In an SN letter of December 23, Mr Omadatt Chandan, Corporate Secretary of the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) reported that although excavation work has stopped on the 10.3 km long Hope Canal Project, mobilization and other activities such as ancillary drainage relief works for the East Demerara Water Conservancy (EDWC) which he termed ‘project works’ are being carried out in the vicinity of the canal (‘While work was temporarily halted in some sections of the Hope Canal project, there was mobilization for works to be carried out in other sections’). In my letter of December 20, concern was expressed about stoppage of work digging the canal and building the embankments which Minister Persaud had ordered for weather-related causes, and not about the cessation of activities elsewhere which are not directly related to the Hope Canal Project (‘Bewildering that Hope Canal excavation has been halted because of weather’).
In his usual evasive style Mr Chandan has listed a vast range of drainage and irrigation (D&I) works undertaken with NDIA equipment, and claims cost cuts by as much as 60-80%, but with no facts and figures to support his claim or to show what the capital costs for the equipment purchased and their operating costs are to undertake these various works, his claims could only be considered hollow. After all, these NDIA expenditures have to be compared with a contractor’s costs and only by public tendering could these comparisons be made and support NDIA’s cost cuts claims or otherwise.
Mr Chandan has stated previously that NDIA is a transparent division of the Agriculture Ministry, but he has failed to provide or indicate despite repeated requests where information could be accessed on total costs, partial payments made to date, construction progress (% work completed) and completion date for the Hope Canal Project. Last but not least, the public would like to know how the Hope Canal Project is being funded. It is info in these areas of expenditure that the public would like to know, so they can see how wisely or otherwise NDIA is allocating its limited resources, instead of Chandan side-stepping the issue by listing D&I works under construction elsewhere in the country to propagandize the capacity and capability of NDIA to undertake complex D&I projects, while he is yet to provide evidence of these claims for works being done on the canal at Hope/Dochfour.
Finally, excavation of the canal and constructing its stable embankments for that segment of it from the Crown Dam to link-up with the EDWC, poses complex engineering problems because of the swampy terrain and poor soil conditions through which it traverses. Resolving these problems is not insurmountable but it is costly, and it is in this context that specialist engineer Malcolm Alli has expressed the view that NDIA may very well have to abandon the project because the project cannot be justified financially and economically, and there are less costly alternatives to achieve the same technical objectives. In my SN letter of December 19, I had confined my comments to that segment of the canal from the seawall to the Crown Dam where much of the terrain through which the canal passes are low lying, with several patches of poor soil outcrops with varying depths. In this area properly equipped excavating machines can work at all times under variable weather conditions. Hence, as claimed by Mr Chandan, there is no disparity between the comments made by Mr Alli and myself, and therefore weather should not have been a major factor to shut down excavation work completely on the canal. It is reasonable to conclude that there must have been other yet to be explained circumstances to halt excavation on this canal, on which NDIA has placed such great importance and spent so much thus far to provide flood relief for EDWC.