Rehabilitation of Cunha Canal to be funded through Guyana’s forest partnership with Norway

The Cunha Canal is expected to be rehabilitated under a US$1.91M project to be funded by money earned through Guyana’s forests partnership with Norway with the works projected to increase the real time drainage capacity of the East Demerara Water Conservancy (EDWC) by up to 30%.

The World Bank, which has been working on the Conservancy Adaptation Project (CAP), has been selected as the partner entity through which the funds would flow. The upgrading of the Cunha Canal is an important piece of infrastructure which was identified for implementation as part of the World Bank funded CAP, the Project Concept Note (PCN) says. The investment was chosen for inclusion in the project due to its a high immediate impact on the EDWC, as it will increase the real time drainage capacity of the conservancy by up to 30 per cent, it said.

Stabroek News was told that approval for the project by the Steering Committee of the Guyana REDD+ Investment Fund (GRIF) is expected early next month.  The GRIF is the mechanism through which the monies from Norway are channelled to Guyana. After the project is approved by the committee, the World Bank will produce a full project document.

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.

Resuscitation of the canal has long been called for particularly after the Great Flood of 2005, and following flooding in December 2008 the Guyana Citizens’ Initiative (GCI) called for the re-opening of the sluice so as to aid in the drainage of the EDWC. At that time, the GCI had insisted that improving the Cunha sluice would be a better option than the proposed $3 billion Hope Relief Channel which would serve to drain the northern end of the EDWC.

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 a stand-alone project. 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 Cunha Canal was selected from these based on least cost, maximum improvement in discharge capacity, and ease of implementation.

The PCN says that the draft design and Environ-mental Assessment has been completed and government has requested that the co-financing for these works be provided through the GRIF with the World Bank as the partner entity.

“Using the GRIF as a co-financing mechanism for the Cunha Canal works provides a good opportunity to undertake a high impact investment that is driven by GoG (Government of Guyana) priorities and that will reduce vulnerability to climate change as intended under the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS). It also provides an example project and financing mechanism which might be used to finance and execute the larger package of similar complementary works and activities expected to be identified under the CAP project master plan,” the PCN says.

According to the PCN, the Cunha Canal Rehabilitation Project is an important intervention addressing the focus area of adapting to climate change. The works will improve the ability of the Government of Guyana to manage water resources in the EDWC and protect Georgetown and surrounding areas from the impacts of climate change, it says.

The proposed US$1.91M GRIF financed grant 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.

The key output indicators for the rehabilitation of the Cunha Canal, are the percentage of the canal widened, in compliance with national and project level environmental and safety requirements; and percentage increase in discharge capacity to the Demerara River.

It was noted that the rehabilitation of the Cunha Canal triggers the World Bank’s Involuntary Resettlement policy as some land acquisition from lumber company, Barama will be necessary to expand the right of way for the Cunha Canal rehabilitation. The arrangements for the transfer and any impacts will be reviewed as part of the due diligence under the project. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been signed with Barama giving their support for implementation of the project. The alignment of the canal is being adjusted to minimize use of the lumber company’s land.

The PCN says that an Abbreviated Resettlement Plan (ARP) will be prepared consistent with the Bank’s policy requirements that describes the valuation of affected assets and income sources, consultations with the Barama company over acceptable design and compensation alternatives, institutional arrangements for preparing and implementing the RP, compensation to be provided, and a timetable and budget. This ARP will be implemented before commencing any civil works that require acquisition of land and/or associated assets.

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