Commentary Hope Relief Canal.
By Tony Vieira [April 2009]
There are a numerous facts about the proposed Hope relief canal and the structure which has to be built to pass the lama water through the sea wall to the Atlantic Ocean which require an explanation by the authorities. Since a lot of us do not see this as a viable project.
First of all we have Mott Mc Donald along with CEMCO/SRKN’gineering as the contractors which will do the design of the canal which has to be built to remove excess water from the conservancy during periods of heavy rainfall.
There are four problems with the information in this first paragraph 1. CEMCO was not one of the bidders for this contract, Mott Mc Donald and SRKN’gineering and E&A Consultants were. Now ladies and gentlemen since CEMCO were not bidders in this contract, how is it possible that they end up as being one of the companies which was awarded this huge contract of 56.4 million dollars!
Secondly if the original contract had deficiencies, and was offered again for tendering so that CEMCO could win the contract, how can it be that no one knew about it?
Thirdly Mr Ravi Narine who was the chairman of the D&I board until last year is the major shareholder in SRKN’geneering its an abbreviation of Steve, S; Ravi, R; and Krisna K; Narine N; SRKN then ‘geenering thus SRKN’geenering, whilst Ravi Narine was chairman of the Drainige and Irrigation Board of Guyana his company was getting contracts to do civil engineering works in drainage and irrigation and sea defences for the government in this country and at least one of those contracts for 90 million dollars was an emergency work in East Berbice which did not go through the tender process. In other words we had in this country a chairman of the national drainage board who had an engineering company which benefited from the failure of national infrastructure, and no one in this country ever questioned it except me. And when I did, no one paid attention.
Fourthly Mott Mc Donald is a consulting company which the government hires to advise them on civil engineering matters; as recently as 2007 Mott Mc Donald was advising the government on how to design and maintain our drainage system, how can this company which the government relies on to tell them how to design our systems end up as a contractor actually being paid to design this canal and to tell us how it must be constructed to relieve the high water level of the Lama conservancy, is this not a conflict of interest? This company advises us on what to do, then we allow them to bid on doing it?
Having gotten over these 4 obstacles to the project we then see a letter to the newspaper telling the government that their current Chairman of the National Drainage and Irrigation Board does not know what he is talking about, since he has publicly declared that this new relief canal must be designed to withstand a 10,000 year storm i.e. a storm which only comes every 10,000 years! Now ladies and gentlemen Messers Ralph V. Seegobin and Ram Dharamdial have rightly pointed out in their letter to the newspaper dated April 8th 2009 that it would be impossible to design any system for such a storm since data would have had to be available before Columbus discovered the new world in 1492, 517 years ago duhhhh…. Lionel; so it would be impossible to have records going back 5,000 years.
Before I go further I would like to put into perspective for you what this canal will entail, we will have running from the conservancy a canal which has embankments at nearly 59 GD high on both banks i.e. Higher than the highest high tide we ever had in this country which was 57.3 ft. GD running from south to north for nearly 12 miles from the conservancy to the Atlantic ocean and it would have to be wide at least 100-40 ft wide. The land level in most of this area from the conservancy to the Atlantic would be about 50/52 ft. GD. So the banks and the water running from the conservancy to the Atlantic Ocean for 8 miles would be 8-9 ft higher than the surrounding terrain.
This year in February I asked a question in parliament about the lama levels during the month of December 2008 and January 2009 including the levels of the Land of Canaan relief on the East Bank.
The relief structure at Land of Canaan is 40 ft wide but the bottom [the floor] is not as low as our normal kokers it is at around 54 GD so this structure is a weir and not a koker at all. The normal koker level at the bottom i.e. the invert level is usually 44 to 45 GD, 10 feet deeper.
The information presented to me suggested that all through January 2009 the water level at Land of Canaan was 2 ft lower than in the conservancy; it was 56 ft. GD compared to 58 ft. GD, this means to me that this relief is only working at 50% of its capacity, if we can deliver more water to Land Of Canaan we can double the discharge rate of the outlet to the Demerara River and if we changed it from a 40 wide weir, to a 40 ft wide x 10 ft deep multiple koker structure we would have a 400 foot wide aperture to the Demerara river i.e. we would be able to discharge nearly 20 times the current amount of water to the Demerara river.
One engineer tells me that the water level at the northern dam of the conservancy which runs parallel to the east coast road is higher than the water at the back end of the conservancy I am saying that this is nonsense since the water coming into the conservancy and causing so much damage is coming from the highlands at Timehri and as far back as Saint Cuthbert Mission [see map] since both the Lama and Maduni creeks empty water from these highlands into the back or southern end of the conservancy, the reason why the back end of the conservancy has a lower average water level than the front or northern end of the conservancy is that we are blowing quite a bit of the water at Land of Canaan but clearly we are not blowing enough hence the level in the front is high.
Relieving this high level of water at Land of Canaan at the western end of the conservancy would be far more effective since the discharge canal would be a fraction of the length than that which would be required to bring it to the Atlantic to the north and it would be safer than removing the high Lama level through a new high level trench at Hope.
Building a koker of any kind to the Ocean is far, far more expensive than building it to a river the tide action alone makes it a very expensive proposition to build maintain and operate.
Additionally even if there is reason why this Hope project should go ahead it is my firm belief that the trench delivering the lama water to the Land of Canaan Relief should be examined very closely and widened so that its efficiency can be enhanced, after all ladies and gentlemen if the water level in the conservancy is 58 GD and the water level at Land of Canaan is 56 GD then there is a two foot drop in a canal of less than one and a half miles reducing its effectiveness considerably.
But essentially all rational thought would prompt any intelligent person to conclude that the major Lama relief should be at land of Canaan, first the one and a half mile feeder trench from Land of Canaan to the conservancy which has been there since the 60’s and could be as wide as we want it to be since the population there is much less than on the East Coast is already there; secondly it would be far shorter run than the proposed approximately 10-12 mile canal which will terminate at Hope and therefore it would not cost anywhere near 3 billion dollars; thirdly the cost of constructing relief structures to the Demerara river would be far less than similar construction to the Atlantic; fourthly the surrounding land level at Land of Canaan is nearly 4 ft higher than the run from the conservancy to Hope on the East coast thus it would have the potential to be less of a menace in case of a breach.
Really ladies and gentlemen I can’t under the circumstances agree to this situation at all and every engineer I have expressed this view to agrees with me. This project is looking more and more as one to put money in someone’s pocket rather than a realistic and cost effective solution to a real and dangerous problem.
The government must be aware that this project is now riddled with controversy and that there is significant data to suggest that it is not a viable project. Obviously since there are so many plusses to this relief being sighted at Land of Canaan, we have to conclude that some person or persons have an agenda which is militating against doing this job in the most cost effective and safe manner.