Ancient Tank based irrigation culture is being revived in Sri Lanka

The Sri Lankan government has launched a major programme to renovate and repair ancient tanks in the country to revive the ancient glory of agriculture that existed in Sri Lanka. Under this programme 25 tanks in the Trincomalee district have been selected for repairs at a cost of Rs 200 million. Twenty-seven more tanks will be repaired under the second stage of this project in 2012.

The ceremony inaugurating the project to repair a total of 52 tanks was recently held near the Kudagalmitiyawa tank in the Trincomalee District with the participation of Mr. Basil Rajapaksa the Minister of Economic Development.

In the coming years 2,000 tanks will be repaired under Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa’s direction in accordance with Mahinda Chinthana policies.

Most of these tanks had not been repaired for well over hundreds years. They include those tanks the Portuguese destroyed over four centuries ago. Tanks in many parts of the country were also destroyed by the post Portuguese Dutch and British colonial rulers to disrupt the self reliant and the self economic pattern of the natives and force them to become a dependent society.

The Trincomalee district is one of the areas symbolizing this unique heritage of Sri Lanka which was known in ancient times as a kingdom of tanks. Minister Basil Rajapaksa’s efforts towards making rural communities beneficiaries of the government’s development policies are now bearing fruit.

According to the agro-based ancient culture, the tanks fell into three categories – the smallest was the Gaamika wewa, which served a single village. The medium was the Daana wewa which catered to several villages while the largest was the Maha wewa which covered a large area known as a Koralaya – a division of a province

The Economic Development Ministry and the Agrarian Services and Wildlife Ministry are jointly repairing 2,000 tanks in 17 districts. This programme was inaugurated at Mahakalugolla village in the Siyambalanduwa Divisional Secretariat, Moneragala District on February 7. It commenced with a ceremony to repair the Kivuleara wewa. Already repair work is underway in seven districts – Moneragala, Anuradhapura, Batticaloa, Ampara, Mulaitivu, Puttalam and Trincomalee.

Repairs to tanks in the remaining 10 districts – Mannar, Polonnaruwa and Vavuniya will begin shortly. Project director of the Economic Development Ministry’s Yali Pibidemu (Reawakening project), S K Liyanage is directing all the repair works.

A great calamity occurred when the Kantale dam burst on April 20, 1986 causing the deaths of 178 people and destroying 20,000 acres of paddy land. 300 odd houses were swept away in that disaster. The total cost of repairs to the Kudagalmitiyawa tank in the Thambalagamuwa Secretariat Division, Trincomalee is estimated as Rs 19 million. 130 families will benefit from the repair of this tank, which is expected to be completed by October this year

Meanwhile, officials of the Ministry of Irrigation and Water Management said that nearly 9,000 small tanks have been identified in Sri Lanka’s Dry Zone, while the West Zone has only about 3,000 of them. Altogether there are 20,000 rural tanks, including those that have been abandoned. The official said that if water can be supplied from all these tanks for the cultivation of a total of around 175,000 hectares of paddy land.

Agriculture contributes to 25 percent of the gross national income, and fifty percent of the population is employed in the agricultural sector. Since 80 percent of the people are in the rural areas the country needs to obtain the maximum benefit from agriculture.

Courtesy Asian Tribune

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