– APNU to meet with community members soon to assist in remedying situation, answering burning questions
“This project started under the Jagdeo led administration and everything he has started, including this canal project seems to be like a cancer on this country. Every project seems designed to rob the nation and leave its citizens without anything to develop themselves much less their future.”
Concerned residents of the Dochfour Community on the East Coast of Demerara have written to the Opposition Leader, David Granger highlighting inconveniences they are made to endure during the construction of the $3.6B Hope Canal Project.
The members of the community in registering their frustrations also called on Granger to assist in whatever way he can, in answering some of their legal questions on the project, which is now on its sixth deadline.
In their letter dated December 9, 2014, the citizens said, “The digging of the canal has created many inconveniences and hardships, many of which have not been attended to by the relevant authorities. Since the inception of the digging of the canal, there has not been one single meeting between members of the community and the relevant authorities of the canal project and this has created confusion, stress and frustration for many….this is the third day in a row that we are without water due to breakage of underground pipes during digging.”
They then proceeded to list their questions which were in relation to the legal distance between canals and homes, access roads closed due to blockage of presage roads, the timeline of alternate access roads if panned, the encroachment of properties of owners, lack of coordination among various government agencies and its effect on the community and the layout of house lots between the old railway embankment and the public road.
The Hope Canal project which has been deemed to be one of the largest infrastructure programmes in Guyana’s history is being constructed to be a relief channel to the East Demerara Water Conservancy. The canal would release the excess water it into the Atlantic Ocean, via a sluice.
A Partnership for National Unity’s (APNU) General Secretary Joseph Harmon informed Kaieteur News yesterday that he is expected to meet with the community members soon to address their concerns.
“This project started under the Jagdeo-led administration and every project he has started has been like a cancer on this country. Every venture seems designed to rob the nation and leave its citizens without anything to develop themselves, much less their future,” Harmon firmly added.
The Opposition member said that he had the opportunity to visit the project last year during a visit by the Special Select Committee of the Parliament, and had asked several questions including whether the contractor is sticking to the time line set.
He said he reminded the Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, who was present, that there were several deadlines and it’s important to know when it would be finished to avoid cost overruns.
“But all I kept getting from the Minister was that the project was almost done. Well just like the song by the popular singer Brandy, almost doesn’t count. Almost is not a completion date. Ramsammy keeps saying that he has been in discussions with Courtney Benn with regard to the completion of the project and penalties for missing the given deadlines but since he has made this announcement, he has failed to tell us what came out of that meeting. If you don’t ask they will never tell you. This Hope Canal Project is just another badly conceived project under the People’s Progressive Party administration,” the APNU General Secretary stated.
He then called on Ramsammy to make public, the financial and contractual arrangements of the project. Harmon emphasized that the Agriculture Minister is pussyfooting with giving the public the truth and appears to be stalling for “someone behind closed doors to continue stealing from the treasury.”
He then added, “Ramsammy needs to go home now.”
Harmon said, too, that Ramsammy is not answering the questions regarding the cost overruns on the project and needs to come clean.
Earlier last week, Cabinet Secretary Dr Roger Luncheon had said that there were obviously cost overruns on the Hope Canal Project but until they get into the defects liability, only then can one be in a position to ascertain the actual amount.
But Dr. Ramsammy had previously told this newspaper that there was no cost overrun.
Amidst the differing opinions, APNU’s Shadow Minister of Natural Resources and Agriculture, Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine asserted at the coalition’s last press conference that the venture has only been an unnecessary extravagance from its inception.
The politician was asked to comment not only on the uncertainties and the cost overruns but also on the length of time the project is taking to be completed. The project has missed five deadlines.
He had said that it is the belief of APNU that the project is not essential because it does not address what is needed by the conservancy. Dr. Roopnaraine said that what the nation needs is proper outlets for the Demerara River and improved internal arrangements for the Conservancy.
“Instead, we have this elaborate canal and no idea how government will maintain it, given its record. I cross the Hope Bridge daily and I look everyday and I see that activity is taking place there. My own feeling is that now that they sorted out the wrench and the final sluice is in readiness, we anticipate that it would finish soon but it has been an extravagance from then to now. I’d be surprised if there aren’t cost overruns.”
Nonetheless, Dr. Ramsammy is saying that the macro structure is completed and there is some associated work to be concluded which has to do with backfilling and getting the operator building for the project.
With regard to the missed deadlines, Dr Ramsammy had retorted that Courtney Benn, one of the contractors on the project, requested an extension. He added that the quality of work thus far is “excellent.”
He had also stated that the Ministry was faced with two decisions, either terminate the contract which would have caused more extensive delays and cost overruns or extend the deadline at “no cost.”
Government is now looking at a 2015 second quarter deadline for the project. The eight-gate sluice to release the water into the Atlantic is also being constructed by Courtney Benn Construction.
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