During today’s heavy rainfall in the West Berbice area, I visited the sluice at D’Edward during low tide level to observe its operation. Two of the three doors of the sluice were open and discharging floodwaters from the façade drain effectively despite signs of back-up.
I inquired from the sluice operator (SO) as to the reason why the third sluice door (southernmost one) was not open at a time when optimum discharge was required.
He replied that floating grass was being trapped upstream on the sluice pier and also on the southern embankment, thereby creating an obstruction and a clearing problem for him. Therefore to make life easy he eliminated the problem by closing the third door. He also stated that severe erosion was taking place on the southern embankment of the façade drain abutting the sluice, and in order to slow down the process before the adjacent roadway collapsed, he took the initiative of closing the third door.
During further discussions with the SO, I was informed that no guidelines or operation manual for the sluice had been issued to him. In addition, the sluice has no water gauges upstream/downstream to indicate to the SO as to the opportune moment in time for him to activate the sluice doors to achieve the desired result of relieving floodwaters or the ingress of river water.
It was evident that in the absence of any clear operation and maintenance directives and no on-site logbook to inform his superiors what he was doing and when, the SO was left to operate this important drainage facility on his own initiative and judgment, for better or worse.
There is much talk these days about an efficient drainage system in place to alleviate flooding along coastal Guyana. Recently the Minister of Agriculture stated that his ministry was focusing on the enhancement of drainage and irrigation to encourage farmers to return to the land.
However, the facts bear otherwise. For example, the D’Edward Sluice which is the main drainage facility for a major and important agricultural area stretching from the Abary Creek to the Berbice River is seemingly neglected at the start of the major rainy season for want of effective management, operation and maintenance.
It is very disconcerting for the people living and working in the MMA project area to know that flooding of their homesteads and farms could occur at any time, not because of the smokescreen of global warming and/or El Nino, but because of the incompetence of the people who are entrusted to manage, operate and maintain their drainage system despite the rhetoric that all is well in the homeland.