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Tuesday, 21 August 2018
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Shared Waters that will bind North, East and the South PDF Print E-mail
By Prof. C.M Maddumabandara
Note by the Editors of Sri Lanka Watch: The search for peace, unity and harmony is vigorously on in Sri Lanka and this feature by the learned Professor C.M Maddumabandara is an example of it. Sri Lanka has a wonderful example of how our people in the ancient of times were masters of water technology and built tanks in all the rich agricultural regions.

The Giant’s Tank in Mannar is considered one of the earliest and best ever constructed in the world, virtually a pioneer in tank irrigation. Even in Jaffna, the farmers there have constructed rain water holding tanks to ensure the underground caverns are fed with the monsoon showers. Unfortunately, this has been neglected causing adverse effect to underground water in the region.  Diverting the waters through various rivers to feed the needy areas and develop agriculture and colonies along the way is a great challenge ahead of us and will greatly boost the unity of all communities in the country.

We publish the English translation of the Sinhala feature by Prof. C. M. Maddumabandara 

We saw recently an end to the protracted war that for 30 years depraved civil life sucking the essence of our economy. The nation is indebted to the state spearheaded by the President and the triune forces for the feat achieved in reuniting the country. The task before us right now is to repair national unity that had splintered and diverted our economy to the fast track again. We must mention that a golden opportunity has arrived today in political terms. Just like how Germany rose to prominence after the ashes of war we must also make use of this opportunity to emerge. There should be a definite plan for the future.
When we contemplate on the future there are different actions that have to be taken in the short term, medium term and long term. The immediate requirement in my opinion is to win the confidence of the minorities and to make everyone feel that they are citizens of the country. The war has defeated terrorism but not won the hearts of the Tamils. We have to be dedicated to do this and it cannot be done with verbal exercises or just by amendments to the constitution alone. Even though the legal necessity for constitutional reform is appreciated it is questionable whether this is the right time for such exercises since there is public displeasure on such things.
The reforms can upset strong views held by people who are intoxicated by victory and can cause splintering within the government. What are the short term measures that could be helpful? Making the Yaldevi ply between the North and South is something that will make the life of the Tamil people more comfortable. This will also facilitate the transport of agricultural produce and other raw material. In road development it will be more useful to make road networks that link the surrounding areas with the coastal towns like Batticaloa and Trincomalee than building roads that run along the coast.  Even though our island is small it has much water resources.
It has 103 river valleys. The whole island gets 2000 mm of rain. The total quantity exceeds 120 million cubic meters. There are only a few countries in the world that has this amount of water resources. These resources however are beset with regional and time related discrepancies. While some areas undergo drought some undergo floods. Our ancestors coped with the issue by constructing giant lakes and streams spreading thousands of miles. They also took maximum advantage of the resources through cascade systems.       
Even after independence 2/3rds of our investments have been related to water resources.
What we have is not a question of a water shortage or excess it is simply a lack of a mindset. This lack would weaken the effort to use modern technology and manage the water resources. A suitable plan will not only minimize the water shortage but will also contribute to preserve the independence and territorial integrity of the country.
The mother plan for the Moragahakanda project was to take water to the northern area through 100 miles using a very long canal. The delay of this great project for 30 odd years affected the confidence of the North. The present President and the Minister for Mahaweli Development however must get the credit for restarting the project.  It was directly promised in the “Mahinda Chinthanaya”. This project however has depleted because of financial difficulties and administrative shortcomings. Can we be satisfied with the progress of the Moragahakande project as compared to what was achieved in 4 years of the Mahaweli Project?
The two projects it must be understood are quite different. Even though the mother plan wanted to take the canal past Vavuniya the current project gets terminated at Mahakandarawa. The volatile situation in the North and the uncertainty of when it was going to end would have been considered in its planning. We don’t know how technically sound the route of the present project is. It is a mystery as to why the Mahaweli Authority decided to take the present route of the project without following the proposal in the Mahinda Chinthanaya.
We think it is time to think of a new proposal that would provide water to Mahakanadarawa and to the North Central regions as per mother plan even at a much higher cost. If a plan like that is carefully made it will be able to take water beyond Vavuniya, create the K region as envisaged in the mother plan, and will take water up to the Kanagarayan Aru Canal that supplies water to the Chundikulum Lagoon area East of Elephant Pass.
This will pave the way to fulfil the dreams of Tamil engineers to create a reservoir in Jaffna. This should be studied immediately. The experienced experts in the North and the affected people should be drawn in to the project. Then they will be made aware of what is happening. Then these people will once again have a feeling towards national development. Even the very consideration of an approach to such a project will increase confidence in the people of the North who still bear a defeatist mentality. Since this can be connected to the resettlement process there would be large sums of foreign money flowing in.
Meanwhile the Southern coastal canal which was to start from the Maduru Oya in the East was also delayed for a long time due to some shortcoming. The confidence of the people in the East on the development programs of the government evaporated. It is our belief that the restarting of the project, now that the war climes are gone, can cause the splintering of the Eastern masses to be arrested. Even the acres of land stretching up to North Batticaloa affected by the drought can benefit.
The biggest challenge will be whether the water available is sufficient to take across the Maduru Oya. While this may bring about environmental issues and will require a large capital to be expended, if the Uma Oya project is implemented the Maduru Oya area might face more water issues. This will be an issue that will reflect how much the South is dedicated towards the development of the East.
My opinion is that our hearts should be wide enough to even make a sacrifice to affect the completion of the Uma Oya project. The government should be more flexible not only to face the above problems but  there is also the technology available to provide water to the starved areas like Lunugamvehera by diverting water from rivers of the wet zone like Gin Ganga, Nilvala Ganga which causes floods due to excess water. The “Three Sisters” project that was once proposed can also minimize the danger of flooding and provide water to the South Eastern regions of the country. This can be a great blessing to the country.
Using waterways to repair hurts and maintaining independence and integrity of the country is a strategy that was used even in history. An ancient manuscript indicates that a canal was made diverting water from the Mahaweli to improve agriculture to consolidate and then battle against the North to gain independence. The purpose of irrigation therefore was not only the supply of water. There could be fights for water in the future. Therefore the possibility of making water unite the country should not be underestimated. Water can be used to further heal the minds of the people in the North East. The current proposals for Moragahakanda, Kalu Ganga and Uma Oya projects should be revised until the possibilities of the concepts mentioned above are studied further. This will not be too complicated sine the projects are at the inception.            
C.M Maddumabandara is a Professor at Peradeniya University Sri Lanka. The article was published on the 21st June 2009 in the Sinhala News Paper Diveine.

English Translation by “Daily Resume” team.


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