I am not surprised about recent comments made by Mr Charles Sohan in a letter titled ‘Bewildering that Hope Canal excavation has been halted because of weather,’ dated Monday, December 20 in the Stabroek News and an article in the Kaieteur News titled ‘Technical sound, feasible Hope Canal project delayed until mid-January’ dated Tuesday, December 21 which contains a number of inaccuracies.
Let me begin by saying that the Minister of Agriculture’s comments were grossly misrepresented by Mr Sohan and the Kaieteur News since Minister Persaud did say that “work at the Hope canal is stalled” but “there are other works which will continue.” What this clearly meant was that while works were temporarily halted in some sections of the relief canal because the area was being used to manage water in the drainage system and maintain the integrity of the conservancy, there was still activity and mobilization being undertaken for works to be carried out in other sections of the canal. This means that works did not come to a complete halt as is claimed by Mr Sohan and the Kaieteur News since the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) is desirous of completing the project within its timeframe.
In relation to works being undertaken by the NDIA, it is a given fact that works undertaken by the NDIA instead of hiring private contractors would be far cheaper, since costs would be cut by 60% – 80%. In the past, the hiring of contractors has proven to be a costly exercise resulting in the authority increasing its fleet of equipment three-fold to undertake a larger workload in a more timely manner with the impact being the less frequent inundation of agricultural and residential areas.
Due to the acquisition of machinery by the NDIA, much needed rehabilitation works have been undertaken in the East Demerara Water Conservancy (EDWC). The fleet of machinery has been involved in buttressing embankments, cleaning, clearing, dredging and widening channels in the conservancy over the last five years, which has significantly contributed to the EDWC functioning effectively in relation to climate related events such as increased rainfall levels. In 2010, 23 miles of waterway were cleaned and excavated, while 14 miles of embankment were buttressed and strengthened. Dredging of the Land of Canaan sluice was also undertaken along with the excavation of the Cunha outlet channel, which is in progress.
The NDIA’s fleet of equipment has also successfully cleaned, cleared and rehabilitated canals in areas such as Supenaam, Region Two; Windsor Forest, Leguan and Wakenaam in Region Three; Triumph, Ann’s Grove, Strathspey, Enmore, Buxton, Friendship, Bare Root, Mon Repos, Unity, Sarah Johanna, Grove, Alliance, Friendship, Craig, Garden of Eden, Mocha and Sophia in Region Four; the Abary façade drain – Profit/Foulis, Hyde Park to Park, Right Bank Mahaicony River, the Bellamy drain – Farm to Cottage, Mahaicony in Region Five; Bush Lot, Manchester, Whim in Region Six; and Kara Kara Creek Mouth, Poker Street, Blueberry Hill, West Watooka, Retrieve, and One Mile in Region Ten.
Earthen works were also completed by the NDIA and verified by the consultants under the Agricultural Support Services Programme (ASSP) in nine drainage and irrigation areas, namely Den Amstel /Fellowship, Vergenoegen/ Bonasika and /Vreed-en-Hoop/La Jalousie, Golden Grove/Victoria, Crab-wood Creek, Canals Polder, Black Bush Polder and Cane Grove. In fact, in excess of 500 miles of canals have been rehabilitated by the NDIA using its own equipment in these areas.
In addition, NDIA’s fleet of equipment has excavated critical outfall channels through the foreshore on the coastline which suffer from frequent siltation. This has significantly reduced the inundation of agricultural and residential areas as gravity drainage has been improved. Areas where works were undertaken include Lima, Perth, Andrews, Anna Regina, Three Friends, La Union, Somerset and Berks in Region Two; Canals Polder, Windsor Forest, La Jalousie in Region 3; Greenfield, Hope, Belfield, Victoria, Golden Grove, Enmore/Foulis and Buxton in Region 4; and Sea Well, Whim, Letterkenny, Liverpool, Kildonan, Eversham, Joppa and Lesbeholden in Region 6. The excavation of outfall channels along the Demerara River was also undertaken. Given the vast range of works undertaken by the NDIA’s equipment, it is evident that the NDIA does have the capacity and capability to carry out the earthen works component of the EDWC northern relief channel at Hope/Dochfour.
Given the clear evidence, I would urge Mr Sohan as well as the Kaieteur News to stop their nitpicking and misrepresentation of the facts as the NDIA is vigorously pursuing the successful completion of this project, which would significantly increase the conservancy’s ability to drain excess water during storm events, and at the same time improve the overall safety standard of the reservoir. It is obvious that even with the evidence and facts presented, Mr Sohan and the Kaieteur News are deliberately trying to mislead the public.
The NDIA also has had to respond to other critics such as Malcolm Alli who had stated that the government may very well have to abandon the project because of poor soil conditions. There is some disparity with regard to the technical advice given by Mr Sohan and Mr Alli, since one claims that the government may have to abandon the Hope Project on account of poor soil conditions while the other claims that work is possible under these conditions. The NDIA views this as an orchestrated attempt to deceive the public rather than provide constructive criticism or advice, since every project has its fair share of problems which can be remedied.
For the record, the NDIA will not abandon such a key project since when it is completed it will allow the EDWC to cope with rainfall at high intensity with a longer return period. Such a targeted improvement of the drainage and irrigation system can only be achievable with the cost-effective acquisition of equipment undertaking works at a cheaper cost, that will be of benefit to thousands of residents and farmers.