Agriculture ministry, NDIA should provide information on Hope Bridge fiasco

Dear Editor,

I would like to commend Mr Charles Sohan (‘Doors of two kokers left open…’ Stabroek News, January 13) for entering the debate on the functional effectiveness of the Ministry of Agriculture and the  National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA.) I am however compelled to directly respond to several issues he has raised in his missive. He implies that I have identified pumping capacity as being related to base slab dimensions. Perusal of my letter will indicate that I never did. I simply identified the plan of the NDIA to place a single pump in Buxton as opposed to placing two pumps in Lusignan and Enmore. Further, I am well aware of the simple rational method to which he indirectly refers in his comment on rainfall intensity and drainage area. I would also like to assure Mr Sohan that having been a licensed engineer    since 1987 and having served in a     senior capacity as an engineer with the premier geosciences firms, Woodward Clyde Consultants and Golder   Associates, that I am in no need of an engineering lecture from him. My credits include the Pennsyalvania Convention Center, Merrill Creek Reservoir and General Mills headquarters in Albuquerque, New Mexico. As someone versed in the intricacies of numerical and analytical modelling of flow and contaminant transport processes, I do not need to be informed about definition of pumping capacity. I have worked with and supervised individuals who are from diverse cultures and backgrounds and do not hold anyone in awe as is implied by his deference to Netherlands engineers. The plans advanced by these engineers were advanced by both myself and Maurice Veecock too many times to mention. There is no complexity involved in running the TR-55 Model or Stormwater Management Model (SWMM). In fact, the “Netherlands engineers” gave no consideration to water quality in their assessment.

I would however like to return to the premise of my letter. The facts are that Buxton is located in a basin and that the NDIA proposed to install a single pump at Buxton as opposed to two pumps at Lusignan and Enmore. I am not aware that the Netherlands engineers’ study was focused on all of Guyana. My understanding is that the study was focused on Georgetown. In addition, as Mr Sohan is aware, engineering assessments are based on data. Any report including those presented by vaunted Netherland engineers is flawed in the absence of appropriate data. My contention is that the NDIA habitually skews data. I will stand by that assertion until the NDIA involves the African Guyanese communities as stakeholders in development works in those communities. Mr Sohan is free to visit the Mocha-Arcadia community and to discuss with the residents of that community the problems which the NDIA has created and the level of response provided.

I was heartened by the NDIA release to GINA which indicated that “people were guessing” about the intent of the NDIA. To eliminate “people guessing” a welcome outcome would be for the Ministry of Agriculture and the NDIA to provide information on the factors surrounding the Hope Bridge fiasco. More importantly, the NDIA should release to the public the name of the consultant(s) involved in that project and the role the consultant(s) continue to play in other projects administered by the NDIA.

The NDIA should also make public any comments provided to the consultant(s) during the design phase of work on the Hope Bridge approaches. The NDIA should also indicate if the Hope Bridge consultant(s) is involved in providing consulting services for the upgrade of drainage infrastructure in historically African Guyanese communities and the checks and balances which have been instituted to ensure an absence of results similar to those manifested by the Hope Bridge and Charity Wharf.

I continue to stand by my statement that the NDIA and Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) lack requisite engineering competence. This is easily verified by perusal of the request for proposal (RFP) documents, issued by the MoA for consulting services for drainage rehabilitation works in Mocha Arcadia, Triumph, Buxton and Ithaca. These documents stipulate that boreholes be drilled to a depth of 4 m among other things. Someone with only elementary knowledge of geotechnical engineering will know that information provided by such an investigation would be inadequate to determine deformation of facilities to be built using the data. This represents a possibility of the recurrence of the Hope Bridge fiasco. I can provide countless similar instances of NDIA incompetence, however, those are best saved for another day.

I fully endorse Mr Sohan’s statement that the APNU+AFC lacks a coordinated plan to tackle flooding in Guyana. I would go so far as to extend that statement to infrastructure development projects undertaken by the Ministry of Public Infrastructure. The implementation of a coordinated plan can however only be addressed by radical changes to the Ministries of Agriculture and Public Infrastructure. These entities are imbued with qualities cultivated and nurtured by the PPP regime.

The implementation of the coordinated policy enunciated by Mr Sohan will demand recognition by each subject Minister and/or Permanent Secretary that the broken system, instituted by PPP government policies must be dismantled and be rebuilt to allow the proactive thinkers in these ministries to respond to the country’s development thrust. Further African Guyanese must be consulted and provided with the right of prior consent to development projects to be undertaken in their communities. The skill sets available to African Guyanese must no longer be sidelined. People, not qualified, but now entrenched in these ministries must make way for professionals who are suitably qualified and appropriately skilled.

Yours faithfully,

Charles P Ceres

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