Taking Mahaweli water to the Dry Zones north of the country

TO DRY ZONES.pngThis week saw the President placing the treasures and relics in the main dam of the Kalu Ganga Reservoir as part of the Moragahakanda – Kalu Ganga development project of taking Mahaweli water to the Dry Zones north of the country. Since then lot of hot air has been blown on the subject as to who initiated the project and as to who will be benefiting from it and so on.

Fact is this project was first discussed in 1955 and again in 1977 while implementing the Mahaweli project first projected to be completed in 30 years. However this dream project of Rajarata people, second only to the Victoria Dam and Hydro Power Project was one of the few components of the Mahaweli mega project left behind, to complete under an accelerated programme within 10 years at the request of then president. After 30 years with the present President a farmer’s son from Rajarata, as the Irrigation and Mahaweli Development Minister during the last regime raised necessary funds for this multi-functional irrigation project and had it inaugurated finally in January 2007. The Moragahakanda-Kalu Ganga project shall in addition to providing water for drinking purposes and water for irrigation to cultivate 68,000 hectares, including 3000 hectares of new land.  About 87,000 farmers will be benefited and provide 80,000 metric tonnes of agricultural produce to the domestic market; while the annual inland fishing will go up by another 4,500 metric tons.

On the question of who will benefit from this project it will be all the people covered in the project area of the northern dry zone in the country. Apprehension was because this project was one of the main programme in the last regime and many activities have taken place on anticipation of this project being implemented to move southern farmers into north, particularly to be located in Vavuniya and Mulitivu districts and water supply planned for new developments in places like Mathakal and Navatkuli, while there are other needy areas elsewhere in the peninsula not yet served for many years and left out in this programme too and was the reason Northern Province Council raised the issue as to who the beneficiaries.

The conveyance system involves a tunnel 3.2 km in extent, a feeder canal 9.8 km in extent from the North-Central province to feed the Iranamadu and a power plant for generating 20 MW power, fulfilling a long-term need for domestic and industrial electricity demand in the North-Central, Northern and Eastern Provinces. The project would also, most importantly, provide domestic and industrial water for the development of agriculture in the North, East and North-Western Provinces. The direct benefits include an increased rice yield per hectare with an additional agricultural production of 109,000 tons annually. The net annual agricultural benefits will be US$ 27.7 million in financial terms. As expected the annual agricultural benefits from paddy cultivation alone, as a result of the project, would be around US$ 30.1 million while the fresh water fish breeding industry would contribute around Rs. 1.67 million to the national economy via benefits from this project. Most importantly, through power generation, the country would annually save US$ 2.49 billion.

The work on construction of the bunds for the Morgahakanda reservoir has already started and when completed if everything progresses smoothly, the entire project will be completed in 2020 and would be the second largest ever built in Sri Lanka. The final phase of the Mahaweli Development Project (MDP) is now underway to address water shortages in the Dry Zone up to Northern Province. The prevailing drought has emphasized the need for speedy completion of the project. Under the proposal, the quantity lift has been reduced to about 300 mcm of water annually to Moragahakanda system. Even in a very dry year such as 2014 sufficient water is flowing in the Mahaweli River and part of this water if lifted could be used to minimize the drought conditions prevailing in the NCP and NP. This source also will add great flexibility in the operation of the Mahaweli system facilitating early commencement of cultivation in the Mahaweli system ‘G’ area and other existing major irrigation systems and will pave the way for optimum use of Maha rainfall in the NCP.

The Moragahakanda-Kaluganga project would be competed in four stages and will be funded by the ADB and the governments of both Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Construction of the Moragahakanda reservoir has been entrusted to the Sinohydro Corporation of China. On the second stage the Kalu Ganga reservoir will be constructed and the other canal works will be carried out under funding from the governments of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Under the third stage the link tunnel between Moragahakanda reservoir and the Kulu Ganga reservoir will be constructed under funding from the ADB. On the final stage the construction of the NCP canal for taking water to the Iranamadu Water Supply Scheme for the Northern Province will be completed. A 9.8 km feeder canal from the North-Central province will feed the Iranamadu, enabling  the water problem of the farmers in Kilinochchi and via the Jaffna-Kilinochchi Water Supply scheme address the drinking water problems of urban and rural   population along southern part of the Jaffna peninsula. Jaffna district is estimated to have a population of 650,000 while the population of Kilinochchi district has been estimated to be around 140,000. With the Water Supply Scheme, the Government is planning to provide drinking water to 300,000 people in Jaffna and 50,000 people in Kilinochchi.

The NCP canal sub project such as the Padaviya, Wahalkada and Pavattakulum schemes, will address the plight of the farmers in most remote areas of Kebithigollewa, Horowpothana, Medawachchiya, Kahatagasdigiliya, Rambewa and Mihintale in the NCP. The transfer of water from the Moragahakanda project would also make it possible to feed about 1000 minor tanks in the ancient settlement areas a major part of which lies in the NCP, north of Anuradhapura and the balance part in Northern province in an around Vavuniya town. The project would enable a flood control system, which would be another advantage.

Simultaneously other drinking water projects are also being launched to address the drinking water problem in the Kilinochchi town and in the Paranthan area with grant assistance from Japan. Apart from it, rural water supply schemes have been launched in Kilinochchi district with ADB funding, covering the population of Iyakachchi, Vattakachchi and Akkrayan and the Delft Island in the Jaffna district.