A co-operation programme with Brazil will see studies in the Middle and Upper Mazaruni to determine the best site for a hydropower project, Minister of Foreign Affairs Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett told the National Assembly yesterday.
Guyana and Brazil are working on the development of key infrastructure projects in Guyana including the construction of hydroelectric plants. “I now wish to inform the National Assembly that the Government of Guyana will commence briefings in the next few weeks with the parties represented in the National Assembly and other stakeholders, including the communities in the Middle and Upper Maza-runi, Region Seven regarding the pre-feasibility and feasibility studies that are required to be undertaken,” the minister said while adding that the media will also be briefed. “Needless to say, these are pre-feasibility and feasibility studies and no decisions will be taken until these studies have been completed,” she said.
In December 2012, Guyana and Brazil signed a Memorandum of Under-standing on Infrastructure Development with the aim of stimulating projects in the area of hydropower, road development, and the construction of a deep water port. A Guyana-Brazil Joint Technical Working Group with a mandate “to produce proposals for concrete actions” as well as timetables for the implementation of four projects was set up. The four projects were the construction of hydroelectric plants, construction of transmission lines needed to distribute any energy that will be generated eventually, improvement of the Guyana-Brazil road link and the construction of a deep water port.
The report was submitted to President Donald Ramotar and President Dilma Rousseff last July and the working group recommended that in terms of the Linden-Lethem road, to complement the work already done, an engineering design of the road must be completed in order to advance the project.
“With respect to hydropower development, they recommended that prefeasibility and feasibility studies be carried out at two sites in the Middle and Upper Mazaruni in order to make a final determination on the way forward,” Rodrigues-Birkett told the House.
In relation to the development of a deep water port, it was recognized that the road and port are separate projects but they are interrelated because the port will be dependent in part on goods coming out of Brazil, mainly the port of Manaus. “It is estimated that this route will reduce time and costs associated with export from the north of Brazil. It was felt that if there is positive movement with the road and hydropower development, there will be automatic interest in the port by the private sector,” the minister said.
She said that the two presidents endorsed the report and approved the establishment of a Joint Commission for the Development of Infra-structure Projects in Guyana which would monitor the progress of the projects agreed upon. The commission is chaired on the Guyana side by Ambassador Elisabeth Harper.
Rodrigues-Birkett noted that in the area of hydropower, efforts at joint collaboration between Guyana and Brazil are not new and several memoranda of understanding have been signed by successive governments.
Interest in hydropower is high and in January, Prime Minister Samuel Hinds told a parliamentary committee that government is looking at ways to revive the Amaila Falls hydropower project in Region Eight which went belly-up last year. The project developer, Sithe Global followed through on a threat to exit the Amaila Falls Hydro project over the lack of political consensus, after main opposition APNU failed to support enabling parliamentary measures for the project.
There have been attempts at hydropower projects in the Mazaruni in the past but a key hurdle is likely to be obtaining the consent of Amerindian communities. The historic Upper Mazaruni land titles case, filed since 1998, has been in the high court for some time. Six Region Seven (Cuyuni/Mazaruni) Amerindian communities had filed suit, claiming land in the Upper Mazaruni District, which they say is traditionally theirs. Since then, the communities of Paruima, Waramadong, Jawalla, Kako, Phillipai and Warawatta have been awaiting their day in court.
Meantime, it is believed that a deep water port and fully paved Linden to Lethem road would enable robust movement of Brazilian goods through Guyana to Roraima State, cutting down the much longer delivery time via Brazilian Atlantic Ocean ports.
Minister Rodrigues-Birkett has said that to fully realise the trade potential between the two nations, it is imperative that the Lethem –Linden road be upgraded. The road will benefit both countries as the northern part of Brazil, in particular, will have a shorter access route to the Atlantic Ocean.
The unpaved road has faced numerous upkeep problems over the years. It has suffered from deep flooding and several parts have broken down repeatedly along with bridges and culverts.