$1.18B farm-to-market road caves in 3 months after construction

…contractor blames excavator operators working for NDIA

Public Works Minister Juan Edghill has called for an urgent meeting with Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha and Local Government and Regional Development Minister Nigel Dharamlall after a contractor claimed that excavator operators working for the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) has damaged a recently completed road.

The damaged section of the road

The Minister made the decision to call the meeting after inspecting the recently constructed $1.18 billion farm-to-market access road at Number 58 Village Corentyne, Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne) on Friday.
“I will have to raise this at a higher level because this is a lack of inter-agency engagement. This road was built with a particular design.” In explaining this, he pointed out that geo-fabric and geo-cells were used in the construction because there are two waterways; one on each side of the road.
“So, we had to build this road to avoid slippage. We had to ensure that the shoulders are adequate. Since we build this road, another Government agency awarded contracts to deal with the drains and it is clear that they are inexperienced operators.”

Rather than digging the drains with a slope to ensure that the toe is in place, the walls of the canals were dug vertically.
“As a result of that, they are interfering with the shoulders of the road which is leading to slippage,” Edghill explained.
He said since taking up the position at the helm of the Public Works Ministry, he was able to address the issue of agencies digging roads shortly after they were constructed to plant utility infrastructure. Edghill said since discussing the matter with Housing and Water Minister Collin Croal, the issue has not surfaced again.
“There is a need for a discussion with the Minister of Agriculture who oversees the NDIA and we have an excellent working relationship but then there is also a need for a conversation at the technical level… Minister Mustapha with his wisdom would have awarded contracts to get this work done. The problem is when contractors are engaged, they must know what they are doing and not just what they want to do because, in the digging of these drains, they are going to affect the road,” Edghill said.
Remedial work will be done on the damaged sections to prevent water from getting under the road and to prevent further damage.
“Once water gets under there, this whole section of the road will disappear. This is a lesson that we have to learn.”
Edghill noted that in the past, draglines were used to dig canals. However, more contractors are using excavators.
“When they are digging, they are pulling mud from the actual shoulders of the road. So, we have to have a conversation with local authorities when they are looking after community roads, the Ministry of Agriculture, NDIA and we have to deal with private developers who are seeking to build bridges and to excavate and clean in front of them…. from this it is a clear case where I would have to convene a meeting with the technical people as well as the Ministers and ensure that we don’t have a repeat of this because it would be spending money only for somebody to come behind and destroy. And we will have to spend money again.”
In October, President Dr Irfaan Aly commissioned the 6.5km all-weather road.
According to President Ali, these roads will allow farmers to cut costs in repairing their vehicles and invest more into expanding their cultivation. The Head of State pointed out that in order for agricultural production to increase, infrastructure to support agriculture and food production must be transformed into a more effective transportation and production system.
Speaking at that commissioning ceremony, Edghill pointed out that there is still a further stretch to be made into a road leading to the Canje River. However, two bridges must be constructed first across the Seaforth and the Fowler Canals.
On Friday the Minister got a first-hand look at work being done to install the first of the two bridges.
“This road would link the Corentyne Highway with the Canje River. This is the Seaforth and just beyond this is the Fowler Canal. We are bridging both canals so that we can continue the road going further in. We anticipate that in another couple of months, these two bridges would be in place and then we would be able to cater for the continuation of the farm-to-market access road beyond the Fowler Canal right down to the Canje River,” Minister Edghill told the media. He was on a two-day visit to the region, inspecting ongoing and completed infrastructural projects. (G4)