Substantial extra works remain to be done to make the Hope Canal Project functional

Dear Editor,

In a few weeks’ time Guyana’s major rainy season is expected to commence but the drainage systems in the city and along the coastland lack basic preparation (clean inland graded drains and outfall channels, drainage pumps in working order at critical locations, etc) all necessary to meet the impending challenges of heavy downpours with resulting widespread flooding.

Dr Ramsammy, Minister of Agriculture announced a few days ago that the Hope Canal Project (HCP) which should have been completed by June 2013 is now expected to be completed by June 30, 2014 after four previous time extensions to the various contractors. Unfortunately the evidence suggests that despite this assurance, HCP will not be completed this year to relieve flood waters from the East Demerara Water Conservancy (EDWC) into the Atlantic Ocean as this is an integrated project and all its elements have to be completed before it becomes functional. Hence another impending rainy season with the threat of flooding of the Mahaica River and coastal lowlands from the EDWC flood discharges looms over the people living in these areas.

The HCP sluice is about 50% completed and it is unlikely that its eight radial SS gates with their control mechanism will be fabricated, installed and become functional this year. After the sluice is completed its abutments will have to be tied in with the existing sea defence and a 3km channel dug across the foreshore to allow flood water from EDWC to be discharged into the ocean. These are extra works, and contracts to execute them are yet to be awarded. The road bridge is completed but work on its approach ramps and their alignment to tie in with the existing roadway is still to be accomplished. Also, excavation and shaping of that segment of the canal under the bridge has to be completed to allow flood water to get to the sluice from the conservancy.

The 11 km canal has been dug but its waterway is overgrown with weeds which have to be cleared and its embankments have to be levelled to finished grade after the thick bush growing over them is removed. 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. The impending rainy season will slow construction progress and impact adversely the June 30 completion deadline and therefore there are serious misgivings about Dr Ramsammy’s ‘once again’ completion deadline and his posture of no penalty to be imposed on the contractors, only forgiveness.

The three-door head regulator is about 75% completed and after completion its abutments have to be tied in to the canal embankments downstream and the EDWC dam upstream. This work will have to be done by experienced constructors, particularly with a high water level in the conservancy unless its water level is lowered or very expensive cofferdams constructed to facilitate excavation/construction work. Any forced discharge from the EDWC to facilitate construction work at the height of the rainy season will pose a flooding threat to the people of Mahaica. These are all expensive additional works to the HCP and to date no contract has been awarded to undertake them, nor has any government funding been made available to get them done.

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 as he artfully uses his political skills to mislead the Guyanese people by issuing unrealistic completion dates one after the other with impunity. 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.

Yours faithfully,  
Charles Sohan

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