Lethem airstrip for major upgrade

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A Trans Guyana Airways aircraft lands at the Lethem airstrip in October (Delano Williams photo)

…gov’t seeks US$15M to boost hinterland aerodromes

THE Lethem airstrip will soon be upgraded to a regional hub and international aerodrome as government continues negotiation with a multilateral donor to secure a US$15M loan to finance a project for the further development of airstrips and aerodromes across the hinterland.

A bus manoeuvres the Linden to Lethem trail recently (Delano Williams photo)

Finance Minister Winston Jordan on Monday during his 2018 budget presentation, said the upgrade of the Lethem airstrip will allow for flights originating from Brazil and other Latin American neighbours to land there. Jordan disclosed that $35B has been allocated for infrastructural development next year, while noting that some $250M has been set aside to improve airstrips and aerodromes across the country.

He said Guyana will enter into a new phase in its aviation history with the completion of the US$138M expansion of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA). A sum of $5B has been allocated to complete works, which include the extension of the runway, rehabilitation of the building to house the arrival terminal, and the construction of the departure terminal. The upgraded Airport will be able to accommodate larger aircraft and handle an increased number of passengers, Jordan noted.

Meanwhile, work on the development of an aviation master plan will begin next year while $140M of the $250M allocated for the improvement of airstrips and aerodromes across the country will be used to begin the rehabilitation of airstrips at Bemichi and Kamana. Another twelve airstrips across the hinterland regions will be rehabilitated at a cost of $110.3M, said Jordan.

$2B for Sheriff St-Mandela Avenue
He told the House also that $14.3B has been set aside for the construction, rehabilitation, upgrading, and maintenance of the country’s road network and according to the finance minister, works on the Sheriff Street -Mandela Avenue will begin. Some $2B has been budgeted for that exercise. He explained that the existing carriageway will be upgraded and resurfaced from the northern end of Sheriff Street through to Homestretch Avenue. From that point to the Mandela Avenue-Hunter Street junction, the road would be widened to accommodate four lanes of traffic.

Sidewalks, bicycle lanes, pedestrian overpasses, and a roundabout at the Sheriff Street-David Street junction will all form part of the identified project, in an effort to improve road safety. That aside, some $2.7B has been allocated for the widening of the East Coast Demerara Highway to four lanes, stretching from Better Hope to Annandale; while the two-lane road between Annandale and Belfield, will be upgraded. A further $1.2 billion has been budgeted to complete the West Coast Demerara Highway. Additionally, the four pedestrian overpasses will be equipped with elevators to facilitate the aged and differently-abled pedestrians.

Linden to Lethem road
Several feasibility studies and detailed designs for the first phase of the Linden-Lethem road, covering the Linden to Mabura Hill, will be launched next year and will aid in improving access to hinterland communities and northern Brazil.

Jordan told the National Assembly in his almost four-hour presentation that the development of the Georgetown to Lethem gateway requires careful assessment and due diligence. He said once completed, the roadway will also open new economic opportunities along the corridor. He disclosed that external funding is available to scope out and develop key social and economic opportunities for residents along the corridor.

The finance minister said the use of the available funds is aimed at establishing the groundwork to map out and implement complementary social and economic development initiatives around the project, and to assist in financing the implementation of selected strategic, small-scale economic activities.

He disclosed too that development partners have already approved the terms of reference for the design and feasibility of the Linden-Mabura Road Upgrade. Similar studies, Jordan said, will be conducted on the Soesdyke-Linden Highway and the Linden-Ituni-Kwakwani corridor. “These will provide significant access to the Intermediate Savannahs and create access to the upper reaches of the Berbice River, thereby enhancing the agricultural potential of Kwakwani, Ebini and Kimbia,” he explained.

Additionally, several key roadways in the hinterland, aimed at providing easy travel and transportation access between and among hinterland communities, as well as facilitating our gold miners and loggers, will be upgraded next year. Among them are the Port Kaituma- Matthew’s Ridge-Baramita Corridor, internal roads in Mahdia, and the Bartica-Potaro stretch of road. $1.5B has been allocated for these works.