Conservancy drainage to be boosted via Cunha Canal

Minister of Agriculture Robert Persaud says work is being done on the Cunha Canal to boost drainage from the flood-inducing East Demerara Water Conservancy (EDWC) and several distinguished engineers have been enlisted to advise on a range of issues.

More work is also planned for the conservancy. One of the main projects on the agenda of the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) is the Conservancy Adaptation Project which will cost approximately US$3.8M.  This project is currently underway with support from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the World Bank. Persaud at a press conference yesterday noted that the project will entail data collection and modelling which “will be done in order to develop a comprehensive technical foundation for a master plan which will guide actions to improve the EDWC and lowland drainage.” The project will also see specific upgrading works aimed at improving the capacity of the conservancy.

The Minister said that work is underway to provide significant drainage from the conservancy through the Cunha Canal, East Bank Demnerara.  Persaud said that this canal which drains through lands leased to Barama Company Ltd is currently operating at 40 percent of its capacity.

Persaud said that all designs and technical specifications for execution of works have been completed and upon completion of works, the 1.8 mile canal will be discharging water into the Demerara River at approximately 500 cubic feet per second, which is a much improved efficiency.

The Cunha Canal sluice on the East Bank
The Cunha Canal sluice on the East Bank

The Minister said that Barama had already indicated its willingness to facilitate any works necessary for the resuscitation of this drainage canal.  The main issue now is the problem of funding this initiative, Persaud explained.

Keeping the Cunha working and at a higher level had been raised since 2005. Recently, the Guyana Citizens’ Initiative (GCI) called for the government to urgently rehabilitate and reactivate the Cunha canal and sluice.

In a press release issued by the body, it said the rehabilitation of the Cunha canal and sluice will immediately divert a significant volume of water coming from the southern part of the Conservancy towards the Demerara River. The release said that when this is done, it is expected to relieve the pressure on the Northern section of the Conservancy dam also avoiding the release of water through the Maduni sluice into the Mahaica Creek except as a last resort.

Meanwhile the Minister explained that the NDIA and other bodies such as the MMA/ADA will continue to review the situation and provide recommendations.
Further, Persaud said that he has enlisted the support of four distinguished engineers namely: Dr. Chandra Madramoottoo, Bert Carter, Paul Sarran and Phillip Allsopp to provide technical advice on this current situation and in providing long-term solutions.

The Minister further stated that he is hoping that at least $2B will be allocated in this year’s budget to at least start construction on the relief channel from the EDWC to the Atlantic Ocean that President Jagdeo announced last week. This canal will serve as the alternate outlet for the drainage of the Conservancy and forms part of the National Adaptation Strategy and the National Drainage and Irrigation Plan of the government.

Meantime, persons who have structures or who have been given house lots on the 300-foot wide plot of land that has been identified for the construction need not worry the Minster stated. He announced that his Ministry has already developed mechanisms that will be put in place to help these persons.

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