The World Bank has determined that the impact of the Cunha Canal meets its threshold for both the social and environmental aspects enabling the project to move forward.
The Cunha Canal project is to be financed with funds garnered through Guyana’s forests partnership with Norway. The US$1.91 million venture is projected to increase the real time drainage capacity of the East Demerara Water Conservancy (EDWC) by up to 30%.
The Cunha Canal which discharges into the Demerara River from the EDWC has not been working at its maximum capacity for a number of years. Limited capacity had been restored following the disastrous 2005 floods after the canal fell into disuse in 1990. In 2009, then agriculture minister Robert Persaud had told Stabroek News that the project to improve the drainage capacity of the Cunha sluice was a priority and would cost just over US$1.5 million. He had said that the proposed work would help to significantly drain the EDWC into the Demerara River. The canal at the time, he had said, was operating at 40 per cent of its capacity.
The World Bank, which has funded the Conservancy Adaptation Project (CAP), was selected as the entity through which the funds from the forests’ partnership would flow and it had been working on the project since 2012. Stabroek News was told that the recent determination on the impact of the Cunha Canal clears the way for the completion of the remaining activities including the project document and negotiations with the logging company, Barama.
Barama owns part of the land through which the canal will flow.
The upgrading of the Cunha Canal is an important piece of infrastructure which was identified for implementation as part of the CAP project but it was later withdrawn from that project and considered as a stand-alone. Government was to have co-financed this project.
The economic analysis carried out during project preparation considered five civil works alternatives for decreasing the likelihood of EDWC collapse, and the Cunha Canal was selected from these based on lowest cost, maximum improvement in discharge capacity and ease of implementation.
The Project Concept Note says that the proposed US$1.91 million project sum will finance the rehabilitation of the drainage channel. The channel will be re-routed, widened and excavated to remove the build-up of sediment and weeds and allow for a straight flow into the Demerara River that eliminates hydraulic restrictions. The canal will be widened to 66.6 feet with a total right of way of 101.2 feet including embankments.
Also included is the building of a new sluice to prevent the inflow of river water during high tide; it will also control the discharge of water. In addition, the project covers the construction of a bridge on the EBD Public Road. A new bridge will be constructed at the point where the canal will intercept the EBD Public Road to allow vehicular traffic to traverse the area.