The Amaila project should have been located at Tumatumari

Dear Editor,


It is with no surprise that I read in the Kaieteur News of 12th October 2013 that the water flow of the Amaila Falls is almost nonexistent and is therefore probably not a reliable place to put a hydroelectric dam.

I say this since that most disturbing photo on the front page of the Kaieteur News of 12th October was not unexpected, since it substantiates the observations made in a letter by one delgado5 [name and address given] dated August 8th 2013 and published in Kaieteur News captioned “What the public should know about the Amaila project”. Delgado5 is clearly a qualified engineer who is very knowledgeable about what is planned for Amaila and went to some pains to point out that the design of the Amaila hydro project visualized a catchment of only 90 sq kilometers, other studies inform us that this catchment is too small given the expected output of Amaila, and its functioning would be seriously compromised after a routine period of only 26 days if no rain fell! Why is it that the public is only now awakening to these facts through the excellent coverage of the matter with that one photograph?

I don’t know who Delgado5 is but his letter was a gold mine of information. In his letter Delgado5 pointed out that it is a mystery to him that our hydro project is located at Amaila when it should in fact be located at Tumatumari. He tells us this “The rivers, Kuribrong and Amaila, continue beyond the hydro site to about fifty miles until they reach the foot of the Ayanganna mountain where they were born. Both rivers beyond the site have no creeks or swamps emptying into them. They depend entirely on the natural springs at the base of Raleigh and Ayanganna mountains as sources of water in the absence of rainfall.

The reservoirs would contain 30 days of reserved water. If there is no rain in the catchment area for a little over one month, electricity could be produced for about 26 days on reserved water. Should the dry weather continue beyond this time, the reservoir becomes dried out and the turbines starve”. This makes the observations of Minister Benn nonsense, when he says that when there is a catchment this situation of no water would not be a cause for concern.

Delgado5 also told us that “The project is located only about 52 miles from where the two rivers were born at the foot of the Ayanganna Mountain, and so only 9% of all the water contained in the whole of the Kuribrong River would be dispensable to it. The bulk of the water of the Kuribrong would run off to merge with the waters of the full length of the Potaro River to form real rugged rapids at Tumatumari, where indeed the project should have happened in the first place.” Delgado 5 was telling us that this hydro project should be better located at Tumatumari and not Amaila. He also informed us that “Weight for weight, the civil works when completed on the Amaila Hydro Project would be equal to nearly half the size of the engineering works done on the Guri Hydro Dam in Venezuela. The Guri Hydro Dam, the third largest in the world, produces 10,500MW from 20 large Frances turbines with just about double the size of civil works to be done at Amaila. The Amaila would produce only 100MW from four 25MW Frances mini-turbines. Much too low compared to the size of civil works to be done!”

Editor, Delgado5 is saying that we will be constructing a dam which entails civil engineering works which will be nearly 50% of what the Guri Dam took to construct, but will only produce less than 1 percent of the power Guri does!!


Delgado5 continues “The power weight ratio of the Amaila project is daunting, since the annual tariff paid by GPL for the capacity provided by the project increases as the capital cost increases with dam length and dam height/reserve size and installed turbine capacity. The contractor needs to be cautious, because the general idea of hydro dam installations is to locate a site where there is less demand for too big and costly civil works and an abundance of water.

The power/weight ratio must always be 80% to 90% ratings so that in the end the general public could enjoy cheap and reliable electricity. The high cost of electricity would also chase away investors. The engineering world today tends to produce products much smaller but with more performance and capacity. It’s a trend.

The question is why the only possible site for a hydro dam installation in the Potaro area has been more than once neglected – the Tumatumari Falls.”

About Tumatumari, Delgado5 tells us this.  British Consolidated gold mining company installed two small Kaplan turbines at the Tumatumari Falls. The facility produced more than enough to power the company’s two giant bucket dredges plus provided energy for the camp sites at Tumatumari and Konawaruk, nine miles away. With only servicing of those two turbines, folks at Mahdia, just 9 miles away could have enjoyed 24-hour electricity supply. Instead, two fuel-guzzling diesels were installed to provide electricity only at nights. A reverse process indeed.

It would be very inaccurate to say that the Tumatumari Falls was not chosen for the project because of fear of flooding the area. The Tumatumari Falls has a catchment area of nearly 680 square miles, compared to the meagre 90 square miles of the Amaila Falls. It is sufficient to erect a 40-feet high dam to maintain a reservoir of only 35 feet deep.

All the water flow of the entire length of the Amaila River plus the water flow of the entire length of the Potaro River merge into one powerful flow before reaching the Tumatumari Falls. A regular and steady supply of water is guaranteed to maintain the level of the reservoir even through the dry period. So there is no necessity to have an oversized reservoir.”

I am forced to ask the question again, can’t the PPP get anything right?

Delgado 5 tells us that a hydro project at Tumatumari would be far more economical to build and operate with a much larger catchment fed by more reliable sources of water and would therefore be more effective and can be built for less than the price of Amaila. And it will disturb no Amerindian settlements.

We need the Brazilians, I have been saying it for years. They want to build a hydroelectric project at Turtruba for Manaus and Guyana including aluminium smelting. If they were in partnership with us the Venezuelans will have to crawl back into the wood work from whence they came. If we built the road to Brazil, the deep water harbour and the hydropower in the Essequibo, Venezuela not would be able to say a word.


Yours faithfully,
Tony Vieira

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