Minister of Works Robeson Benn says government may consider fixing a toll for use of sections of the Amaila Falls access road and he thinks it would be a mistake to abandon it even though the Amaila hydroelectric project is dead.
Repeating what he said to this newspaper some weeks ago, Benn insisted that it would be a misstep to leave the road in its undone state just because the hydro project is at “the end of the road.” “If we stopped just now, we will do so in mid-step and stand to lose the millions we have spent on it,” said Benn. He said government plans to set aside sums every year for the maintenance of the road after it would have been completed.
“We will look at a toll but this is not foremost [in our minds as a consideration at this moment],” said Benn, while noting that contractors are on the ground continuing their work on the various sections of the road. He said that there is a plan governing such roads that will see a presence of the Guyana Police Force at various checkpoints along the road and there will be restrictions to hunting, gathering, fishing and such activities.
He said that the road will be of an advantage to many communities along its path and will bring benefits to residents of those communities.
Benn continued to slam what he called reckless statements and ongoing debates and blamed these for the hydropower project coming to its demise in August. He said that every day that Guyana foregoes bringing this project into existence, it continues to lose money. “Every day that we miss power goes over the falls to… be wasted,” he said. “Since we have an opportunity and model in place to achieve this for a certain time, this is a real loss. Every day is a real loss to the country and to future generations,” he added.
Benn had said that Amaila represented the closest and most viable opportunity Guyana has even had to bring a hydro project into operation. “It would be a great shame that we would still continue to lose that power and opportunity and continue to import fossil fuel,” he said.
The Amaila Falls road has been plagued by a litany of woes since it was conceived and frontloaded as part of the larger hydro project. At the time, government said it would save itself money from interest payments if it financed the road upfront. In 2010, government controversially awarded a US$15.4 million contract to Synergy Holdings Inc., Fip Motilall’s company, which generated enormous concern over his lack of road building expertise and experience.
The contract was for the upgrade of approximately 85 km of existing roadway, the design and construction of approximately 110 km of virgin roadway, and the design and construction of two new pontoon crossings at the Essequibo and Kuribrong rivers. The deadline for completion was September 2011.
The road was plagued with delays from the beginning leading to government’s termination of the Synergy contract on January 12, 2012. Others in addition to Synergy were awarded contracts for various sections of the road, some of which were subsequently terminated. Financial analysts estimate that the final cost of the completed road will be in excess of US$30 million. It is not clear whether the road will be completed by the end of this year.