Tension is brewing over the Government’s lack of consultation with the Amerindian people of Moco Moco in Region Nine, even as the administration moves to resuscitate the hydro power station located in the community, which has been defunct for some time.
The resuscitation has progressed to the point where plans are apace to have a geotechnical investigation done into the site, where a landslide had occurred. Expressions of Interest (EoIs) were invited from local and foreign firms to provide this consultancy service back in April.
According to Member of Parliament Alister Charlie, Government should avoid the mistake of insufficient consultations. He urged that Government have the Moco Moco Village Council included in the decision-making, since there is a prevailing argument that the site falls within its purview.
“It was an election promise by the Government that the hydro power station would be resuscitated when they get in power,” Charlie said when this publication visited the Moco Moco site last week.
“There is a little tangle within the municipality of Lethem, specifically the Mayor and the Village Council, with respect to who owns what and where. As rightly said by the Toshao, the hydro itself falls under the village council’s purview, and not the municipality of Lethem,” Charlie explained.
“There is a small settlement there, which the municipality of Lethem governs within the Moco Moco titled land. So it would be good if Government can go back and consult with the Village Council and have them part-and-parcel of every decision-making process.”
Charlie noted that if the country is serious about going “green”, then resuscitation of the hydro plant is a good idea. He however warned that the capacity would have to be increased, due to the changes from the time it was commissioned in 1999 to present day.
“When we’re looking at the hydro, we have to be looking at the megawatt, because Lethem has grown tremendously. And with the coming of the Industrial Site and the hydro, it will be very feasible for Lethem, provided we are thinking ‘green’,” he explained.
Moco Moco Toshao, James George, noted that consultations should be aimed at verifying what benefits would accrue to his village. And not wanting a focus to be exclusively placed on his village, he urged that the talks serve as a precursor to development in Lethem as a whole.
“As a Toshao, I want to see development,” he said. “At no one time would the Village Council ever say ‘no’ to progress. But the village of Moco Moco should benefit one way or another, and they should have ‘one and two talks’ (between) the Village Council and the Government.”
It is understood that the Moco-Moco hydro power plant will be operated under the Build, Own, Operate, Transfer (BOOT) arrangement. This aims to supply power to Lethem Power Plant under a negotiated and agreed Power Purchase Agreement.
In 1995, the then Government, with assistance from the Government of China, had sought to develop the hydropower project. However, in 2003, the plant was significantly affected by a landslide. The project was since abandoned. The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) is currently in the process of assessing five of 69 possible sites which are proposed to house these hydro power amenities. The five sites under scrutiny are Tiger Hill, Kamira, Tumatumari, Amaila and Kumu. It is expected that their assessment will be completed in May of this year.
At present, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has signalled its intention to grant an interim one-year authorisation to Tumatumari Hydro Inc (THI), which brings the special purpose private company one step closer towards its planned rehabilitation of the Region Eight (Potaro-Siparuni) Tumatumari Power Plant.
To promote additional financial aid for the hydro power and renewable plan, the Government is partnering with its Brazilian counterpart. It is understood that Government, in this regard, intends to use the US$80M from the Norway Fund, already allocated to renewable energy development. Interested investors are also welcomed in this department. Finance Minister Winston Jordan has stated publicly, during an engagement with the Guyana Manufacturing & Services Association (GMSA), that the money is not sufficient for its plans. In fact, Jordan had spoken of difficulties being faced to access the funding.