– says officials fail to provide straightforward answers
By Michael Jordan
Amerindian People’s Association (APA) Project Administrator, Jean La Rose, says that the Sithe Global management has failed to explain what significant benefits indigenous people will receive from the Amaila Falls hydroelectric project.
La Rose told Kaieteur News that she was still left in the dark even after the APA had a lengthy meeting on Thursday with Sithe Global Senior Vice President, James McGowan, and Consultant Phil Mooney at the APA’s office.
“From what I was told, I did not get a clear picture of benefits the communities would get. I did press the (Sithe Global) officials, and did not get any straightforward answers.
I told them ‘there are a lot of maybes’. We are not happy with what we are hearing.
“We do not consider it a consultation we had. A consultation would give you time to get independent technical information. We need more information. There is a lot of information we did not get to digest.”
La Rose said that the Sithe Global officials confirmed that the communities near the Amalia Falls, such as Kaburi, will not benefit from electricity from the hydroelectric project.
According to the APA representative, the officials said that the area “is too small to have a sub-station.
She said that one of the officials stated that the toshao from Kaburi is in agreement with the road to the Amaila Falls passing through the community.
But La Rose expressed concern that while business-oriented communities may spring up along the roadway, these might not necessarily be indigenous communities.
The APA official explained that the toshao of Kaburi village had expressed his support for the roadway during last year’s Toshaos Conference.
But she feels that the community is unaware of the long-term implications of the project.
Indications are that mainly Chinese labour is to be used for the project and La Rose said that the APA expressed concern about China’s “poor human rights record” during Thursday’s meeting.
Sithe Global’s Vice President (Development) James McGowan said that the company is guaranteeing that the project will be completed in three and a half years and will cost no more than US$700 million.
McGowan said the current estimate is that the power plant and transmission line to get the electricity to power stations in Linden and Georgetown would be completed in three and a half years at a cost of between US$650 and US$700 million.
He also guaranteed that the project will be handed over to the government of Guyana, debt free, in 20 years.
Sithe Global is looking to be able to close financing for the project by the end of the year. The major lenders have been listed as China Development Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank.
Sithe Global has agreed to invest 30 per cent of the project cost—an estimated US$200 million. The government has also said that it will invest in the project, using funds from the forest-saving deal with Norway, for which US$70 million has already been deposited into a Fund being managed by the World Bank, but not yet delivered to the local treasury.
The rest of the money would come from loans.
But if the developer defaults on the project, the financiers of the project will reserve the right to seize the assets and name a new developer, the Sithe Global Vice President (Development) said Wednesday.
Synergy Holdings Inc. was first listed as the developer to design, build, own and operate a hydroelectric plant in Guyana.
In 2002, Synergy Holdings and Harza International were granted a licence by the Government of Guyana under the Hydro-Electricity Act for the development of a hydroelectric plant at Amaila Falls.
The licence was reportedly amended and extended in 2004 when Harza pulled out leaving Synergy as the sole licensee. The licence was again extended in 2006.
A government statement contended that the licence was transferred from Synergy Holdings Inc. to Sithe Global Amaila Holdings Ltd. on October 8, 2009.
However, when questioned on Wednesday, McGowan said that his company had acquired the licence from Synergy Holdings.
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