Irrigation sector - a driving force
Sri Lanka has a long history, or rather the longest history of all
nations, of having implemented techniques for reservoir construction to
regulate water for irrigation for food crop production.
'Hydraulic civilisation' dates back to 400 BC in Sri Lanka when they
had constructed the "Bisokutuwa" or the sluice for regulating
The kings who ruled the country in the era thereafter and successive
governments since independence followed in that tradition, constructing
major irrigation systems to provide adequately for the food requirements
of the people, without making them to depend on external sources for the
President Mahinda Rajapaksa when he came to power in 2005 gave first
priority to making the country self-sufficient in rice and the country,
under his 'Mahinda Chintana' concept, has already achieved it. It is
also likely that Sri Lanka will export rice in the near future.
The Irrigation Department set up over a century ago has followed the
tradition, implementing several major multipurpose reservoir and
irrigation projects from its inception, starting from the massive Galoya
Valley and Udawalawa Development Projects under the government of Prime
Minister D.S.Senanayake, followed by other projects by successive
governments including the Chandrika Wewa Project, Jayanthi Wewa Project
and the Lunugamwehara project (Kirindioya), Mahakanagarawa and Rajangana
projects. . The Department also played its significant role towards the
massive Mahaveli Multi-purpose Development Project which encompasses
many parts of the country.
The Department has already implemented several major projects under
the ' Mahinda Chintana' concept that : " By 2020, the Irrigation Sector
will become the driving force in agriculture development with the supply
of water in adequate, equitable and reliable quantities and in a
sustainable, efficient and economic-friendly manner".
These development projects in the irrigation and agricultural sector
have been well studied, minutely planned and systematically implemented
to ensure biodiversity and sustainability , thanks to the vision of our
ancient rulers and President Rajapaksa, while water crisis, both for
consumption and food crop production, is looming large in many world
nations today. In many countries, water diversion from rivers has now
reached a point where some of them no longer make it to the4 sea. In
some, especially in the Middle East countries, exploitation of
below-surface water has been excessive and reckless, without regard for
what is sustainable and without any plans for replenishment. As water is
taken from agriculture, grain imports in those countries typically rise.
Fortunately Sri Lanka is safeguarded in these respects. The future of
the irrigation sector has been set out in a way to promote agriculture
productivity by increasing the availability of new water resources and
enhancing the present level of waster use and conveyance efficiencies to
an optimal level.
Under the 'New Water Resources Development Program' the already
started large scale development programs will be expedited, after
resolving the technical and financial constrains over the medium
term.These include the Moragahakanda & Kaluganga Reservoirs Development
Project, the Deduru-oya Reservoir Project, the Uma Oya Hydro Power
Diversion Project and the Rambukkan Oya Project. These reservoir
projects will also replenish the below-surface aquifers around the
The total investment requirement in the irrigation sector over the
period from 2010 to 2020 is estimated at Rs.277.5 Billion. Of this
Rs.186.7 Billion is expected from foreign sources and the remainder will
be financed by the government with the support of the private sector.
The Government has allocated Rs.4.062 Billion in the 2012 Budget for 19
ongoing new irrigation projects. The project-wise breakup and the amount
allocated are: The Rambukkan Oya Reservoir Project in Maha Oya
Divisional Secretary Division in the Eastern Province which has received
the second largest allocation of of Rs.492 Mn under the 2012 budget is
targeted to irrigate 1400 ha of new cultivable lands which include 400
ha of high lands.
The Rambukkan Oya river discharges more than 50 MCM water annually to
the Indian Ocean through the Mundani Aru river, mainly during the
North-East monsoonal season.
This source has been tapped to improve the agricultural productivity
and other facilities in the divisional secretary area. More than 2200
agricultural families are directly benefited under this project while
more than 25,000 families will get other benefits including drinking
water and replenishment of ground water aquifers. The gross storage of
reservoir is 56 MCM.
The water spread area is 800 ha and is designed flow is 5.7 m3/sec.
Under the canal system, the length of the main canal is 7 km and the
length of distributory canals is 39 km . The length of field canals is
84 km .Eight minor tanks will also receive water from the canals .
The catchment area of the reservoir is 128 Sq. km The other benefits
include pipe borne water supply to the Maha Oya area and improved road
network within the project area. The project will be completed at the
end of 2012 . Other infrastructure facilities to the people of the Maha
Oya Divisional Secretary division include road networks, electricity,
schools and clean drinking water which will largely contribute to the
improvement of the quality their life of people.
The Weheragala Reservoir Project ( Menik Ganga Reservoir ) which has
received the third highest fund allocation of Rs.400 Mn under the 2012
Budget has already been completed. Its gross storage capacity is 60,000
acre feet.The river water is diverted to the Lunugamvehara Tank and
there are multiple benefits under this project, including irrigation
facilities to 25,000 acres of paddy land belonging to over 20, 000
agricultural families , drinking water and bathing facilities to people
of the area and also to the large number of pilgrims to the Kataragama
shrine. Part of the reservoir is located within the wildlife park.
It also helps to protect the flora and fauna and provides water to
the wildlife in the sanctuary which attracts a large number of tourists.
Various infrastructure facilities have been provided to the areas
covered by the project, including road networks, electricity and
facilities to grow subsidiary food crops.
It ensures regular release of water to the Manik Ganga during the dry
season, greatly benefiting the pilgrims. Under the Ellepothana Project
in the Anuradhapura district an anicut has been constructed across the
Yan Oya with two canals feeding water to several minor irrigation tanks,
benefiting about 1100 agricultural families engaged in paddy
cultivation. This being a dry zone the levels of the water tables in the
surrounding areas have been elevated providing easy access to drinking
water from the ground. In the Kandy district a concrete dam is being
constructed across the Gurugal Oya tributary river.
The work is in progress. On completion it will provide irrigation
facilities to about 220 acres of paddy land and benefit over 2400
families. The 300 meter concrete dam over the deep river valley will
also provide easy access for the people of Hanguranketa to Kandy and
The other ongoing projects will also provide infrastructure
facilities to the local residents in addition to providing irrigation
facilities for the cultivation of paddy and other highland crops.