Former Indian High Commissioner Venekatachalam MahalingamOgle/Diamond bypass roadThere is a possibility that the Indian Government would provide the additional funding that will be needed to construct the much anticipated East Coast/East Bank Demerara Bypass Road.Back in 2016, Finance Minister Winston Jordan had signed a US$50 million loan with the Export-Import (EXIM) Bank of India for the construction of road, which will provide an alternative route connecting the East Coast of Demerara at Ogle to the East Bank at Diamond.The preliminary cost of the project was pegged at US$104 million. However when he presented the 2019 budget last year, the Finance Minister revealed that the projected cost is some US$120 million and as such, Guyana will either have to approach its bilateral partner for more funds or just await revenues from the impending oil and gas sector.However, former Indian High Commissioner to Guyana Venekatachalam Mahalingam recently told Guyana Times that his Government could come up with the extra funds but there will have to be a formal proposal from the Guyana Government.“There had been informal discussions between the Government of Guyana and the Indian High Commission a couple of times. I have also flagged this issue to my government and I don’t think there will a problem to get additional finances from the government of India because we wouldn’t want to leave the road halfway,” he stated.Mahalingam, who wrapped up a five-year tour in Guyana last month, explained that with the oil revenues that are expected to be streaming in after oil production commences early next year, getting additionally money is more likely.“I’m also going to tell my successor (Dr. K. J. Srinivasa) that this might happen and we should look at it positively to finance the extra cost so that whole road is financed by the Government of India,” the former High Commissioner noted.Since the Indian Government is funding the project, it is required that the contracts be awarded to companies from that country and as such, a 10-month design consultancy project was awarded to India-based RITES Limited. The consultants have submitted a Detailed Project Report detailing the draft final design of the bypass road.Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson told the National Assembly in May that the project is turning out to be much of a bigger scale than previously envisioned.“What was previously envisaged when the loan was taken was a single road linking house lot developments (but) what has been designed and is being reviewed at the moment is a dual carriageway, which is not just for linking house lots; it is actually an additional new entry way into the city. So it’s is new bypass road (design), so therefore it is vastly improved than what was initially perceived,” Patterson had told the Committee of Supply as he successful sought additional funds.The Minister requested an additional $67.410 million to cover payments for consultancy services provided by the Indian firm as well as to carryout preparatory works on the route earmarked for the new bypass road. He explained that along the area identified for the new link road, there is a ‘swampy’ section and part of the monies sought will be injected into clearing that area.“The surveyors would have walked the entire length from the East Coast all the way the pass Diamond and Grove (on the East Bank) and then encountered a swampy section of about 30 acres of swamp land. So as we have the time now, we want to drain that so that by the time we start construction – hopefully very shortly – it will be drained and ready to have the road (works started)… The scope of the works is obviously enormous… (and) the more we can do upfront will make the project far easier when we do come to full implementation,” Patterson explained.When the final design is approved by government, the project will go to tend for a contractor, which will also be an Indian firm.This Diamond-Ogle Bypass project will see some 26 kilometers of road constructed, linking two of the country’s main thoroughfare. This new road link will also be connected to key communities in Georgetown and along the East Bank of Demerara. These includes Diamond, Mocha, Eccles – all on the East Bank – and Aubrey Barker Road in Georgetown.Technical Services Manager attached to the Public Infrastructure Ministry, Nigel Erskine, had previously explained to the Guyana Times that the road will be a four lane main alignment with a 40 metres reserve in the middle. According to Erskine, government is looking, sometime in the future, to use the reserve in the middle for a rapid rail that would run from the Timehri airport to Ogle in a short span of time.This was confirmed by Finance Minister Winston Jordan bank in March.“[The bypass road] is being designed to cater for a rail system in the middle so we don’t have to break up the road if want to go down a railway [system in the future] and with the kind of resources we expect from oil and so on, a high speed railway will become a reality of getting from Georgetown or East Coast straight to the Cheddi Jagan International Airport,” Jordan had stated.Furthermore, plans are also afoot for major developmental projects along the new road including housing schemes and commercial outlets. Meanwhile, the Coalition government has indicated its intention of extending the bypass road from Diamond all the way to the CJIA in Timehri. This extension will come under a second phase of the project. Erskine had revealed that sometime this year, the Public Infrastructure Ministry is hoping to move ahead with the design consultancy process.In an effort to reduce traffic congestion for commuters on the East Bank of Demerara, which leads to the country’s main point of entry – the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA), the previous People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) regime initiated the bypass road project to link the East Coast to East Bank and subsequently sought funding from the Indian Government before leaving office in 2015.
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