The Amaila Falls project should cater for a disaster preparedness component in the estimated costs

Dear Editor,

Of the Amaila Falls hydropower project Sithe Global noted, “Our environmental and social standards have been certified by our partners including multilateral lenders, such as the World Bank, African Development Bank, Inter-American Development Bank and other institutions well-known to have the world’s most exacting environmental, social and safety standards. We are also working to develop strong partnerships with local non-governmental organizations to ensure that the civil society of Guyana has the opportunity to help shape the project. Building a hydropower project requires care, experience and precision. Doing just the minimum isn’t enough here” (SN, May 23).

I have one major grouse with all these projects: the absence of a disaster preparedness component in the estimated costs. Having “the world’s most exacting environmental, social, and safety standards” did not say where the disaster preparedness/recovery inputs were. Whether the projects are for hydropower, mining, energy generation, incineration of toxic waste, rocket launching pads, etc, there must be a component for disaster preparedness.

At a Major Industrial Accident Council in Canada, a body which monitors accidents and disaster preparedness, concerned emergency managers had suggested a certain percentage of the total investment package should be allocated for the disaster preparedness programme. An EIA is not enough if one considers the immediate impact of hydropower projects, but where dams are a major infrastructure in the project, the possibility of failure is always catered for in the disaster preparedness component in the estimates.

Now depending upon the seriousness of the risk factor for accidents, some projects were recommended to allocate up to 30% of the project’s budget for this. If we think this is too large, let us remember the OMAI cyanide spill, the damage to the ecology, the setback in the livelihoods of the indigenous people and other detrimental outcomes of such a disaster.

I am persuaded that the BP Gulf Oil Platform disaster was not catered for in the implementation of that project; if it was, it would be informative to see the figures for the disaster preparedness component of that operation.

Yours faithfully,
Seopaul Singh

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