The extension of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA), Timehri runway has “begun in earnest” with the contracting firm – China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) – tackling a trial section in the Timehri North area, according to a press release last evening from the CJIA Corporation.
It said that the project commenced two weeks ago. The commencement has come despite claims by the Ministry of Works that this US$38 million project was going to be hampered by cuts that were made by the opposition to its 2013 budget.
During the consideration of the estimates, the opposition cut the entire sum allocated in 2013 for the expansion. The CJIA $5.35 billion expansion was cut from the budget estimates along with the rest of the Air Transport Programme budget.
The release said Minister of Public Works and Transport Robeson Benn along with other ministry and CJIA officials were taken on a site visit on October 31. CHEC’s Engineers are removing the soft soil (peat) and backfilling the area with sand.
“I know we had some hiccups but I am happy to see works have commenced for this transformational project,” Benn told CHEC technicians.
When completed the runway will be able to accommodate Boeing 747-400 aircraft, and will be extended from 7,500 feet to 10,800 feet, the release said.
The release said the minister has instructed his engineers to carry out tests on the soil (peat) found in the area.
According to him, peat is produced as an important source of fuel in certain parts of the world.
Data has shown that over time, the formation of peat is often the first step in the geological formation of other fossil fuels such as Lignite, which is considered the lowest rank of coal, the release said.
According to Minister Benn, there had been a payment pending to the contractor CHEC and he was not sure whether that payment had been made. The payment was missed because of the opposition’s cutting of the entire budget for the air transport sector, which included the funds allocated for the upgrade of the CJIA.
Benn also said that the CJIA along with various stakeholders such as the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission, the Ministry of Housing and Water and the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development have to come together to look at the issue of removal and resettlement of persons living in the construction path of the airport before the rest of the works could continue.
According to Chairman of the CJIA, Ramesh Dookhoo, there has been no progress on talks regarding the future of the financing for the project. He said it was unclear how the project would be funded beyond the US$20.7 million.
Dookhoo had previously warned that there could be compensation to contractor CHEC for cancellation of the contract and possible compensation to China Exim Bank for cancellation of the loan agreement.