Regions report drought beginning to bite
Stabroek News
April 18, 2003

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Prolonged dry weather is causing a reduction in water levels around the country and will have a severe impact on livestock and crops if there is no substantial rainfall within the next month.

This is according to the regional reports which are currently being considered by the Drought Assessment Committee, appointed by President Bharrat Jagdeo.

The committee comprises the Minister of Local Government, Harripersaud Nokta, the Minister of Amerindian Affairs, Carolyn Rodrigues, Minister of Housing and Water, Shaik Baksh and the Minister of Agriculture Navin Chanderpal.

According to a press statement from the Government Information Agency (GINA), the Committee met on Wednesday and discussed the regional reports which have “indicated that the situation did not warrant panic, since water in the Regions, although low will last sometime.”

The Committee is also awaiting separate reports from the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) and Regional Health Officers on the effects in the mining sector and the prevalence of water-borne diseases.

The statement added that reports would be included in an overall summary which would be presented to the cabinet.

Reports from the Regions:

Region One (Barima-Waini): Contamination of the river water at Port Kaituma is now creating difficulty for residents at a time when the river water is low and not fast-flowing, due to the lack of rains. Two days ago, there was rainfall, but the amount of water was not significant enough to impact on the level of the water. Some waterway means of travelling have now been cut off.

Region Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam): Residents in the lower Pomeroon area up to Wakapau are complaining of saltwater in the river, At the moment there is no serious effect on the livestock industry in the Region, and the recent cry of rabies in the Region proved negative after blood samples were tested in Trinidad and Tobago.

Region Three (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara): The Boerasirie water conservancy is at a very low level and two irrigation pumps are working full-time to boost the water level to satisfy Guysuco and cash crop farmers. As a result 100 gallons of diesel are consumed everyday. Grass plots in the Region are also drying up, which has forced cattle farmers to cut grass from trenches to feed animals. This supply will not last for more than three weeks, after which time the farmers will encounter difficulty or expense to feed their animals.

Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica): Frequent power outages have been affecting potable water supply to residents including those in Georgetown. The East Demerara Conservancy is now low and is compounded by several areas of the dam having crumbled which are now being repaired before the expected May/June rain. Continued dry weather beyond early May will however see severe hardships on farmers in the Cane Grove area, where rice and other crop farmers would suffer.

Region Five (Mahaica-Berbice): The Mahaicony/Abary area pump is non-functional due to a power supply problem. In the meantime, Guyana Water Incorporated is providing water to residents by tender using two four-hundred gallon water tanks from the administration. Residents of Moraikobai are seriously affected due to the very low level of the Mahaicony River water in the area. The village has a solar-powered water pump which offers limited relief. Cattle in the Mahaicony and Abary River areas will feel the harsh effect of the drought if rain does not come early. Livestock in the Foulis area are now affected by salt water in the system, due to breaches on the sea defence. Saltwater in the lower Mahaicony and Mahaica River is becoming problematic for residents. Loggers at Moraikobai now transport lumber over land for longer distances to reach river water to transport lumber to the Mahaicony coastal market.

Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne): It was reported on April 15th that saltwater is now in the area of the Black Bush Polder and Manarabisi irrigation pump stations, but it is not clear whether Guysuco’s pump station area at the back of the Skeldon area is also affected. Livestock farming which spans the entire East Berbice area has so far not been seriously affected, but cattle in the Manarabisi pasture will be the first to suffer if the dry spell continues beyond the end of April.

Potable water for domestic use has been problematic over a long period, not solely because of the weather but also power outages in the Region.

Region Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni): The natural spring with pump at Four Miles, Bartica is in operation, but where it took 12 hours to fill the reservoir, it now takes 20 hours to fill before pumping. Waramadong Residential School has a system for maintaining constant water supply. Villagers, however, have to go to the river where the water level is low. Consequent to the low level of the river, water transport to Paruima, Imbaimadai, and Phillipai are now cut off and only air transport is possible.

Region Eight (Potaro-Siparuni): [Three] days ago, there was some rainfall in the North Pakaraimas, but not significant enough to impact the water levels. Crops are now being affected. The natural spring at Kurukubaru has since had a reduction in the flow of water. Residents at Mahdia have no reliable supply of water since GWI was not allowed to pump polluted water into the distribution lines. Residents use water from two creeks, which are not greatly affected, while the Regional Administration transports water by tender to hilltop. Land mining is greatly affected, due to the lack of water inland at the pits for mining.

Region Nine (Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo): The dry weather in the Region has been reported to affect cassava crops in the south which are withering and have reduced root sizes. A report has also been lodged about caterpillar infestation on cassava plants in South Rupununi and Kumu Central Rupununi. Water from the Takutu River is no longer used for domestic purposes in Lethem because of sewage disposal in the river upstream at Lethem near the Brazilian town of Bon Fim. Residents of Lethem are supplied with water from the lone Culvert City Pump which is inadequate. Plans are in place to link the Tabatinga well with the Culvert City well to boost the flow of water to residents. The Windmill at Awaruwaunawa is not operational. Residents obtain water from a dug-out well and from the creek, which is not dry.

Region Ten (Upper Demerara-Upper Berbice): Linden is at the moment without potable water, due to the absence of electricity to run the motors which turn the pumps. The absence of rainfall, which has caused the creeks to run low, and the stagnant water, compounds the situation. And because of the lack of electricity and water, patients from the hospital had to be referred to other health facilities. The lack of water and electricity has also resulted in a protest by residents, who have blocked the main steel bridge across the Demerara River. Blocking of the bridge has resulted in greatly reduced activities between the city and Region Nine and other areas of Regions Seven, Eight and Ten. Omai Gold Mines Company has also been forced to shut down operations because of the fuel shortage. The Ituni area is also without electricity and water. Residents have to go downhill to fetch water in containers. At Kwakwani, the situation is better but occasional power outages result in shortages in the lines. The Berbice River water is also running low, which will make it impossible for timber barges to go to Kwakwani and further up river to transport forest products.

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