Consultants to submit report by September – UK envoy

The Lethem trail in a deplorable condition

UK-funded Linden to Mabura road project
The consultants conducting design and technical assessment works in relation to the Linden to Mabura road project are expected to submit a report by September, according to British High Commissioner to Guyana, Greg Quinn.

The Kurupukari River crossing where the UK-funded bridge will be constructed

The much-anticipated Linden to Lethem road project is divided into two phases: Linden to Mabura Hill and Mabura to Lethem. The United Kingdom (UK) Government is funding the first phase – Linden to Mabura, including a bridge across the Essequibo River at the Kurupukari Stelling – with a $150 million grant from the £300 Caribbean Infrastructure Partnership Fund (UKCIF) programme that was announced by former British Prime Minister David Cameron back in 2015.
Updating reporters on the project, High Commissioner Quinn disclosed that the design and technical assessment contract has been awarded and is in process.
“[The consultant is] expected to report, I think, in the third quarter of this year, thus by September this year. They will present two basic options to the Government instead of one… Then it will be over to the Government to decide which of those [options] it wants to use the funding that we have available on,” the British diplomat said.
Last year, Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson had explained that the new Kurupukari bridge, located in Region Eight (Potaro-Siparuni), will either be a single or dual lane fixed bridge – approximately 600 metres long.
Currently, persons travelling the Linden-Lethem trail have to cross the Essequibo River, at Kurupukari, by a privately-operated pontoon service. Kurupukari Village is located along the Lethem-Georgetown trail, about five hours from Lethem.
In September 2015, former Prime Minister Cameron had announced the multimillion-dollar investment in vital new infrastructure such as roads, bridges and ports to help drive economic growth and development across the Caribbean region. Guyana was named among nine Caribbean states to benefit from the grant.
In February of 2017, it was announced that Guyana had earmarked the first phase of the Linden-Lethem road project as well as the rehabilitation of the coastal and river infrastructures in the Georgetown area to be funded by the British Government.
The second project would cover the reconstruction of the facilities at the major river-passenger and goods-transport hubs at Stabroek Market and Vreed-en-Hoop on the Demerara River.
The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), which is administering the £300 UKCIF, has set a grant of $161 million to fund a feasibility study and designs for the rehabilitation of the stellings and according to High Commissioner Quinn, that study is ongoing and will be completed at the same time as the road study.
The Linden to Mabura road project covers approximately 122.5 kilometres of road to be constructed.
Meanwhile, with regard to the second phase of the project, Mabura Hill and Lethem, the Guyana Government is currently looking at its bilateral partners for funding.
In July of last year, a ministerial team from Guyana visited their counterparts in neighbouring Brazil during which it was agreed that both countries will provide financial resources for the engineering and design of the Linden-Lethem road, which is often in deplorable conditions as a result of heavy rainfall, causing persons traversing the trail many difficulties.
It was reported that the two countries will be working closely with the People’s Republic of China to access a $50 billion China Select Fund to complete the second phase of the critical piece of infrastructure that holds great potential in terms of integrating the two countries and improving trade between the neighbours and the Caribbean.
Back in July of last year, Guyana and China signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative, paving the way for cooperation of several infrastructural projects including the Linden to Lethem road project.
The agreement was signed by former Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge and Chinese Ambassador Cui Jianchun in commemoration of 47 years since the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries.
Greenidge had hinted at the possibility of the often deplorable Linden-Lethem Highway being financed under this initiative.
“We have been speaking to all bilateral and multilateral partners. During our discussions with the Brazilians, we did discuss and explored the possibility of using funding from the Latin America China Funds to fund the road. That is something very much on the cards and something we are working on,” he had indicated.
According to Ambassador Jianchun, the signing of the MoU marks a new and promising chapter to the bilateral relationship enjoyed by the two countries as it will bring mutual benefits and a brighter future for the two countries.
The Belt and Road Initiative refers to the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, a significant development strategy launched by the Chinese Government with the intention of promoting economic cooperation among countries along the proposed Belt and Road routes. The Initiative has been designed to enhance the orderly free flow of economic factors and the efficient allocation of resources. It is also intended to further market integration and create a regional economic cooperation framework of benefit to all.