Residents unhappy over procedures, damage to streets

By Daniel DaCosta
Stabroek News
June 7, 2000

The final phase of the $265 million European Union/Government of Guyana-funded New Amsterdam water supply project has been plagued by persistent and heavy rainfall since it began in December and over recent weeks creating severe inconvenience for most of the town's 30,000 residents.

The final phase is being executed by Southern Exploration and Production Company of Trinidad and Tobago. It entails the installation of the secondary distribution system including the laying of some 72,000 metres of pipelines ranging in size from two inches to six inches. The project, which is expected to be concluded in October, also involves the installation of a number of fire hydrants throughout the town.

For the month of May New Amsterdam recorded some 360 millimetres of rainfall. The company's excavation work which have been hit almost daily by heavy rain has reduced several streets to slushy and almost impassable footpaths. The concerns of New Amsterdamers are numerous and diverse.

The company failed to provide advance notification of its plans to dig specific areas, which would have provided the opportunity for residents to make preparations for the disruptions. Residents are complaining about the damage done to entrances of homes, streets and businesses by the excavation. Holes intended for valves have been left open for weeks without being cordoned off with fluorescent markings as stipulated and the resulting traffic disruptions/hazards are some of the problems which have agitated those mostly affected. A schoolboy recently had to be pulled out of one of the many valve holes after he fell in while on his way home.

However, Project Engineer Mahendra Ramsaywack maintains that the rain is responsible for most of the disruptions and inconvenience. He said the company has been forced to sometimes leave ditches and valve holes open for periods longer than planned. Each street, he disclosed, has a valve hole which is inundated almost on a daily basis, frustrating efforts to cast the valves in concrete. The engineer also attributed some of the company's problems to poor drainage in New Amsterdam.

Tensions heightened on May 11, last when residents in the self-help Martin Luther Housing Scheme prevented the company's markers from cutting a concrete street to lay pipelines. The stand-off between the two sides remains unresolved.

Town Clerk Laurel Alfred, told Stabroek News last week that the council had written to the consultants and the Chief Executive Officer of the Guyana Water Authority, Karan Singh, expressing concern over the clogging of drains by excavation material, access to streets and damage to roads. A meeting is expected to be held between the parties shortly to address the issues.

Yet another concern of some residents is the absence of fire hydrants in certain neighbourhoods including Martin Luther, Amsville and Vryman's Erven housing schemes. According to Ramsaywack the installation of hydrants in those areas was not included in the design of the project.

The engineer told Stabroek News that the company was looking at ways of minimising further disruptions as it moved into the Vryman's Erven and Savannah Park areas. He refuted claims that the project was damaging roads and entrances to homes and streets. Questioned on the contractor's obligations, an official attached to Design and Construction Services Ltd (D&CS) supervisors of the project, said: "The company should provide and maintain access to homes and streets for the duration of the contract. The contractor is obligated contractually to reinstate any road which he has disturbed to a similar degree. This, however, does not apply to concrete entrances which are on state reserves."

According to Ramsaywack, the laying of lines is expected to conclude by August when remedial work will commence. He expressed thanks to residents of Stanleytown for their co-operation and patience and called on others to also be patient. He warned residents to desist from removing earth left near ditches saying it will be needed for restoration work.

Stabroek News understands that the contractor has been advised of the need to notify residents in advance of the execution of works and for a public relations programme to be undertaken.

More than 100 workers are employed on the project, involved in the installation of some 71 kilometres of pipeline, 4,700 service connections and 53 hydrants. Singh had said back in February that "any damage will be put right during the project and entrances will be reinstated to a reasonable state." The first two phases were completed by 1997 at a cost in excess of $600 million.

The New Amsterdam Town Council has moved to the court seeking reparations for damage incurred during the second phase executed by North Host International. New Amsterdamers are no doubt wary of the possibility of a recurrence leaving them with damaged entrances and roads.

Follow the goings-on in Guyana
in Guyana Today