The need for hydroelectricity
Kaieteur News
February 9, 2007

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Guyana — The Land of Many Waters. That is what this territory is called. With its abundant rivers and waterways, this country understandably teems with fish and other marine life. These waterways represent a source of livelihood for many of our hinterland dwellers.

Communication in that corner of the world is by water. People either paddle canoes or small boats to reach their destination since the vast majority cannot afford outboard engines.

In the not too distant past these waterways represented the only way loggers could transport logs to the sawmills. They floated them down the rivers as rafts and while the effort might have been labour intensive, the loggers knew that the rivers were helping them save cost as far as transporting the logs were concerned.

These days when time is the essence, the various timber companies cut trails through their concessions and use trucks to transport the lumber to the mills.

The national waterways also serve as boundaries as in the case of Suriname where the Corentyne River is the separation point; Venezuela where the Cuyuni River serves as the boundary and Brazil which is separated from this country by the Takutu River in some parts.

For more than 50 years, perhaps closer to 60 years, developers and national leaders have eyed these waterways as a source of power.

British Guiana Consolidated was among the first to seek the establishment of hydroelectric power in this country. To enhance its gold mining operations, the company established a hydroelectric plant at Tumatumari, in the Potaro.

This plant was to operate long after the mining came to an end. But such was the cheapness of the power that the subsequent entity occupying the land, the Guyana National Service, was able to power two centres—one at Tumatumari and the other at Konawaruk.

So cheap was the power that the authorities begged people to buy electric appliances and to let these run as long as possible merely to utilise the power. Then in 1973, Guyana once again flirted with hydropower and that was to make maximum use of the bauxite that this country mined.

The plan was to harness the Kamarau Falls and provide enough power to smelt the bauxite. That would have made Guyana one of the leading countries in the region.

By that time the oil prices had soared through the roof. Hydropower was the way to go.

We then turned our attention to neighbouring Venezuela when the Upper Mazaruni Hydroelectric project failed.

We sought to acquire hydroelectric project from the Guri Dam project. That too failed. Today, 30 years later we are again flirting with hydroelectric power because that is the way to go.

In the developed world the dependence is less on fossil fuel and more on alternative power. Canada takes a vast amount of power from the Niagara Falls and the border communities in the United States also benefit from this power source.

Of course there is nuclear power but we are nowhere near to harnessing this form of energy, but we do have water and we have the potential to generate vast power. So here we are again, this time seeking the help of the Russians.

In this country, so much is kept under wraps that often one forgets that there is another investor seeking to harness hydropower. There is an existent letter of intent for the development of the Amalia Falls. However, the authorities are saying nothing, so one is left to speculate about the fate of those investors.

We are however, certain that President Bharrat Jagdeo has invited the Russian Aluminium company, Rusal to consider establishing a hydroelectric facility that would more than power any smelter the company has signaled its intention to erect.

It is often a shame to watch so much potential go to waste, even though the various falls provide a tourist spectacle. However, the tourists do not come in any large numbers so their conversion to hydropower facilities would significantly boost Guyana where the cost of electricity is way too high and where the fuel bill accounts for nearly 40 per cent of expenditure.

It would be nice if as it is stated in the Holy Book, that the Creator commanded that there be light and there was light, that we or someone could somehow command that there be hydroelectricity and there is such power.