The Public Utilities Corporation of Seychelles is raising concerns over the implications that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on its four major national projects.
The four projects – the raising of the La Gogue Dam, the reinforcement of the 33KV underground and overhead networks, the refurbishment of the Praslin Power station, and the deployment of a solar PV farm on Ile de Romainville - are all crucial for the power and potable water security of the island nation.
Though all of these projects are vital, the delay in the raising of the La Gogue Dam is the most concerning, the chief executive of the Public Utilities Company (PUC) told SNA on Friday. The project had previously been delayed because of protests by the local truck association PPTHA over their lack of participation in the project, the rainy season and the subsequent difficulties of the PPTHA to provide some of the specialised heavy plant utilised on the construction site.
“With COVID-19, we had to comply with the lockdown requirements and work stopped at the La Gogue dam. But even now the works are still being affected. For example, highly skilled workers and specialists from China and other countries are still not able to enter the country. What we are seeing is a lack of specialist engineering supervision, to assist us with the supervision of the works,” explained Philippe Morin.
Morin added that currently earthworks and other civil works are still ongoing at the project site but specialized tests and other works cannot proceed.
But now the dam is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2021, but only if the country is not hit with a second wave of COVID-19 and if travel restrictions are eased up and specialised workforce can fly in.At the end of February just before the country went into lockdown 70 per cent of the work needed to raise Seychelles’ main reservoir by 6 metres was completed. It was expected that the La Gogue dam -- whose storage will increase by 600,000 cubic metres to 1.6 million cubic metres -- would be operational at the end of June.
La Gogue Dam is the main supplier of potable water in the northern region of the main island of Mahe and to ensure supply, PUC has had to increase it taking of raw water from major sources such as Mare Aux Cochons and Anse Major.
The completion of the solar PV farm, a five-megawatt solar photovoltaic system on the man-made island Romainville, is also being delayed. The farm, the first in Seychelles - 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean - will produce around 7 million kilowatt-hours of energy per year. Though all equipment for this project is already on-site, the project cannot progress without foreign experts to assist PUC with the commissioning.
The 33KV project which involves the enhancement of South Mahe electricity transmission system through the construction of new 33kV underground and overhead lines is another project experiencing delays due to COVID-19. Once commission, PUC will have a robust electricity transmission and distribution network feeding electricity to areas in the south of Mahe thus enhancing the reliability and quality of electrical supply.
On Praslin, the second-most populated island of Seychelles, the pandemic has slowed down refurbishment work on the island's only power station. The Baie Ste Anne power station has an effective capacity of 11MW and also supplies electricity to La Digue - the third-most populated island - via an underwater cable.Morin explained that the project, which was already being delayed by wayleave issues and other technical factors, is now expected to be completed by the end of the first quarter of next year.
"The refurbishment of the Praslin power station has to do with improving the acoustic performance of the station. However, we have made considerable progress and we hope to complete the work in 40 days' time," explained Morin.
The chief executive said the delays are not affecting their loan obligations to foreign financial institutions, however, PUC is in continuous negotiations with all the contractors.
"Contractors working on those delayed projects will need extended time to complete the works,” said Morin, adding “all their claims for damages will be scrutinized naturally fairly and we will only accept claims that are justifiable."