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Reservoir for nimalawa aranya senasana

A fusion of scenic beauty and the tranquillity of a forest monastery - Nimalawa will undoubtedly leave the weary traveller awe struck. Nimalawa Aranya, adjacent to the Nimalawa Sanctuary, is a forest based monastery, situated about 8 km off Thissamaharama town, in the Kirinda road. The calm ambience of the aranya - which is a branch of the Kalyana Yogashrama Sanstha - will undoubtedly awe any one who visits it.

The history of the monastery runs millania. Approximately 2200 years ago, thousands of great arhaths including Arhath Dhammadinna chose this monastery as a place of residence. It still boasts of stone inscriptions, caves and ponds that were used by arhaths at the time and is commonly referred to as the 'Holy Land of Ruhuna'. One particular stone inscription makes specific reference to a grandson of King Mahanaga, who is believed to be King Kawantissa. Another stone inscription is evidence that Thalaguru Wehera - Arhath Dhammadinna resided in - is in fact Nimalawa Aranya.

Unfortunately the aranya was overtaken by the forest, for hundreds of years, as the bhikkhus left it due to famines and other natural disasters. With unrelenting effort, Kadawedduwa Sri Jinawansa Thera had it reconstructed and was re-established as a monastery on December 23, 1950, with the presence of Mathara Sri Gnanarama Thera and five other Bhikkhus. Three new chambers - Meththa, Karuna and Dhamma Vichaya - were built on site and on July 18, 1951 were presented to four bhikkhus including Getamanne Wimalawansa Thera. It is now one of the most famous forest monasteries in the country, complete with a vihara, Akasa pagoda, library, Bo tree, etc... Moreover it consists of 16 caves including the Maharambhaka cave - which is believed to be the cave Arhath Dhammadinna used as his chamber. Its reputation is such that a dayaka has to be in the waiting list for two years to get an opportunity to give alms. There are more than 750 dayakas.

The Nimalawa Sanctuary - a total of 1065.85 ha - adjoining the Yala National Park, is home to a myriad of wildlife. The night jar, deer, Sambur and wild boar are a common sight in the area. Unfortunately Nimalawa, situated in the dry zone has a very arid climate, with only 550 mm of rain, which is restricted to only October, November and December. The whole area is subject to a severe drought every year during July, August and September. Although water is provided to the area by pipes, this is also cut off during the drought. Consequently human and beast alike, have to suffer during the drought. People have to walk for miles in search of water and carcasses of animals who have died of thirst is a frequent sight here in the Nimalawa sanctuary. Animals who enter villages in search of water become easy prey to humans.

The Nimalawa Aranya is also faced with dire conditions during the drought. Water service completely ceases during the dry season. The sandy soil of the area reduces absorption. Consequently ground water is not an option. There are no other natural water sources other than the stagnant ponds and lakes that completely dry up after just two months of drought. The bhikkhus have barely enough water to drink let alone wash.

The only temporary solution has been to bring water to the Aranya by bowsers, from Thissamaharama and Yodha wewa. This is rather costly and the water sources are contaminated due to the fact that they are consistently exploited by the locals for various purposes such as washing clothes and also for the use of livestock. Dayaka who bring alms to the aranya undergo many difficulties because of the lack of water.

The only viable solution for this would be to use rain water. During the rainy season a huge amount of water flows through the local water channels to the area. The construction of a reservoir in the Nimalawa Aranya would be beneficial to Bhikkhus as well as animals, who make Nimalawa sanctuary their home. Consequently the construction of two reservoirs - Padikemaarawewa and Mahaarawewa - have been proposed by the Nimalawa Conservation Foundation. With the approval of the Department of Wildlife Conservation, Forest Department, the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources and the guidance of the Nayaka Thera, the construction will be done in two phases.

The Padikema pond in the Aranya premises will be reconstructed i and will be provided a sand filter to purify the water for drinking purposes. Another reservoir - Padikemaara wewa - will be constructed adjacent to Padikema pond. The whole structure will span three acres. A kerosene motor will be used to pump water to the Aranya. A 23ha reservoir will be built by constructing a dam across the Mahara, which is made up of the spill water from Nimalawa reservoir, Padikemaara and Kumarara.

The reservoir will consist of a concrete spill and a dam 150 m long and three metres high. D.P. Munaweera, President of the Nimalawa Foundation explained that during the rainy season the whole of 23 ha is covered by water, but during the dry season it dries up. "The re-construction of Mahara wewa will pose no threat to wildlife, because it already exists." In fact the reservoir will be reserved for animals and will act as a natural boundary against encroachment. The architecture of the dam, surveying and the mapping was done by qualified engineers, geologists and surveyors, working in the Mahaweli Authority. The project plan is done by D.P Munaweera, who is also the Project Director, Upper Watershed Management Project. The geologists and surveyors have taken into account the height from sea level, the contour alignment and best soil type for water retention in deciding the most suitable location of the dams and reservoir. According to estimates, rain water collected in just 25 acres, will provide the total annual requirement of water.

Moreover, after the construction of the proposed reservoirs, a 'forest conservation' project in the area is proposed to come into effect. The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources has already agreed to provide the technical know-how as well as the required plant species.

The estimated cost of the whole project is nearly Rs. 15 million. But the whole project will be carried out with public funds. Public donations can be made to current account - 000360001660 - and savings account - 100360265348 - under 'Nimalawa Conservation Foundation', Sampath Bank Nugegoda Branch.

 

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