Like an Inland Sea

Considered one of the wonders of civil engineering of Cuba, the Zaza, the largest reservoir in the archipelago, located in Sancti Spiritus, supports major production programs in the country

By: Lisandra Gómez Guerra


2016-07-20 | 15:34:39 EST
The large body of water borders three municipalities from Sancti Spiritus.The large body of water borders three municipalities from Sancti Spiritus. Photo: EscambrayZoom

SANCTI SPÍRITUS.- When viewed from the sky this portion of the national territory it may be thought that centre of Cuba has an inland sea. A huge belly full of water has made more than one person gasp, especially when its capacity has touched its ceiling and its outlets were opened to run off the liquid and cause the least impact to the population.

With a stunning image, the Zaza, the biggest of the nation, is also a real jewel of hydraulic engineering, the driving motor of several production programs in the country.

It located in the basin of the same name, second largest in the nation, was, perhaps, the most comprehensive construction goals set by the then young Revolution. Commander in Chief Fidel Castro urged its completion in October 1969, during a visit to the Central University of Las Villas.

After a year of careful studies to detect the right place, lift the rebel Marabou where the curtain would be built and calculate again and again if it was possible without sleep, November 12, 1970 the first meters of clay were deposited in the area.

Specialists in geology, hydraulics, construction and other areas related to project minutely analysed throughout the region now occupied by the work, located between the municipalities of Sancti Spiritus, La Sierpe and Taguasco. After multiple investigations, the design of the dam materialized in the place where the largest amount of solid rock exists to prevent water seepage.

After intense days of earthworks and other materials, precise guidelines arrived from Havana and strict control on site to avoid errors, the curtain three kilometres longand about 40 meters high was emerging gradually.

Thus a kind of wall China was born, able to hold about 1,020 million cubic meters of water. Fidel was the main promoter of the idea that was concluded within three years. Thousands of arms enlisted to fulfill the commitment and redoubled their efforts at decisive moments in the construction, especially when they cut off the Zaza river.

The budding reservoir drew the attention of all the authorities and the people in general. Until the very center of his vessel arrived on more than one occasion the historic leader of the Revolution, went to see with his own eyes what was done and converse with the workers, who improved their working conditions.

For the dimensions of the reservoir it was necessary to build new homes to concentrate mainly the residents of the areas that remain under its waters. so another great workemerged: the municipal headquarters of La Sirpe. Spiky buildings hosted multiple families who spent their days, mostly in agricultural and cattle work. Gradually the city expanded and today is a rich community with all services.

When the water fell

Beyond the initial construction tasks there are multiple stories floating about when a review of what has been the biggest waterworks of Cuba was attempted. In the spring of 1972, when calculations had shown the complete filling of the dam would take five years, positioned above the centre of the temporary island which caused a much more than songs of frogs.

Heavy rains caused a fault in the provisional tubular spillway, which was aimed at the gradual closure of the channel, and delivery of water to the rice-growing region Mapos.

In the reconstruction of the breakdown of 1972 thousands from Sancti Spiritus participated. Photo: Taken from Escambray newspaper.

To ensure the safety of those residing downstream of the dam evacuated in about 40 minutes.

All the people were called to take part in the repair work. Thousands of hands, especially young people, came to the fissureto fill clay bags hand trying block off the big hole.

Unfortunately, in this construction maelstrom two young militants of the Union of Young Communists (UJC): Orlando Paneca and Marcelino Morgado lost their lives. The raft carrying trucks pouring clay in the hole, turned around and it was impossible to survive being caught by the swirling water. After seven intense days, the damage was controlled and immediately the evacuees returned to their homes.

San Pedro does not want help

Since that time, Zaza has never presented problems of such magnitude. After the passage of heavy rain, the warning system is activated and safeguard both the population living downstream and animals and economic centres. In the 40 years of the great waterworks, humans have learned to know it and tame it.

Despite that scare, the people of Sancti Spiritus recognizes that its construction is effectively controlled flooding of the river of the same name. The dam is a significant reserve to support entities of great economic importance and life of the population.

According to the delegate of Hydraulic Resources in the province, Alberto Eirín González, the main consumers of the precious liquid damming in a size that exceeds one hundred square kilometers, are the Agroindustrial South grains Jíbaro (EAG), Azcuba, various cultures and Aquaculture.

Rice born in the south center of the country benefits directly from the dam. Since the different channels, with an irrigation system that seeks constant saving, water is distributed by the vast rice fields of the area of ​​the municipality of La Sierpe.

Such a strategy also promotes the planting of sugarcane. Higher volumes of that product in the territory grow in the area near the huge reservoir.

In addition, aquaculture is the largest reservoir in the country, capable of providing about 73 per cent of the catches of the province and 18 per cent of domestic production.

For some time, the Zaza has received a stubborn scourge of drought. This has meant that each of the organizations that benefit from the liquid has taken strict measures to save their scarce volumes and adjust their plans. Thus, with little water, it seeks to achieve the highest number of results.

For example, the top leadership of the EAG has arranged this year the repairing of around 150 sewers or factory works and thousands of kilometers of canals and working in drilling and capacity of 40 wells with a view to exploiting the prolific reserves groundwater in the area.

To eliminate water losses that drained by the masterful Canal Cuba, Water Resources has completed the capital repair in the first stretch of seven kilometres from the major thoroughfare.

The work required the movement of more than 400,000 cubic meters of earth and mixing of about 3,000 cubic meters of concrete.

Considered the most important investment of the National Institute of Hydraulic Resources (INRH) across the country, the first stage of repair was carried out at the cost of 8.5 million pesos and was a real relief for those working in the entities that consume their Water.

According to Eirín González, director of INRH, they are working on 1.2 kilometers from the central transfer, with actions that focus on cleaning, construction of the wet section and application of concrete as well as other jobs that are running in the so-called Union Naranjo y Toro channels.

Workers Ciego de Avila and Sancti Spiritus star in the complex jobs on the dam, which is now 36 per cent of its total filling.

That figure, well above the same period in 2015, when he was at only16 per cent of capacity, and still remains concerned and alert to all specialists, said the manager.

When the repair of the master Canal is complete, he added, the loss of about 90 million cubic meters of water will be avoided.

While waiting for San Pedro the Zaza, there are many measures that continue to be taken in the province to make the most of this holy water.

Translated by ESTI

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