More than two years past the deadline, a $3.6B man-made canal critical to help drainage on East Coast Demerara, is nearing completion with just few minor works left to be done.
According to Government officials on Friday, contractors are concluding a few aspects on both the canal and the high level discharge sluice in time for the December 31 deadline.
The project was launched in October 2010 and funded directly from the coffers – an initiative that Government said was the largest of its kind using public funding.
The Hope Canal, as it is known, linking the East Demerara Water Conservancy (EDWC) and the Atlantic Ocean, on the north, was conceptualized after the crippling 2005 floods which left East Coast Demerara under water and billions of dollars in losses.
According to Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, in a Government statement giving an update on the project, which had been delayed time and again, Hope Canal which many viewed as almost impossible, and which was heavily criticised, is almost operational.
During an inspection visit to the project Friday, Ramsammy noted that the entire project has been under intense scrutiny and criticism, and by very experienced professionals. “We are thankful for their ideas; we are thankful for their input, but sometimes we all have to come together when we are doing important things; things that are needed; things that are new.”
He called for the older, experienced engineers to help the younger ones. ”Guyana will not be able to stand as is. If we are going to progress we will have to bring new things that many of the young engineers may not have had experience with, but so too have the old experienced professionals.”
Whilst the project benefitted from input aboard, it was conceptualised, designed and constructed by Guyanese professionals. Ramsammy insisted that 20 years ago such a project would not have been possible in Guyana.
“Even if we had conceptualised it then, we would have had to bring in international consultants, international engineers to design and even bring international contracting firms. This thing was built by a Guyanese contracting firm with Guyanese staff and was designed and put into place by Guyanese professionals.”
Accompanying Minister Ramsammy on the site visit was Chief Executive Officer (CEO,) of the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA,) Lionel Wordsworth, who noted that the authority is currently concluding some remaining aspects of works on both the canal and the high level discharge sluice, for the December 31 deadline.
The super structure of the high-level sluice was expected to be completed yesterday.
He noted that the eight gates are already in place and what would follow are the installation of the lifting mechanism, the cementing of the very top and the construction of a control room, all of which are expected to be tied up by year-end. All that will remain is some landscaping work that will be done in the New Year.
Wordsworth said that at the head regulator, during the week, the engineers started opening and closing the gates. “Not (by) allowing water to come through, but to make sure that they close freely the way we want to before we make that final cut in the conservancy dam to make that connection to allow water to come into the channels.”
The engineers are also working on connecting the canal to the two other structures. “We would have had in place, whilst construction was going on, some accesses across the channel to allow movement of equipment, fuel and such, and we are now in the process of removing those and tying the embankment to the bridge, and of course the high level discharge sluice,” Wordsworth explained.
Government is also working to cut a new access road for residents who live in the area.
All the super structure of the Hope Canal project is set to be completed by December 31. The project itself will become operationalised in early 2015, the Government statement said.
The $3.6B, four-component project comprises a canal, a high-level sluice outfall structure, a conservancy head regulator and a public bridge. The latter was completed and commissioned last February.
The 10.3km canal will allow excess water from the conservancy to drain into its via the three-door sluice at that end, and run along the excavated channel and spilling into the Atlantic via the eight-door high-discharge sluice structure.
Government had signed a contract with consulting firm CEMCO on March 19, 2009 to deliver design options. The value of that design contract was some $56.4M.
Using long-boom excavators, Government turned to its engineers for the canal but had contracted out the bridge and the sluices to private construction firm.
To justify the project, Government had argued that East Demerara area alone, in the MMA section, there is an estimated 30,000 hectares earning US$1,000 per hectare, which translates to around US$30M. If half those crops are lost when the flood waters are released on the land, that would account for US$15M in lost revenue – the cost of the project.
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