High-tech 93 km canal/tunnel to revive ancient Ellanga, cascading tank irrigation system
A simple, but solemn inauguration ceremony of renovating 2,400 rural tanks connected with “ellanga gammana” or Cascaded Tank-Village system in the Dry Zone and the commencement of the Second Stage of the Wayamba Ela, was held near the Kubukulawa Tank in Polpithigama in the North Western Province on Friday (Aug 24).
The 89 kilometer long canal, which goes under tunnels dug under several high mountains will carry 130 million cubic miles from Moragahakanda – Kalu Ganga Reservoir to irrigate parched farm lands in the dry zones of Wayamba.
Ancient Sri Lanka’s “ellanga gammana” or Cascaded Tank-Village system in the Dry Zone, has now been designated as a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS) by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
The Cascaded Tank-Village System is a connected series of tanks organised within a micro-catchment of the dry zone landscape, storing, conveying and utilising water from an ephemeral rivulet. It is an ancient, widely used and unique traditional agriculture system. The system provides water for irrigation, domestic purposes, animals and ecosystems.
This project has been implemented under the guidance of President Maithripala Sirisena with the aim of nourishing the field of agriculture utilising this agrarian system. Under this programme around 300 tanks will be renovated in the Kurunegala District.
On Friday, President Sirisena inaugurated Stage II of the Wayamba Ela Project. Under this scheme, waters from the Mahaweli will be diverted from the Eastern Province to the Northern Province.
The issues of not having sufficient water to cultivate the Yala- Maha seasons for the farmer community in the North Western Province and the people of the area being victims of kidney diseases due to lack of clean water will get permanent solutions when after the completion of the project, 105,000 acre feet of water of the Mahaweli River could be provided to Polpithigama, Ahatuwewa, Galgamuwa, Mahawa, and Ambanpola areas in the Kurunegala district. The estimated amount for this project is Rs. 16,000 million and the project is to be completed in 2024. Developing 12,500 hectares of land and providing irrigational water for 13,500 farmer families will be done under the project. Forty thousand families will benefit from this project.
Through the Wayamba Ela project irrigational water will be securely provided to the Galewela, Wamedilla, and Dewahuwa reservoirs of the Matale District of the Central Province while 315 small reservoirs and 88 main reservoirs in Mee Oya, Hakwatuna Oya, and Kala Oya Drones of North Western Province will be sustained by the water of the Mahaweli River.
The main canal built in order to channel the water is 92km in length where the water of the Mahaweli River crossing from Lenadora Dambulu River will be channeled to the left bank of the Wamedilla Canal and then towards Mahakithula and Maha Kiri Ula reservoirs.
Then the water will be channelled via two channels from Mahakiri Ula reservoir to Kaduru wewa in the Ahatuwewa area ( 21km in length ) and towards Madiyawa Maha wewa through Maha Kitula reservoir ( 20 km in length) to the target areas lacking in water. In addition, water will be provided to 1000 hectares of farm land which were suffering from water insufficiency in Yapahuwa area from the Madiyawa Canal to Yapahuwa Canal which is 10 km in length.
When this water is provided the farmers in those areas will be able to cultivate during both Yala and Maha seasons and it will also help uplift the livelihoods of the farmer community of the area. Last week, President Sirisena assured that there was no cash crunch in the Government, nor lack of support from multilateral donors to fund much-needed and multi-faceted development projects such as Wayamba Ela and Moragahakanda-Kalu Ganga projects. He said so at a meeting with editors and heads of electronic media, to announce the launch of the second phase of the Rs. 23 billion worth Moragahakanda-Kaluganga reservoir tomorrow in the North-Western Province.
In response to a query from the media whether the Government has enough resources to finance and complete such large scale projects, given the perceived cash crunch within the Treasury, the President reassured that this wasn’t an issue.
“For development, we have money,” asserted President Sirisena, and added that the Moragahakanda-Kaluganga reservoir project has received funding from the Asian Development Bank, World Bank, China, OPEC fund, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Japan among others.
He said that funding for this and other development projects were long-term and concessionary. It was emphasised that these projects benefit a plethora of socio-economic sectors.
The construction of the Moragahakanda-Kaluganga reservoir is the largest multi-purpose development project in Sri Lanka, completed spending Rs. 23 billion. In 2016, the Wayamba Ela project was launched under the guidance of the President, with the aim of providing a solution for the shortage of water for irrigation of cultivable lands in both seasons, without any shortage.
The second phase also involves moving water from the Mahaweli River of the Eastern Province towards the Northern region.
The surplus water of Nalanda reservoir is being turned towards Wamadilla reservoir. Under the first stage, it is expected to provide infrastructure to carry this water towards the Wamadilla project and Devahuwa reservoir, and to carry water of the Mahaweli Canal and the Nalanda reservoir to the Kurunegala District.
Under the second stage, it is expected to build facilities and infrastructure to construct canals to channel water from the Kurunegala District towards the small river systems of Polpithigama, Ahatuwewa, Galgamuwa and Mahawa, to send the water of the Mahaweli River carried towards Bowaththenna reservoir towards Dambululu Oya, and to channel this water towards the canal systems built in the first stage.
Under the mega plan to renovate 2400 tanks in the rural areas under the Ellanga system, the reconstruction of 353 tanks of the North-Western Province will also commence under the patronage of the President.
Thus, 91 tanks of Ahatuwewa Divisional Secretariat, 119 tanks of Polpithigama Divisional Secretariat, 107 tanks of Mahawa Divisional Secretariat, 30 tanks of Galewela Divisional Secretariat, one tank at Palagala Divisional Secretariat and 5 tanks in Dambulla Divisional Secretariat will be developed.
The writer is the Director, Research and International Media at the Presidential Secretariat