CONTRACTS valuing $3.1 billion have been awarded by the Ministry of Public Works for the rehabilitation of 32 bridges along the Kurupukari-Lethem corridor.
According to Public Works Minister, Juan Edghill, the impending works will support the phased construction of paved roads from Linden to Lethem.
Minister Edghill told the Guyana Chronicle that the contracts for the 32 bridges were awarded to six contractors, with site visits, inspection, and surveys already completed.
“All of them, all 32 have been awarded; site inspections have been done, mobilisation is ongoing and work is beginning. There are six contractors that they [the projects] have been awarded to,” the minister said.
The massive project which was catered for in Budget 2022, is expected to support the drive to create greater opportunities for cooperation and investments between Guyana and Brazil.
In recent months, authorities have continued to move closer to finalising arrangements for the paving of the road from Linden to Lethem, which serves as a conduit for travel between Guyana and Brazil.
Guyana is linked directly to Brazil through Lethem, which lies just on the edge of the border between the two countries. And, as it is now, the journey from Lethem to Georgetown takes as many as 13 hours depending on the state of the road. The unpaved 450-kilometre road from Linden to Lethem is often impassable in the rainy season, due to flooding along low-lying sections of the trail.
Although air travel to Lethem is also possible, anecdotal information shows that the cost factor often discourages the average Guyanese from choosing this mode of transportation.
Once paved, the road which was referred to as a game-changer by Ambassador July will eradicate many bottlenecks to travel by reducing ground transportation time to approximately five hours.
“Linden-Lethem corridor will be a game-changer for Guyana and Brazil,” Director of the Department of International Co-operation at Guyana’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, Ambassador Forbes July, said in a recent address in April.
This piece of infrastructure will not just improve transportation, but it will also augment trade and tourism, and increase land value, among other things.
In providing an update on the status of this initiative, Ambassador July said: “…the two sides are in consultation to finalise the modalities for the movement of passengers and goods between Guyana and Brazil.”
While talks on this project are progressing, he said Guyana remains committed to building and expanding its relationship with the people of Brazil and integrating the two nations through infrastructural and other initiatives, which would be beneficial to both sides.
Guyana and Brazil established diplomatic relations on August 26, 1968, and the two nations have since been co-operating on areas such as trade, health, agriculture, transport, and security matters. And with the potential paving of the road, there will be even greater opportunities for co-operation between the two countries.
It was reported that a large part of Guyana’s economic potential remains untapped and would be revealed only after the construction of the road linking Linden to Lethem and, by extension, Brazil, is completed.
President of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), Dr. Hyginus ‘Gene’ Leon, in describing the massive project which will be done in phases, said: “Almost one half of Guyana’s potential will be linked one way or the other to just opening that corridor… we are using Linden to Lethem, but I am referring here from the deep-sea port in Georgetown all the way to connectivity to Brazil.”
The CDB is no stranger to this initiative since it has provided direct funding of US$112 million for the upgrading of 121 kilometers of road from Linden to Mabura Hill. The project is a joint undertaking of Guyana, the United Kingdom and the CDB.
The Ministry of Public Works, last Friday, signed a contract for the upgrading of the Linden to Mabura Hill Road.
At the signing and sod-turning ceremony held at Wisroc Junction, Linden, Region 10, Minister within the Ministry of Public Works Deodat Indar, said there will be a two-lane highway costing around US$190 million. The contract for this project was awarded to Construtora Queiroz Galvao S.A. from Brazil.
The upgrading of this corridor will provide year-round connectivity between Linden and Mabura Hill, improving conditions for local and long-haul transport.
And although the intended aim of this specific project is to improve connectivity between Guyana’s hinterland and the coastal areas, it is just the first phase of the wider plan to develop the transportation corridor from Georgetown to Lethem on the southwest border, thereby connecting the port in Georgetown with northern Brazil.
Dr. Leon believes that while this augurs well for Guyana’s internal advancement, the project will essentially create a hemispheric corridor, linking South America to the Atlantic and, similarly, granting the Caribbean access to South America
“That sort of project is transformational… every effort should be focused on getting that to its completion point, as soon as is feasible within the borderlines of cross finances, construction, and taking it to completion,” the CDB’s President advised.