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Sunday, 28 June 2009





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Uva sees the light of the day

Lying inland from the coastal plain to the south of Nuwara Eliya, the Uva province is blessed with its striking natural beauty. Climbing on to the Namunukula peak on a clear day, the tallest among the mountain range surrounding the Badulla town, one can view the Welimada basin, Katharagama and the Hambantota beach. Be it the Beragala gap with its breath-taking view, the Haputale mountain range, Dunhida, Diyaluma or the Rawana falls, the Yala or the Gal Oya national parks, Uva is a beauty queen.

With an area of 8,488 square kilometres and bordered by Eastern, Southern and Central provinces, Uva consists more of village communities than towns. Unfortunately most of the development programs lined up for this province for past sixty odd years in the post independent era, have barely touched the dire situation the locality was facing. In 2006, with the inception of the mega national development plan with a novel concept under the umbrella of `Gama Neguma', rays of hope for a flourishing future touched the lives of the people of the Moneragala and Badulla districts.

With 1,117,353 people living in 886 Grama Niladhari (GN) divisions in both Moneragala and Badulla districts of which about 80% are farmers or dependents on agriculture based industries.

"Under `Gama Neguma' projects we specifically highlight on the active participation of the village community. It is their village and they as beneficiaries, need to be a part and parcel of the entire process," said R.A.A.K. Ranawaka, the Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Nation Building and Estate Infrastructure, in-charge of the development in Uva province. The Ministry of Nation Building and Estate Infrastructure has divided the country in to seven zones and each zone is administered under an additional secretariat.

"In all the development activities taking place under 'Gama Neguma', people contribute 20% of the entire work load," Ranawaka said.


Located 212.4 kilometres from Colombo, Badulla is the capital city of Uva province. One of the most fertile districts of the country with a wide variety of vegetable cultivation, Badulla with all its difficulties continued its strong link with the national economy. Badulla district is one of the major contributors to the country's vegetable consumer market.

With a total value of 533 million rupees, the `Gama Neguma' program has initiated 1076 road development projects in 2008. Taking in to account the contribution from the people, from material as well as from trained and untrained labour, the value of community contribution was enumerated as 110 million rupees.

"We developed 954 roads in Badulla district, from a basic gravel road to a nicely finished concrete roads. The total length was 248 kilometres - more than the distance from Colombo to Badulla!," Ranawaka added.

"Being in the hill country many parts of Badulla district was facing unended problems with poor access roads," W.M. Jayasena, Director (Planning) of the Badulla District Secretariat said. Hence, in the 2009 `Gama Neguma' development framework, more attention is given to the development of rural access roads. "Many are farmers and they were facing great difficulties in bringing their harvest to the main markets.

Rural irrigation schemes

"We were able to provide all the infrastructure facilities to expand the area of arable lands for paddy cultivation," Ranawaka explained. Water started flowing in to more areas creating more arable lands with the repairing and reconstructing of reservoirs, irrigation canals and anicuts. "We initiated 20 such projects under `Gama Neguma' at a cost of 17 million rupees. In addition, as we calculated community contribution in these were valued seven million rupees," Ranawaka added.

According to the statistics available with the Kachcheri (District Secretariat office) paddy is cultivated in 24,004 hectares of land. Badulla district records an average of 126,000 metric tonnes of paddy harvest. In the entire district a variety of vegetables are cultivated in approximately 15,620 hectares and in 10,098 hectares perennial crops are cultivated. Out of this, in one season, potatoes are cultivated in 2000 hectares, beans in 2200 hectares, tomato in 1000 hectares, cabbage in 700 hectares, carrot in 400 ha, radish in 250 hectares etc. On an average vegetables are grown in two seasons depending on the favourable weather conditions. In Badulla, minor export crops are grown in 25,722 hectares which mainly include pepper, coffee and cinnamon in smaller scale.

According to the Badulla district secretariat office the household population below the poverty line was reduced to 23.7% during 2006-2007 period from 37.3% in 2002. Out of the total population in Badulla 66,923 families receive `Samurdhi' benefits.

"Several development programs upgrading infrastructure facilities, schools, irrigation schemes are under way in almost each and every `Grama Niladhari' divisions. For this year 249 projects are approved and initiated so far," Jayasena said. Badulla consists of 567 Grama Niladhari (GN) divisions. The `Gama Neguma' program is initiated jointly by the District Secretariat office and the Samurdhi Authority under the direct supervision of the Ministry of Nation Building and Estate Infrastructure. In 2009, 435 GN Divisions are developed under the District Secretariat with direct funding from the Ministry and the other 132 GN Divisions developed with funding from the Ministry recommended by the Samurdhi Authority.

"Of all the development programs in 2008 people contributed 33% in the 1st phase of the entire project and in the second phase we relieved it to 20%. This proved us that people have become a part and parcel of the entire development process," he added.


