Even fewer local workers likely for hydro-plant construction

The local workforce involved in the construction of the Amaila hydropower plant is likely to be less than what was projected in the updated ESIA, Sithe Global’s Senior Vice President Jim McGowan says.

The Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) released in March said the construction was likely to require an average workforce of approximately 700 persons and a peak of about 1,200 workers.  The document said that about 40 percent of the workforce would be Guyanese, meaning that approximately about 280 to 480 locals should be employed when the project eventually gets underway.

The ESIA further said that the workforce to construct the electrical interconnection is expected to average about 450 workers, reaching a maximum of about 650. The general labour types required include equipment and plant operators, mechanics, surveyors, truck drivers, foremen, electricians, carpenters, concrete masons, ironworkers, skilled and common labourers.

McGowan, however, told this newspaper on Wednesday, at a public forum held at the Tower hotel, that the local labourers are likely to represent less than 40 percent of the entire workforce on the project site. “Right now I think that it might be lower than that and it would somewhat depend on what resources are available locally for some of the semi-skilled positions, he said. According to him, China Railway First Group Co Ltd is the entity that would be responsible for hiring workers, but that Sithe Global will be monitoring this process to ensure that it “is done in a fair way to give everyone a fair shot at a job.”

Sithe Global, as developer of the hydro plant, is responsible for securing funding for the project which is slated to be built by China Railway.  Sithe Global and China Railway are in the final stages of negotiations, McGowan said.  He said that as the two entities are finalising the Engineering Procurement Construction (EPC) contract, there are provisions to ensure that contractor gives a fair chance to everyone to get employment.

“There will be skilled workers that they [China Railway] will bring from China but there will be some unskilled and semi-skilled trades that they can recruit locally,” McGowan said.  According to him, Sithe Global will require the contractor to have recruitment centres in Georgetown and Linden as well as in some of the Amerindian communities. The ESIA had to be translated into the Patamona and Akawaio languages

The ESIA had pointed to the fact that the project may cause tension between out-of-region construction and the local population. “Since most of the employed workers, whether immigrant or local, will be lodged at project construction camps, with the principal one at the hydropower facility, the project will not create a significant direct demand for housing or urban infrastructure in any nearby communities or cities. However, indirect demand from project suppliers and from any induced population influx [may] affect living conditions of the existing nearby communities and cause social conflictions,” the document states. It added that “project workers and service providers may contribute to the spread of communicable diseases, including sexually transmitted diseases, which may contribute to negative attitudes toward outsiders working for the project, even when they are from other parts of Guyana.”   “For workers coming from other countries, with cultural and language differences, this potential impact could be more severe,” the ESIA had noted.

The project, according to the developers, is set to start later this year, and with a construction timeline of 31/2 years the plant is expected to be operational in 2015.  Asked about maintenance of the system following project completion, McGowan said that there will be about 55 people who will serve as operational staff maintaining the transmission line and helping to run the substations in Linden and in Sophia.  Most of these workers will be Guyanese, McGowan said.

When Site Global held its community meeting in Linden on Tuesday, many Lindeners questioned the developers about jobs.  He had told this newspaper then, that Sithe Global was well aware that the creation of jobs was very important to that region.

The Amaila Falls hydropower plant is expected to be a 165MW facility to be constructed at the Amaila and Kuribrong Rivers. It is expected that the plant will produce approximately 140MW of power at the delivery points in Linden and Sophia, which GPL will purchase from Sithe Global.

On Wednesday, it was disclosed that Sithe Global acquired the licence to develop the hydropower plant from Fip Motilall of Synergy Holdings, with the agreement that Motilall will be compensated upon the successful completion of the project.

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