The need for expansion of irrigation capacity in the Canje River Basin has not been addressed

Dear Editor,

In a SN article of Feb 10, the Chief Executive Officer of Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) Paul Bhim was reported to have stated that although the Torani Canal was becoming shallower this does not pose any immediate threat to irrigation supplies from the Canje River for rice and sugar cultivations.

The Torani Canal became operational in the 1950’s and since then no comprehensive maintenance work, dredging or otherwise has been carried out on the facility. Siltation and slips of its embankments have reduced the canal’s cross-sectional area, restricting water flows through it which is now estimated at less than 60% of its design capacity. Concomitant with this, rice and sugar cultivation water demands in the areas the Torani Canal supplements have increased significantly resulting in serious shortages of irrigation water during the dry seasons. Because of these shortages and over pumping, salt water intrusion up the Canje River often causes forced shut-downs of the irrigation pumps serving Rosehall and Albion/Port Mourant Estates. Skeldon Estate has also been affected by low flows and in order to conserve its water supply it has been experimenting with re-circulation. Over the years the pumping stations at Black Bush Polder and Manarabisi have had to work intermittently during peak irrigation demands for the rice cultivations they serve.

The bottom line is that irrigation supply from the Canje River with supplemental flows from the Torani Canal is insufficient to meet the irrigation demands for existing rice and sugar cultivations in the Canje River Basin. It seems therefore that Mr. Bhim is not fully apprised of the facts and the serious problems facing agricultural development on the Corentyne Coast due to water shortages. The previous and the present Government were made aware of the problem as engineering studies have recommended that for additional water supply a dam and reservoir will have to be built in the upper reaches of the Canje River. At the same time the Torani Canal should be widened and deepened and additional sluice doors added at both ends of the Canal to increase flows from the Berbice River into the Canje River. To date no action has been taken to execute any of these recommendations although rice and sugar cultivation have been expanding with increased irrigation demands as users vie with each other for the ever dwindling water supply.

Yours faithfully,
Charles Sohan    

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