Members of the Natural Resources Parliamentary Sectoral Committee yesterday visited the East Demerara Water Conservancy (EDWC) Northern Relief Channel at Hope /Dochfour, East Coast Demerara, and after experiencing the magnitude of the US$15M project, they expressed a greater understanding of the constraints the huge project face. They were also in favour of the presence of the Guyanese workforce.
The committee, which comprised A Partnership for National Unity [APNU] Members of Parliament Joseph Harmon, Rupert Roopnarine and Jennifer Wade and Alliance for Change’s [AFC’s] Trevor Williams, were led on the tour of project by Minister of Agriculture Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, Chief Executive Officer, National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) Lionel Wordsworth and Team Leader of CEMCO/ Mott Mc Donald, Raymond Latchmansingh.
Harmon said, “It is good to see Guyanese workmen, Guyanese engineers working hard on a project of a national nature. I made the same comment when I went into Amaila Falls. It was a redeeming feature of that project and I am saying here again that there are young Guyanese engineers who are very enthusiastic about what they do, and I must say that is something good, I believe that is something that endears the project to us all Guyanese.”
Williams also made similar comments and pointed out that should the project be successful, “we would have come to a point in this country where we have a successfully piloted project and should there be need to jubilate for whatever we can be confident that it can be done with Guyanese labour.”
The visit by the Committee is part of its responsibility to look at projects of that fall within its ambit, natural resources. The Hope project was one that was selected for scrutiny by the Committee.
The visit started at Flagstaff, following which the Committee was given a presentation on the project then a tour of its four components; the head regulator, the northern relief channel, the high level outfall sluice and the public road bridge.
During the visit it was made clear that the project will not meet its August 31 deadline, affected by constraints of rainy periods, delay in construction and pegasse soil in some areas that makes construction difficult.
One of the concerns that the Opposition Parliamentary Members sought to clarify was whether this extension of the project will translate into the ministry returning to the National Assembly for more funding.
“Our concern as always has been whether the project will have cost overrun, whether they are likely to come back to the National Assembly for more money. I did ask that question specifically… I am assured that there is not going to be this month or October or November the ministry coming to us and say that we need some more money for this project,” Harmon said.
“My understanding is that there have been some challenges more of a technical nature and challenges relating to the weather but we are probably now coming out of the rainy season…I believe that the contractors must work day and night to ensure that they reach the deadline, so you have some rainfall and they was some downtime, now you have good weather, you have to work day and night, you have to put lights on these projects and ensure they work the entire period of time so that it can be done,” he said.
Minister Ramsammy said not only the Opposition, but he and the President share this concern that the contracts should not go outside of the budgetary sum. The firm assurance was given however, that every challenge that the project faces is of a technical nature and not financial, hence there is no need to return to the National Assembly for money.
On the issue of the looming August deadline and the possibility of meeting it, Minister Ramsammy said, “right now we are standing by the August 31 deadline however, it is clear that none of these contractors will complete the work, but I am saying that it can be done before the end of the year, and I will urge the contractors to make sure that we do not go beyond that. I am also urging my contractors that they must work to make sure that we finish this project before the next rainy season because at the next rainy season we should have this thing working.”