President Donald Ramotar yesterday asserted that the Amaila Falls Hydro Project would move ahead and he reiterated that the government would look at other partners to make the project possible following the withdrawal of developer Sithe Global.
“It appears as though Sithe Global has walked. Maybe that deal is dead but Amaila is not dead. We have to look again at other partners…,” Ramotar said in answer to a question from a resident during an outreach at the Cotton Tree Primary School, West Coast Berbice.
He pointed out that the hydro power bill – which deals with the reserve area around the falls – has been passed in the National Assembly already and said government can renegotiate to cater for the requirements of a new project.
He said the “bottom line is that we would be working to ensure that we get hydro power in the country” because it is “essential for social and economic development. If we cannot have cheap power in this country we cannot grow as fast as we would like to grow.”
According to him, government spent $6 B in 2012 to subsidize electricity to prevent the ordinary people and businesses from paying more for the service. They would also be doing the same this year.
He argued that if the country gets a cheap source of energy through the Amaila project it would immediately result in money being saved.
Ramotar said the project is a private sector investment and that government would have equity in the project by the amount of money spent on the road and the amount of money they earn from the forest preservation agreement with Norway.
He said the US$80M that they earn would be their contribution to the Amaila Falls project. “If electricity is generated by renewable resources like hydro that money could be saved to deal with many of the social problems that we have in our society…”
A little too late
Government needs the full support of the opposition and that the support from the Alliance for Change came a “little too late.” He said he is determined to move forward with the project so that all Guyanese can have a comfortable life.
He then went on to recount the government’s version of efforts to convince the opposition of the soundness of the project. He told Berbicians that shortly after he became president he invited both parties from the opposition for a presentation by the “technical people” on the Amaila.
He gave members of the opposition the presentation and even asked them to consult with their technical people and to return with their questions if they have any. He said he never heard from them about the project again.
He subsequently had two other presentations but only the APNU came for the second one.
His intention was for them to have an appreciation for the importance of the project and how it would affect the lives of citizens in a positive way.
He said during the budget in parliament for 2012 and 2013, government also answered all their questions. Ramotar lashed out that “what was more criminal was that the opposition voted to support the money for the road.”
Government also brought in the Inter-American Development Bank when the opposition said that they wanted the entity to tell them that the project was alright. Sithe Global also made a presentation.
The opposition has maintained that many areas of the project have not been satisfactorily explained including the final tariff to consumers, the ability of GPL to efficiently handle the power from Amaila and whether the financial structure of the project is the best the country can do.
Minister of Natural Resources, Robert Persaud told Stabroek News that another reason they visited the area was to launch a project for the regularization of a section of Cotton Tree.
He said the residents were living on the land for generations without the necessary documents.
The Lands & Surveys Department has agreed with the president to give them the resources so they can now have title and documents for the land.
He said the project which would commence soon at a cost of $43M entails surveying and regularizing the land.
Meanwhile, among the concerns raised by residents was the deplorable condition of a street that is almost impassable during the rainy weather as well as poor drainage in a section of Cotton Tree.
The president has promised to look into the issues as well as to construct a washroom facility at the playground, upon the request of residents.
A resident of Bush Lot also informed the president of a rice mill that was built close to his home. He said too that he cannot stand the smell emanating from the boiler.
Ramotar said he would instruct the Environment Protection Agency to “look into the matter to ensure that people are not inconvenienced.”
He said they want people to invest in businesses but they cannot do it at the expense of the whole village.