… says Chinese contractor “woefully” behind scheduleThe Public Infrastructure Ministry is unhappy with the progress being made by China Harbour EngineeringCHEC workers engaged in pile driving recently on the US$150 million CJIA Expansion ProjectLtd (CHEC) on the US$150 million Cheddi Jagan International Airport Extension Project and has since decided to haul in the contractor for a meeting to address the unsatisfactory issues.According to a statement issued by the Ministry on Wednesday, among the concerns to be addressed is the fact that CHEC is still to submit the final construction drawings of the new arrival terminal building.This complaint has been a recurring problem with the CHEC team which has time and again failed to meet deadlines in submitting critical designs for approval.The Ministry has also identified among other problems, the keeping of the agreed schedule for the completion of the project and has signalled a proposal which would see the “fast-tracking of the project via simultaneous works to the runway/new arrival terminal building and renovations of the existing terminal building.”Additional manpowerThe Ministry has proposed to CHEC that works on the new terminal be conducted in parallel with works on the existing building and runway, but said too that it is cognisant that “this proposal will require additional manpower and equipment to achieve the December 2017 deadline.”Among the other contractual concerns listed by Government with regards to the controversial Chinese contractor – CHEC – is the timely delivery of concrete onsite; the procurement schedule for equipment and the progress of the works on the generator room and fire pump station.The Ministry reported Project Manager Carmichael Thorne as saying, “We are progressing but we can do better… There are areas we can improve on and these are areas that the contractor can improve on by upping the efforts.”CHEC has since been asked to provide supporting documents detailing the designs, plans, schedules and assigned resources before the scheduled meeting.Thorne said that the CHEC’s management has already been contacted with the intent to have unsatisfactory areas rectified.Negative publicityCHEC recently found itself on the receiving end of negative local publicity after it was discovered that the Chinese company had inked an agreement with a Surinamese-based company for the supply of some 300,000 tons of stone for the CJIA project, at a price of US$7.5 million.The news was met with consternation on the part of local suppliers that have since lodged complaints with local representatives, coupled with the increase calls for Government to have the arrangement re-negotiated since preference should be given to local suppliers.Minister of Business, Dominic Gaskin, had also come in for intense flak after he told media operatives that Government was essentially powerless to revoke the contract since it was a private arrangement between CHEC and the Surinamese-based company.The Public Infrastructure Minister had also come out in defence of the arrangement saying that CHEC had opted for the cheaper alternative in the supply of crushed stones for the project.President of the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA) had also come out in support of greater protection for local content in the undertaking of such large projects.The US$150 million Project has been one of the bug-bears of the current coalition A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Administration ever since it was in Opposition.It had argued, among others, that the contract was unfavourable to Guyana and was in fact borne in corruption.After taking office in May last year, it almost immediately halted and renegotiated the project, after which it was restarted with a December 2017 completion date.
How can the people of Bong afford to make their own son, Sanoyea-born Dr. Walter Traub Gwenigale, Liberia’s Minister of Health and Social Welfare, ashamed like that?Dr. Gwenigale, along with his boss, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, her entire government, the vast majority of Liberian people and institutions, as well as our international partners, are striving the hardest to eradicate the Ebola virus. Ordinary Liberians everywhere, well, except in Bong County, are striving religiously to obey and abide by all the measures the Health Ministry has put in place to eradicate the deadly viral infection. People in most places are, for now, willingly and wholeheartedly suspending cultural and traditional practices, since they have been warned that those practices cause the spread of Ebola. People are washing their hands, reporting the sick to health authorities and insisting that those with any kind of infection go and get themselves tested. People, even the Muslims now, have stopped touching bodies. People have stopped hiding sick people at home. People in many places, WITHOUT WAITING TO BE TOLD, are also quarantining themselves JUST TO ARREST THE SPREAD OF THIS DEADLY VIRUS. But no, not in Bong County!They want to continue to practice their CULTURE, as though they think they are the only ones who have culture. Do they have more culture than the Golas, Deys and Vais of Bomi and Grand Cape Mount Counties? Do Bong people have more culture than the Lofa people, especially the Lorma, Gbandi and Mandingo, ALL of whom, from childhood, call the Kissis their “uncles and aunts”? This is an enduring cultural tradition that is passed on from generation to generation. Every Lorma and Gbandi knows that when they see a Kissi man, they should bow and surrender everything, if the Kissi “uncle” wants it.But this editorial is not about lessons in culture. It is about the stubborn behavior of many of the Bong people, which is causing Ebola to spread in that county when everywhere else in the country the numbers of infection and death are going down.Even the World Health Organization (WHO), which earlier this week was still predicting that by December ensuing, Ebola would have killed 90,000 Liberians alone, by this Wednesday somersaulted on their apocalyptic (disastrous, Judgment Day) prediction. WHO’s Assistant Director General, Bruce Alyward, confessed on Wednesday that “. . . the trend is real in Liberia, and there may indeed be a slowing. Do we feel confident that the response is now getting an upper hand on the virus? Yes, we are seeing a slowing rate of new cases, very definitely.”The most puzzling question about WHO’s horrible prediction is that it took that organization a full six months to respond to the Ebola emergency in THREE West African countries, with a population of over 20 million people. They forgot that Liberia was one of the only two African nations (also Ethiopia) to sign the Charter creating WHO in 1948. WHO’s Director General, Dr. Margaret Chan also forgot that as Director of Health in the Hong Kong Government, she led the fight against a disease outbreak in her own country. That was how she got elected to this exalted position as WHO DG. Yet when it was something affecting ‘those Africans,’ let them wait. And while we waited, we were dropping dead everywhere. And guess what: She is still calling herself WHO Director General. Others, in