Efforts to utilize fresh water 27 miles up the Mahaica River for drought-hit agricultural cultivations and cattle on the coast, are expected to be completed today.
Construction of a canal leading from the right bank of the Mahaica River at Kuliserabo to the Perth Biaboo Main Canal, running parallel to the river and about four and a half miles east of it, was originally scheduled to be completed on Monday by the Mahaica Mahaicony Abary Agricultural Development Authority (MMA/ADA) and the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA).
The link is intended to get the badly needed water from the upper reaches of the Mahaica River not affected by salt water intrusion, into the Perth Biaboo canal, and thereby provide farmers cultivating thousands of acres between the two rivers, with the resources to save their rice and cash crop cultivations and cattle.
On location at the area, Chairman of the MMA/ADA, Rudolph Gajraj, on Monday, said that the delay in making the connection had been caused by the difficult terrain in which the machines are operating, mainly a soft, spongy pegasse which necessitates the painstaking use of wooden mats as flooring, every inch of the way, to prevent them from bogging down during operations.
Sources had earlier disclosed that of the 18,000 acres of rice lands normally cultivated in that area between the Mahaica and Mahaicony Rivers, only 8,000 acres had been sown. Of this amount, some 600 acres of growing rice plants had already been terminally damaged by the drought and another 7,000 is being adversely affected by dwindling or little or no irrigation supplies at this, a critical stage of their growth.
Under severe stress too from the severe El Niño weather conditions are the estimated 20,000 head of cattle usually reared in this area.
It was explained that the lands between the Mahaica and Mahaicony Rivers are normally irrigated from both rivers through sluices, but the intrusion of salt water from the Atlantic due to the drought conditions had reached several miles upriver and the rivers had become unusable for any agricultural or domestic purposes.
Currently salt water has reached the Grass Hook area in Mahaica, 11 miles from the mouth.
This means that there is no existing available source on the Mahaica River through which irrigation water can be supplied into the cultivation areas, while even though there are still available points on the upper Mahaicony, the areas that can be served are limited to the first and second depth cultivations.
The point at Kuliserabo 27 miles up the Mahaica River is considered safe from the inward moving salt front.
On a visit to the area on Monday, MMA surveyors were observed moving along the swampy area, between Etay palm trees and stunted vegetation on foot, and completing the lines for machines: two from the MMA excavating in a westerly direction and two from the NDIA excavating eastwards towards these, to make the link.
Others on the location apart from Gajraj observing the excavators at work, were General Manager of the MMA/ADA, Aubrey Charles, and Water Management Engineer, Paul Sarran.
These officials were confident that the new canal will provide most if not all the water required by farmers in the Mahaica/Mahaicony block to save crops which have not yet been terminally destroyed by the ongoing drought.
Farmers in the area were on Monday anxiously awaiting the completion of the link.
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