Cuba: Ciego De Ávila’s Desperate Race To Finish an Aqueduct by July 26

The order came from the head of the Civil Defense, despite the lack of progress on the work to bring water to the inhabitants of Florence

On site were only seven bricklayers from the Bécquer company, which had committed to the Communist Party and the provincial government to fulfill the “task” / Invasor

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 12 June 2024 — The Cuban military showed up this Monday at the works of the Florence aqueduct, in Ciego de Ávila, to persuade the builders to finish it for the greatest anniversary of the regime, on July 26.* The urgency has an explanation: the municipality, which has never had a reservoir of that magnitude, sees how its current reservoir – at 24% of its capacity – is following the same path as the Zaza dam, about to dry up completely.

As verified on Tuesday by 14ymedio, the Sancti Spiritus reservoir – which is, at least in structure, the largest dam in Cuba – does not even reach the bottom of the water gauge, and the authorities place the state of the dam at only 13%. In Zaza, they opted for frenetic fishing, while in Ciego de Ávila the Government invested 25 million pesos in plan B, which is the aqueduct. However, there has been no progress, and the works are barely halfway through the plan. Alarmed by the delay, the national head of Civil Defense, the octogenarian General Ramón Pardo Guerra, traveled to Florence this Monday with an entourage. His message: we have to finish the aqueduct “in time to celebrate July 26.”

Reaching the goal set by the military seems, at the very least, difficult. Judging by the images published in the official press, a few days ago only the foundations had been laid and a quadrant of steel bars had been arranged. On site there were only seven bricklayers from the Bécquer company, who, however, committed themselves to General Pardo, the Communist Party and the provincial government to fulfilling the “task.”

The Bécquer company collaborates with the Cuito Cuanavale Base Business Unit, whose “inaction” caused the delay in the aqueduct

The Bécquer company collaborates with the Cuito Cuanavale Base Business Unit, whose “inaction” caused the delay in the aqueduct. Interviewed by Invasor, the delegate of Hydraulic Resources in Ciego de Ávila, Edwin González, listed everything that remains to be done: the Bécquer company must install a floating raft and the Cuito Cuanavale a 160-millimeter pipe.

They will also place two submersible pumps, build three watering units and expand the hydraulic network by 6.2 kilometers. “They have most of the resources,” they assured, to complete in just over a month what was required by the General.

Florencia is the only municipality of Ciego de Ávila that does not have an aqueduct. A mountain town with fewer than 20,000 inhabitants, about 1,515 of whom depend on the tanker trucks going – in “very elongated cycles” – to the most complex areas to bring them water. In fact, they admit, “most of the time the three trucks don’t even fulfill their assignment.” Another 5,302 people depend on the hydraulic network that feeds on the dam, which has been plagued for months by drought.

Built more than 30 years ago, the reservoir now has only 14 million cubic meters of water

Built more than 30 years ago, the reservoir now has only 14 million cubic meters of water. The emergency is clear if we compare the data with what the dam managed to record in May 2018: 91 million cubic meters. The following month, the figure was 86.4 million, which represented 108% of its capacity. The dam then enjoyed a rainy season and the “draining” of the Jatibonico River, which was beneficial for the small hydroelectric plant of Florence, which the official press doesn’t mention.

This year, taking into account the drought forecasts, the dam is on its way to reaching its lowest level, the 10 million cubic meters recorded in 2017. Between the unfinished aqueduct and the reservoir, the people of Avila are the ones who carry the worst burden. In the main municipality there are four pumping stations with solar panels and two tanks of 55 cubic meters that are used to store water, but this is not enough.

In the highest and most intricate part of the municipality, about 300 houses have not received water for a month. The farmers of the area have complained about the impact that the lack of water has had on their crops and warned that, as long as the supply – even with the water trucks – is not stable, they will not be able to meet their deliveries.

For her part, Deputy Prime Minister Inés María Chapman, who visited Florence in April, was categorical about the issue and said that “the use of water trucks should be eliminated as soon as possible, because they consume too much fuel.”

To the situation is added the fact that the area, historically, has suffered long droughts. With blackouts and an aqueduct project in the mountains that has not taken shape, it is trusted that at least the law of gravity will be favorable to the residents of the municipality of Avila. The opinion of the official press is not very optimistic: “Florence is in a race against the clock,” it says. “The locals will either cross the finish line soon or they will faint.”

*Translator’s note: The date commemorates the 1953 attack on the Moncada Barracks, led by Fidel Castro. While the attack ‘failed’ at the time, the date is commemorated as the start of the Revolution.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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