NAIROBI, 8 Jun 2005 (IRIN) - A newly renovated canal in the southern Somali town of Jowhar will enable some 50,000 people to irrigate their fields with water from the Shabelle River and protect them from the danger posed by perennial floods, UN agencies said.
"The community initiative has been outstanding during this project, with the local administration and community meeting 65 percent of the cost," El-Balla Hagona, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) director for Somalia, said.
The canal, located some 90 km north of the capital, Mogadishu, was originally built in the early 1980s to avert flooding by diverting part of the river's water volume and irrigating the surrounding farmland. However, during the civil war, the canal fell into disrepair and was clogged with silt due to poor maintenance.
Somali Prime Minister Ali Mohamad Gedi inaugurated the Duduble Canal on Tuesday at a ceremony attended by other members of the Transitional Federal Government and representatives from humanitarian agencies, according to a join statement issued by UNDP and the UN World Food Programme (WFP).
Gedi said the rehabilitation of Somalia's infrastructure was a priority, and would help boost the country's economy as it emerged from 14 years of conflict.
"This joint project between the local community and the United Nations is an example of what gains there are to be made when partners collaborate effectively," he added.
The WFP director for Somalia, Robert Hauser, said: "Projects like these exist all over Somalia and have multiple benefits. We are now averting the annual floods here. This means that the community is less vulnerable to disaster, requires less humanitarian assistance and can go about making a decent living for themselves and their families."
Heavy rains in the Ethiopian highlands, where the Shabelle River originates, often lead to flooding in the low-lying Middle Shabelle region of Somalia. Humanitarian agencies have been providing emergency aid to people affected by floods.
UNDP supported the rehabilitation of the barrage and gates, operation house and local capacity-building to maintain and manage the canal, while WFP, under its food-for-work programme, provided 600 mt of food for those who helped in repairing the facility.
The community and the Middle Shabelle administration de-silted the canal and removed an estimated 725,000 cu.m. of soil. They absorbed an estimated US $650,000 of the total project cost of $1 million.
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