The Public Works Ministry will be spending $200M every year to maintain the Amaila Falls Access Road after completion, Minister of Public Works Robeson Benn said yesterday.
Benn, speaking at a press conference at the Ministry’s office in Kingston, said the ministry will take care of the maintenance until the planned Amaila Falls Hydropower Inc is ready to take over. He added that they were spending less than the anticipated amount of money to construct the road, which government believes is a link to the single most important infrastructural project needed for the country’s economic development— the Amaila Falls Hydropower Project (AFHP).
He indicated that some US$28.9M has already been spent to build the road. Originally the road was expected to cost around US$15M
When questioned by the media on how funds were being accessed for the construction of the proposed Amaila Falls Hydropower Project, he stated that he could not provide details on that.
He noted that the government was working hard at making the project a reality.
Technical Adviser for the Amaila Falls Access Road Walter Willis, on the other hand, stated that the road was substantially completed and that it is presently being put to use. “Substantial completion means we have achieved more than 95%. It also means that the road can be put into use and it is being used,” he said.
He noted that there were delays at several sections of the road, which were awarded to different contractors.
He defended the work of China Railway First Group, the Chinese construction firm that was contracted to construct parts of the road and the intended builder of the Amaila hydropower project. “This is not the case, what really happened is that the terrain in which China Railway First Group operated was much hillier and plagued by incursions by miners and although we tried diligently to block the road and restrict movement of miners they continued.”
He said the equipment used by miners on the road has damaged it and he pinpointed some 130 metres of partially washed out road that was set for repair.
Benn had previously defended the construction of the road after assertions were made that it was leading to nowhere. “The Amaila road project it is not a road to nowhere. It is a road to everywhere in terms of our economic development,” he had said.
Benn had stated that government was working, both at the Ministry of Finance and Office of the President level, to see the hydro project a reality and remained optimistic that soon an investor will be had and the project will kick off. President Donald Ramotar had previously said the controversial project was once again being examined by the IDB board and they would hopefully be wrapping up soon. He said he was also hopeful that the developers, Sithe Global, who withdrew, will be back on board.
Sithe Global pulled out in August of 2013 after failing to gain unanimous parliamentary approval of the project. Observers said that broad approval was required as the government was in the minority in the legislature.