Irrigation down the years

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By 2018-01-13

By Kumari

Attention was focused this week on the country's irrigation schemes. It was with pride that we watched on TV, the commissioning of the last of the reservoirs in the Accelerated Mahaweli Scheme on 8 January by the President and the Prime Minister. The Moragahakanda Reservoir, four times the Parakrama Samudra, will feed the channels and wewas in the North Central Province and thus bring relief to farmers in this Province and even further north.

It will not only irrigate parched lands more consistently but will also deliver fresh drinking water in plenty to those areas threatened by kidney disease. And thus at last, after much delay, most of it was purposeful to neglect a scheme carried out by the UNP, the Accelerated Mahaweli Diversion Scheme was completed. It was shortened from 30 years to five and was undertaken by J R Jayewardene and was executed by Gamini Dissanayake when he was the Minister in charge of irrigation during the UNP Government of 1977–1988. Even After four large dams were constructed resulting in the creation of massive reservoirs – Kotmale, Victoria, Maduru Oya , Randenigala – and also after the resident systems had been built and the people had been settled , the Scheme was relegated to the back burner due to a change of government. At the end of 1995, all the head works of the Accelerated Mahaweli Project had been completed and were functioning. Feasibility studies were scheduled to be completed in respect of the proposed Moragahakanda Project, but delays were resulted due to many reasons. At last at least by now it has been completed.

Irrigation in ancient Sri Lanka

In ancient times Lanka was known for its hydraulic expertise and elaborated systems of reservoirs and channels that irrigated parched lands. The Golden Age of Lanka which was during the Sinhalese kings of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa.

At that time we were famous as an abundant producer of paddy. The first attempt of irrigation through collected rain water was during the reign of King Pandukabhaya (437-367 BC).He built three wewas, the largest being Basawakkulama. Thus wewas were constructed and a network of underground and overhead canals were built to take the collected water into the fields in the Dry Zone, , including the sluice gates that allowed water to be led off the wewas.. Even hydraulic engineers of today are marvelled by our ancient irrigation systems. King Parakramabahu and King Datusena were the originators of our sound irrigation system.

The Rajagiriya Flyover

Like all matters, in present day Sri Lanka, the Rajagiriya flyover which has been completed and opened on 8 January by the President and Prime Minister is also being heavily criticized. There are vociferous pundits (actually knowing next to nothing) who proclaim that this project is useless and a waste of money at all. They should understand this first, a project like building a flyover is not undertaken without intense feasibility studies and also Sri Lanka is not short of brains. We are already enjoying the gains of the flyover such as less traffic where vehicles are moving fast and smooth, much is saved on gas, petrol and other fuels – which saves money, mostly foreign exchange and altogether the Government is being benefited.. Thus we need to praise the Yahapalanaya Government which has completed these massive projects successfully.

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