In an SN letter of Feb 20, it was noted that Minister of Agriculture Ramsammy in his claims of misrepresentation by SN attempted to refute the paper’s critical reporting on the poor drainage of coastal areas over the past several years. In doing so Minister Ramsammy has skirted the facts to nullify criticism of mismanagement of the resources of the Drainage and Irrigation Division of the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) to control recurrent flooding of coastal areas, and places hackneyed blame on extreme weather and climate change, since yearly flooding of coastal areas has been a way of life since our occupation by the Dutch.
In 2005 after disastrous flooding of the East Coast of Demerara due to high rainfall and overtopping of the East Demerara Water Conservancy (EDWC) a preliminary technical assessment was made as to the cause, and the report suggested among other things that a relief channel should be opened on the northern embankment of the EDWC as an additional outlet to relieve floodwater from the conservancy. For reasons unknown, the MoA had experts convert an ‘idea’ without solid data into a ‘project’ and selected the Hope/Dochfour area for routing a channel, although no feasibility study was ever carried out to determine the technical, economic and financial viability of the Hope Canal Project. It was for this reason that MoA was unable to obtain external financing for the project. Therefore based on political considerations, President Jadgeo issued a directive to have the channel built and to justify his decision MoA paid an engineering consultant to conduct a study to relieve floodwater from the EDWC through a channel linking the conservancy to the ocean to be constructed in the Hope/ Dochfour area. The consultant did not examine alternative routes or less expensive means to achieve the same objectives, as these were outside his terms of reference. However, in the study’s conclusions a passing remark was made stating that routing the canal through Mahaica instead of Hope/Dochfour might be a cheaper alternative, but further investigation was needed.
The consultant’s report also stated that the Hope Canal would be unable to reduce the risk of floodwater overtopping the earthen dam of the EDWC during periods of excessively high rainfall and the Maduni and Lama sluices should be maintained and kept operational as a safety measure during these periods should the need arise. As reported, this is contrary to Dr Luncheon’s latest pronouncement assuring the people of Mahaica that with completion of the Hope Canal the Maduni and Lama sluices will no longer be required to discharge water from EDWC into the Mahaica River and flood their homesteads. Further, in his letter Minister Ramsammy claims that the Hope Canal Project is a long-term solution to prevent flooding of the areas EDWC serves as well as those people living in Mahaicony and Abary as well. The facts do not support this claim.
Minister Ramsammy stated that the Hope Project comprising the 12 km canal, head regulator, sluice and road bridge which commenced construction in October 2010 will be completed and functional in 2013. Based on information on hand this appears to be a tall order. Therefore to allay any doubt and support his rebuttals of SN’s misrepresentations and inaccurate reporting, Minister Ramsammy should be specific in his claims and give the public an up-to-date progress report on the Hope Project through the media as to the percentage of work completed for each sub-project, the partial payments made to date to each contractor and whether there are any slippages and cost overruns due to change orders.
This information will clearly indicate after some 16 months of construction, and as Minister Ramsammy asserts, that this project is on schedule, within budget and will be completed in 2013, as Guyanese will in no way want to face another Amaila Falls access road fiasco.