The Hope Canal Project (HCP) has been given a new seven-week deadline for completion once Courtney Benn Contract-ing Services Limited (CBCSL) is able to remain on schedule, Agriculture Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy says.
The minister gave the September deadline when he recently appeared before the Parliamentary Sectoral Committee on Natural Resources. Given the number of previous deadlines which have had to be abandoned, Stabroek News asked Ramsammy why he would give a commitment once again to which he replied that this is what had to happen. He told Stabroek News after the committee meeting that the reality was that if the contractor complied with the various requests of the ministry then he did not foresee further problems.
He said, “The option is to terminate the contract then I will spend another three months advertising… then the same $100 million work that is left will become $600 million and I still won’t get it till next year.”
He said that the six tranches, devised to help the HCP to become operational cost roughly $40 million each and that the work that was done was done well. DIPCON Engineering, CBCSL and BK International have been awarded contracts for the construction of the Northern Relief Channel which will drain the East Demerara Water Conservancy (EDWC) to the Atlantic Ocean.
The HCP has four components: the Northern Relief channel which on completion will be 10.3km in length, from the sea defence embankment and extending to the EDWC, a high level outfall sluice (being done by CBCSL), a conservancy head regulator and a public bridge. The bridge is finished.
Ramsammy said that instead of terminating the contract with CBCSL, a decision was made to work with the contractor as this was the most conducive way moving forward especially considering the costs associated with the $3.6 billion project.
Contacted for a comment on the new deadline and the works still to be done, Jason Harewood, a senior engineer attached to CBCSL told Stabroek News last week that at this point the company did not wish to make any comment and all questions should be directed to the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority and the ministry.
Ramsammy stressed during the committee meeting that the canal was really only awaiting the installation of the winch system which has already been procured. He said the bridge is done, the canal is “mostly” finished and the embankment is an ongoing process that will require regular scheduled maintenance.
In relation to the eight steel doors for the sluice, Ramsammy stated that they are being fabricated. He emphasised that the ministry did not want the doors prior to them being installed due to the storage constraints. Guy-ana National Industrial Company was awarded the subcontract for the fabrication of the steel doors. Ramsammy had told Stabroek News that this subcontract was awarded sometime in mid-2013.
The installation of the doors is to be done by CBCSL. In April, Ramsammy had stated that the contractor was given time to finish the eight-gate sluice and this time frame was the reality of the current situation.
He said it had to be done and time had to be given unless Guyana was prepared to put the project on hold indefinitely.
Work on the canal commenced in February 2011. The 18-month contractual time frame was never reached due to numerous setbacks. The deadline was revised again in January, when the December 31, 2013 deadline passed, although CBCSL had been advised in the last quarter of 2013 to hire additional workers or subcontract the work so as not to miss the December 2013 deadline.
Engineer Charles Sohan has been very critical of the HCP stating that the project would most likely take an additional year to complete. He has opined that the eight radial SS gates were unlikely to be fabricated, installed and become functional this year.
Sohan had said in a letter to this newspaper “Substantial complex work remains to be done on that segment of the canal between the crown and conservancy dams to make the pegasse soil comprising its embankments watertight and stable as they were not constructed with selected fill as should have been the case.” He said, “As could be deduced from the foregoing, and apart from contract work, substantial extra works remain to be done to make HCP functional and this will take over a year to accomplish. Minister Ramsammy seems to lack the expertise to assess a complicated project which was dreamt up and passed over to him in a chaotic state by his predecessor and whose final cost and eventual completion date continues to elude him …when all is said and done, he should be held responsible for the large cost and time overrun on HCP which he continues to defend, and which will eventually cost the Guyanese taxpayers dearly.”
During the committee meeting Ramsammy disclosed that the Cunha Canal financing was being worked out with the World Bank at present. Early this year the World Bank determined that the planned work on the Cunha Canal, East Bank Demerara met its social and environmental impact criteria. The Cunha helps to drain the EDWC to the Demerara River.
The Cunha Canal project is to be financed with funds garnered through Guyana’s forests partnership with Norway. The US$1.91 million venture is projected to increase the real time drainage capacity of the EDWC by up to 30%.