Drainage systems working well - ND&I Board By Chamanlall Naipaul
Guyana Chronicle
May 26, 2002

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THE National Drainage and Irrigation Board has given the assurance that the national drainage and irrigation system is functioning well, despite limitations caused by its design.

Chief Executive Officer of the Board, Mr. Ravi Naraine told the Chronicle that the situation is being monitored closely and so far, all the drainage mechanisms and structures are functioning efficiently. No dramatic rise in water levels in the conservancies has been observed, he said.

The official said that the Board is also overlooking the work that is being carried out by the Regional administrations to ensure that all drainage systems are properly maintained.

Meanwhile, the Chief Hydromet Officer, Mr. Dilip Jaigopaul told the Chronicle that the “wet spell is here’ and is expected to persist until July. He said the current high intensity rain is characteristic of the present climate change being experienced.

Jaigopaul said at the moment there is no threat of flooding on the coastlands but cautioned that there should be no complacency and that measures must be taken to ensure that the efficiency of the drainage system is not reduced.

Naraine said the fundamental problem facing the National Drainage and Irrigation Board is that the present national drainage system, which was designed many years ago, has the capacity to handle rainfall which amounts to 1-1/2 inches per day. However, he noted that as El Nino/La Nina weather phenomena became more pronounced it resulted in high intensity rainfall, which measured 3-4 inches per day. Consequently there was heavy flooding in 1996.

As a result, a comprehensive rehabilitation programme of the drainage and irrigation system has been embarked upon to increase its capacity and efficiency to handle increased volumes of water.

Under this programme, which received funding from the World Bank to the tune of US$4M, a major achievement has been the acquisition of 20 mobile drainage pumps, which have been deployed in strategic locations in the various Regions, Narine said.

Another important achievement under the rehabilitation programme has been the overhauling of over 80 per cent of major drainage sluices around the country from 1995 to present. Some $4B was spent in this regard, Naraine disclosed.

Pump stations at Dawa and Mibicuri in Regions Two (Pomeroon/Supenaam) and Six (East Berbice/Corentyne) have been refurbished at a cost $150M and $100M respectively.

Overall, 50 per cent of the planned work under the rehabilitation programme is completed and funding is being sought to conclude the remaining work.

In this regard, Minister of Agriculture, Navin Chandarpal said the system that the international financial institutions use when providing funding is a tedious one, and consequently, acquiring the necessary funds has been delayed. He, however, assured that the Government is making every effort to obtain funding.

He also pointed out that the present rehabilitation programme has been formulated by “working closely with the Regional Democratic Councils, Neighbourhood Democratic Councils and farmers.”

The minister explained that because of the climate change which has resulted in a higher frequency of intense periods of rainfall, thereby putting severe pressure on the national water control mechanisms and system. The cost of maintaining and modernising the existing system is very high and because of limited finance, priority has to be given to the more important and urgent projects. As a consequence, some areas will be neglected to some extent and this will inevitably lead to some degree of flooding.

Chandarpal told the Chronicle that the situation has been compounded by an historical neglect of the national drainage and irrigation system. He said that only $5M was allocated in the national budget in 1992 for capital projects in drainage and irrigation. However, from 1993, there has been substantial increases and for this year, more than $410M has been allocated at the central level for capital projects, while another $411 has been allocated to the Regions for the same purpose.

Another area of concern, pointed out by Chandarpal is negligence by sluice operators which has resulted in flooding of several communities. During this year, more intensive methods of supervision in this regard are being implemented to ensure that this malpractice is dramatically curbed.

Among the major projects earmarked for this year are the rehabilitation of Golden Fleece, Sommerset and Berks sluices, installation of three diesel pumps and rehabilitation of the Dawa Pump station in Region Two, rehabilitation of canals and drains in Leguan and Wakenaam, Cane Grove, Friendship, Mahaica Creek, West Coast Berbice and Corentyne. A sluice will be constructed at Belfield, Leguan, while a head regulator will be built at Walton Hall in Region Two, Naraine disclosed.