Kaieteur News – About a year ago, it was noticeable that there were weeds emanating from sections of the edges of the Northern Relief Canal near to the Hope/Dochfour outlet. This could have been seen by persons using the East Coast Public Road.
It was surprising that this was happening considering that this canal was constructed to be major outfall and to relieve pressure on the East Demerara Conservancy. And from all accounts, it has been helping to relieve the pressure on the conservancy.
It could have been that the weeds were as a result of poor maintenance. But it could also be that the outfall was compromised that the discharge had slowed to such a degree that it allowed for weeds to encroach in the canal. Once there is a strong current, it is hardly likely that weeds can do so since the current would uproot any weeds and transport them into the Atlantic.
The farmers tend to know the local conditions better than the experts. And when farmers in some areas indicate that they believe that the rise in the water in some farming areas, especially the Mahaicony area, is coming from the conservancy aback of the farmlands, they must be taken seriously.
The farmers know the difference between conservancy water and accumulation due to rainfall. It is for the government to dispel that the rise in water in the Mahaicony is not being caused by the conservancy aback of that area.
The fact that the water levels are rising does not mean that there is a breach of the conservancy. It could be that there is overtopping or worse, it could be that waters are being released into these areas by the authorities but there is no evidence of the latter.
Another possibility for the high water levels in Mahaicony could be the siltation of the Abary River. This was proffered in 2015 as an explanation for the then floods.
Prior to the construction of the Northern Relief Canal, the farmlands and residents along the Mahaica Creek were always under risk of severe flooding whenever water had to be released through the Lama and Maduni sluices.
When the East Demerara Water Conservancy reaches its capacity, the authorities are forced to release waters through the Lama and Maduni sluices to relieve the pressure on the conservancy dam because if the dam breaks, the consequences will be far worse for thousands than what is taking place in some other areas where the water has reached roof-level.
During the great floods of 2005 and 2006, water had to be released into the Mahaica Creek from the East Demerara Water Conservancy (EDWC). Areas were underwater for weeks. Some farmers never recovered. In 2012, waters again had to be released and some farmers decided to quit the area totally. It is not clear how many of them went back after the construction of the Northern Relief Canal.
The threat therefore is not only for the farmers of Mahaicony. The farmers of Mahaica are also under threat.
It is for the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) to convince the farmer and residents of Mahaicony that there have been no breaches of the conservancies. It is also for the NDIA to demonstrate that the Hope Canal has been effective in reducing the level of the EDWC and that the discharge is not compromised.
The NDIA should take the media on an over-flight of the conservancies since it would be too dangerous to go by boat. The media should be shown the level of water in the conservancy and show also the points where water is usually released when the level gets too high. An inspection should also be done at the seven-door sluice.
The farmers may be wrong. All of the Regions of Guyana have been affected and most of the water appears to be coming from overtopping rivers, creeks and from the highlands. But when farmers say that they know the difference between rain water and conservancy discharges, they must be taken seriously.
They too are owed an explanation because it is their livelihood at stake. In the past, the farmers have absorbed losses when water had to be discharged into their areas. The least that can be done is for them to be assured that no water is being discharged into their communities or that there is no overtopping of the conservancy.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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