Sep 07, 2011 News
– project to cut through Amerindian village
The government yesterday announced a new $50 million contract to cut a road through the Amerindian Village of Kaburi to facilitate the eventual construction of the Amaila Falls Hydro Electric Project.
The award of the contract, for the “rehabilitation and reconstruction” of the Kaburi Village road, was announced by Dr Roger Luncheon, who serves as Secretary to Cabinet – the Council of government ministers chaired by the President.
He said the new contract is outside the scope of works of Synergy Holdings, the company that was given a controversial US$15.4 million contract to upgrade approximately 85 kilometres of existing roadway and the design and construction of approximately 110 kilometres of new roads leading to Amaila Falls.
According to the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA), which was released earlier this year, the access road to
Amaila Falls would not have passed through “any Amerindian lands.” However, it was the intention that Synergy’s access road would “pass near the boundary of Kaburi.”
Now, according to Luncheon, the design has been changed to let the road pass through the village of Kaburi itself.
Kaburi is a titled Amerindian village, covering 41.57 square miles, and it is located in Region 7, west of the Essequibo River, 72 miles from Bartica on the Bartica/Potaro Road. The village, which is inhabited by the Akawaio and Patamona people, has reportedly been in existence since the 1800s, but as it exists today, was established in 1935.
Dr Luncheon said that “considerable work” was done with the community to design a suitable road “traversing the Kaburi village itself.”
In the original scope of works under Synergy, the road would have passed a few kilometres to the south of the direct area of influence (DAI) of the transmission line and access road to the project.
The Amaila Hydropower Project consists of a hydropower dam, to be built at the confluence of the Amaila and Kuribrong rivers. The electricity will be generated by specially-designed turbines and delivered to substations in Linden and Georgetown by a new 270 km long 230-kV high voltage transmission line.
According to the advertisement for Bids for the Kaburi road, a mandatory pre-bid meeting should have been held on July 2, and contractors with at least five years experience in hinterland road construction, had until July 12 to submit their bids.
Five contractors had put in bids for the project. Dr Luncheon announced that the Cabinet had given its “no objection” for the contract to be awarded, but he did not announce the name of the contractor. Those who put in bids were: Roopan Ramotar Investments, $90.2 million; Mekdeci Machinery and Construction Inc., $58.7 million; Toolsie Persaud Quarries, $54.3 million; HN Pasha General Building and Civil Contractor, $57.2 million; and Maurice Balgobin, $49.8 million.
The advertisement for bids specified that the road would have to be completed in three months. the government’s engineer had put a price tag of $60 million.
The ESIA, which was released on March 22 this year, points to perceived benefits to Kaburi as a result of project. It said the project would provide the people with easier access to regional centres and public services by “obtaining rides in vehicles passing through the community.” Another benefit cited from increase in traffic was “additional income opportunities through the sale of goods by the roadside and in the shops present in Kaburi.”
The ESIA pointed to negative impacts on the community due to “dust, accidents, and increased outsider presence”.
The original plan for the Access Road proposed using a bypass around the Kaburi village as opposed to an existing road that passes through Kaburi’s communal land and the central village.
The ESIA had highlighted that during the public consultation meeting with the Kaburi community, many members expressed a preference to use the existing road based on road improvements, saying there may be increased revenues from sales to passing vehicles.
All land in Kaburi is owned in trust by the community council. According to the ESIA, one acre is allocated to each family for residential purposes, and they can have as many acres as they want for farming.
The document noted that residents dwell relatively close to each other and in proximity to their farms. Villagers practice subsistence farming, fishing, and hunting.
Synergy Holdings, under Fip Motilall, pocketed the project to build the access roads to Amaila Falls, but is now woefully behind schedule.
Early investigations by this newspaper showed that Motilall had no road building experience in the states of Florida and Georgia, as the government had claimed. Further investigations also revealed Motilall’s US address to be but a sari and puja shop in Florida.
In July this year, President Bharrat Jagdeo urged government supervisors on the project to “ride Synergy hard” and admitted there may have been some “slippage” but he was not ready then to say that the government made a bad decision in choosing Synergy Holdings to pave the road to Amaila Falls, where the hydropower project that could cost more than US$700 million is slated to be constructed.
Sithe Global has been asserting that it aims to start construction of the hydro project by the end of this year, despite uncertainty surrounding the access road construction.
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