Moneragala district comprise 319 Grama Niladhari (GN) Divisions in its 11 Divisional Secretariat (DS) Divisions. "Out of the total `Gama Neguma' is on progress in 228 GN Divisions. 66 GN Divisions are benefitted by the Samurdhi Authority," said Neil Fernando, Director (Planning) of the Moneragala District Secretariat and Assistant Commissioner Samurdhi.

"Poverty level is quite high in the Moneragala district and approximately 80% of the total population depend on agriculture," Fernando explained.

Additional Secretary Ranawaka of the Ministry of Nation Building and Estate Infrastructure said that they focus 100% attention in developing underprivileged schools, electricity supply and irrigation schemes in the district.

The District Secretariat received 114 million rupees directly from the Ministry of Nation Building while 33 million rupees to the Samurdhi Authority for its development activities in 66 GN Divisions. "Members of 49,630 families receive Samurdhi beneficiaries and it is 42.05% of the total population," Fernando stated. The Government spends 25.9 million rupees per month to provide benefits for these Samurdhi families. "Under the Samurdhi Authority 70 projects, mainly for livelihood development, are conducted in these 66 GN Divisions which has a direct impact on 9889 families," Fernando stated further.

Model Villages

"We have identified 20 villages in the Uva province, 11 villages from the Moneragala district and nine from the Badulla district, to be developed as model villages," Ranawaka added. Under the `Maga Neguma' development program all these villages will be completely developed by the end of this year.

The nine villages in Badulla includes Malangamuwa, Maligathenna, Wiyaluwa, Galauda, Dambane, Ambegoda, Belahinna, Nawila, Janathapura North and Beraliyapola. "Presently almost all the projects are completed in Dambane," added Fernando, Director (Planning) of Moneragala Kachcheri.

In addition `Diriya Piyasa' housing project provides houses for the underprivileged families and widows. Houses are also provided to families of war heroes under `Gama Neguma' development scheme. "In addition to the Government contribution people donate material and service to build these houses. Masons and carpenters work during the night after their usual daily work. This sort of people's support is the greatest strength for us in these projects," Fernando stated further explaining the process. In Moneragala alone 78 houses are built under the `Diriya Piyasa' housing project and in addition two more houses are provided by donors on special requests.

In Moneragala district 11 villages are selected - namely Raththanapitiya, Madamagama, Ruhunu Danawwa, Yalkumbura, Kalugahawadiya, Ihawa, Galtemmandiya, Siripura, Kotaweheramankada, Kiriibbanwewa and Karawile, to be developed as model villages.

Access roads

"Moneragala has only road access. So far most of these roads were not properly developed. Under the present national development projects the road from Matara, Thanamalwila, Siyambalanduwa upto Karathivu is being developed. And the two essential roads, Moneragala-Wellawaya and Moneragala-Badulla roads, are on the process of getting upgraded," Fernando added. As the rural road system was not properly developed in the era before 2006 farmers in particular transported their harvest to the nearest main market Badulla with great difficulty. Hence, repairing and reconstructing the rural road network will act as the base for the entire economical growth of the area.

"Moneragala suffers from its unfavourable climatic conditions, specially the agriculture sector," Director (Planning) Neil Fernando explained. "There are several large reservoirs like in Handapangala and Ethimale and the Kumbukkan oya, but many do not have an irrigation system towards the cultivation lands within the district," Fernando added. Hence, as the development program have already initiated, abandoned irrigation systems should be renovated and reconstructed to bring back the greenery to the arable lands.

Lighting up lives

Electricity was like a dream to a majority of the rural population in Moneragala and Badulla districts. To developing nations like ours, electricity is not just a power source. It greatly assists a family to reach its goals brightening their lives.

According to the 2004 statistics 24.1% of the Badulla district population lives without electricity. And in Moneragala approximately half the population is not receiving electricity.

"We have already identified the villages that need electricity and under the projects funded by the Iran Government we would be able to completely provide the total requirement by end 2011," Fernando added.


In Moneragala number of schoolchildren is 85,000 and 5000 teachers are serving in its 215 schools which includes eight national schools.

Badulla district has 571 schools of which 27 are national schools. According to the 2006 statistics 178,027 children are studying in these schools and 10,744 teachers serving.

Under the `Gama Neguma' project all the schools with temporary buildings and infrastructure facilities will be completely provided with modern facilities, Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Nation Building R.A.A.K. Ranawaka said.

Commitment ensured

Through these processes, `Gama Neguma' ensures that the commitment of `Mahinda Chinthana' is realised whereby each village has basic facilities such as electricity, proper road access, clean drinking water, schools with adequate physical and human resources, health centres, pre-schools, play grounds, community centres, market centres, `Nenasala' IT centres etc. The key policy objective of the Government with regard to rural development is to develop all villages in the country so that they can emerge as micro centres of growth on modern lines. The Government believes that our village can be developed to a decent and comfortable level for the people to live, work and engage in their cultural and communal activities while retaining its strength and impressive features. For a long time, our country has been a land of village communities. Large majority of the population live in the rural areas. Therefore any development initiative should give due recognition to this reality, if it is to be successful.


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