the face of such catastrophic failure, would have gracefully bowed out. That is what the Director of the Secret Service in Washington, D.C., Julia Pierson, promptly did after an armed intruder—who killed no one—entered the White House. The Secret Service Director took personal responsibility for what happened.But WHO’s reversal of its pessimistic predictions is proof that people throughout Liberia—except in Bong County—are strictly obeying the rules, causing the number of infections and deaths to go down everywhere—except in Bong County. The county’s Chief Health Officer, Dr. Samson Azoakoi, said earlier this week that the number of infections and deaths in the county are rapidly increasing because of the people’s behavior and attitude; their stubborn “culture of silence” in reporting their sick; and their unwillingness to quarantine themselves when they get the Ebola symptoms.Well, this is most unfortunate and probably the GOL should quarantine Bong County, so that none of their infected persons will travel from there and spread the deadly virus anew to other places in the country. And the Bong people would have themselves to blame for this embarrassing but necessary move. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
Three athletes of the Liberia Special Olympic delegation to Abu DhabiLiberia’s Special Olympic team has arrived in Abu Dhabi, United Arabic Emirates for the 2019 Special Olympic World Games. The Special Olympic World Games is a multi-sport event for athletes with intellectual disabilities in the tradition of the Special Olympics movement.According to a dispatch from Deputy Youth and Sports Minister Andy Quamie, who traveled with the delegation, following the team’s arrival in Abu Dhabi, athlete Hassatou Duah won second place in her preliminary qualification race on Tuesday, March 12, in the 200m race, while Ehiabom Assaf secured the first spot in his preliminary qualification race to boost the country’s record at its debut at the Special Olympic World Games.Meanwhile, Samuel Smith’s race has been delayed due some errors on his registration papers emanating from the organizers. The team arrived on Monday, March 11, ahead of the official kickoff slated for March 14-21, 2019.The delegation includes Ethiabom Assaf (age 18), Hassatous Duah (16) and Samuel Smith (17). Krubo Wolobah Kokulo and Nyemah Yogi Yuoh will serve as Coaches for the athletes, while Yei Dolo is the medic. Deputy Youth and Sports Minister, Andy Quamie is serving as government’s representative and Celab Dunbar is serving as head the Liberian delegation.This year’s event will bring together about 7,500 athletes, 3,000 coaches and 20,000 volunteers from 190 countries. The Special Olympics is the world’s largest humanitarian sporting event and a global movement which focuses on the empowerment of People of Determination with intellectual disabilities through the power of sport.The event is under the Patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, whose leadership and vision have been instrumental in bringing together public and private sector partners to be a part of this worthy cause, the organizers said. The Crown Prince Court led the winning bid efforts with a mission to promote positive social change for people with intellectual disabilities and create a more inclusive society.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
A Sam Huston State University Professor, conducting research documenting the effects of mercury contamination in freshwater fishes and food webs in the Mazaruni River and tributaries, has found higher than normal levels of mercury in the fishes as well as the water.Dr Carmen Montaña-Schalk from the Department of Biological Sciences has been conducting research in the Mazaruni area for the past two years, and has published some of her preliminary findings over the past week.“Preliminary results by Dr Montaña-Schalk suggest a strong potential for bio-accumulation of mercury in the aquatic food web. For instance, large fish predators contain greater concentrations of mercury.Dr. Montaña-Schalk has also observed that several fishes important in local human diets had Hg (mercury) levels higher (> 1 mg Hg/kg) than the threshold proposed by the World Health Organization (0.5 mg Hg /kg). Therefore, local communities along the Mazaruni River are exposed to dangerous levels of mercury through consumption of fish as well as piscivorous wildlife,” the paper stated.Region Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni) is predominantly a mining region, and mercury plays a large part in gold recovery there. The Mazaruni River houses one of the world’s greatest concentrations of freshwater biodiversity, and contains high levels of species endemism, with a number of Amerindian communities relying on those fishes for their food. The Mazaruni area is home to thousands of Amerindians.Dr Montaña-Schalk has said that a major problem facing the freshwater biodiversity in Guyana is habitat transformation via deforestation for gold mining operations and the release of mercury from alluvial gold mining activities into water bodies. She said that although there are studies documenting the presence of mercury in freshwater fishes and alluvial sediments in rivers of Guyana, very little still is known about the synergic effects of gold mining or mercury contamination in all components of the aquatic food web and the pathways for inorganic mercury to be converted into organic methyl mercury.For the last two years, Dr Montaña-Schalk and colleagues from University of Guyana have been surveying tributaries of the Mazaruni River, and documenting fish diversity and mercury accumulation on fishes inhabiting these rivers. She documented that, every year, the effects of gold mining operations are greater.There are more gold dredges in the main channel operating 24/7, but also high inland deforestation to establish inland mining operations. Gold mining activities significantly alter local habitats and downstream waterbodies.“The most noticeable effects in the ecosystem are high turbidity in the water and sediments accumulation. This is particularly concerning, because some species endemic to the Mazaruni Basin appear highly associated with the main channel habitats…post-mining results are having adverse and detrimental effects on natural resources, including biodiversity and the environment. We have observed severely degraded aquatic ecosystems, decline in fish diversity, and mercury accumulation in fishes used as food resources by locals.All of this is of great concern, and requires immediate attention that involves conservation monitoring and restoration initiatives,” she said.Dr Montaña-Schalk will continue her research to serve first-hand information for policy makers to address the threats on fish species in Mazaruni due to mercury contamination.Last week, the Guyana Water Inc announced that the Kaituma River was found to have a high mercury content. GWI Managing Director Dr Richard Van West-Charles had stated that samples had been taken from the river, and the results have shown levels of 0.016mg/L, which are more than the accepted World Health Organisation’s (WHO’s) 0.006mg/L standard.