an additional storage area, paving the way for it to be used as a source for water treatment in later days.
Regarding the current excavation works, Persaud noted that it is estimated that $1B is being saved by the government using its own resources to do the works.
Last year, government had bought 14 excavators.
In relation to possible delays, it was disclosed that initially works were set for 18 months, but because of rains, there may be some delays.
CEMCO, a local engineering firm, is conducting supervisory works on the project, on behalf of government.
Present during the inspection works were Lionel Wordsworth, Chief Executive Officer of the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority.
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