No breach, overtopping of conservancy, but secretary admits mismanagement

– work ongoing on reinforcing dams
Minister of Agriculture Robert Persaud yesterday denied reports that there had been a breach in the East Demerara Water Conservancy (EDWC).
This was also upheld by Secretary of the EDWC Board Samuel La Fleur, who addressed members of the media during a tour of the conservancy. While La Fleur also said that there had been no overtopping of the conservancy anytime recently, he acknowledged that there had been mismanagement of several canals integral to the EDWC.

On Friday, as floodwaters rose significantly in several villages along the East Coast Demerara, reports surfaced that there had been a breach of the conservancy.

But according to La Fleur, the water level in the conservancy is at a non-threatening level of 58.35 GD (Georgetown Datum) and that the water from the conservancy continues to be released through the Maduni sluice.
Persaud said the conservancy is being closely monitored and there was no need for alarm. Meanwhile, he said that he had spoken to the secretary of the Defence Board about having members of the joint services patrol the dams. This suggestion, he said, was only a precautionary measure so as to ensure that no one tampers with the dams.

During the tour yesterday, members of the media were taken through the Annandale channel—one of the canals cleared by the EDWC following the 2005 floods. La Fleur said that for several years, this canal had been blocked up by vegetation and silt. And according the secretary, there are several canals that were allowed to be blocked up. He said that the EDWC Board has already cleared some and is in the process of reopening others.

Part of the East Demerara Water Conservancy dam
Part of the East Demerara Water Conservancy dam

When asked why this was allowed to happened, La Fleur said that there clearly was mismanagement by the authorities. However, he added that previously the conservancy was functioning well without these channels being opened and as such the authorities might have taken ignored those which were blocked.

But he said that since 2000 there has been a marked increase in the rainfall over the country and consequently the importance of these channels has been realised.

An excavator reinforcing a section of the East Demerara Water Conservancy dam at the back of Enmore yesterday. (See story on centre pages)
An excavator reinforcing a section of the East Demerara Water Conservancy dam at the back of Enmore yesterday. (See story on centre pages)

La Fleur said that a lot of work was done in preparation for the current rainy season that the country is experiencing. He said that prior to the beginning of the rainy season, the water in the conservancy had to be released but in doing this, those managing it could not drop it too far below 57.5 GD since the farmers depended on the conservancy water for their farming activities.

Meanwhile work was done on reinforcing several dams so as to ensure that there is no breach. And the reinforcing work on the dams is an ongoing process, he explained. During the tour, an excavator was at reinforcing a dam at the back of Enmore. According to La Fleur, in some cases the soil used to build the dams was not of the best quality and was being replaced with clay soil. Meanwhile, he said that vegetation along the dams perform an integral function in shoring the dams.

He said that work had also been done on rehabilitating the Kofi channel, which he said was inoperable for some time.
Currently four excavators are doing maintenance work on different sections of the conservancy. La Fleur said that ideally more machines are necessary to do the best possible job but he said that there were always financial constraints.  According to him, already a substantial amount of money is spent on maintaining the conservancy, and he estimated this at more than $50 million a year.

The koker located at the Kofi channel.
The koker located at the Kofi channel.

Meanwhile, La Fleur said he is looking forward to the completion of the $3 billion outlet that President Bharrat Jagdeo said will be constructed to aid in drain the conservancy water into the Atlantic Ocean.  He said that this will be of tremendous help in maintaining the conservancy.

He also said that work on the Cunha canal is also on the cards and this is also welcomed. According to him, the decision to divert he original Cunha canal may have been a mistake but when the corrective work is done, this would significantly aid in draining the conservancy into the Demerara River.

The floodwater in this Felicity yard has risen due to recent heavy rainfall.(Photo by Jules  Gibson)
The floodwater in this Felicity yard has risen due to recent heavy rainfall.(Photo by Jules Gibson)

Persaud, in the meantime, said that technical work has already begun on this project and that currently the government is waiting on funding from the World Bank.

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