ADB assisted project brings prosperity:
Lanka ranks high in region for safe drinking water
President Mahinda Rajapaksa commissing the Kandy water project
Some South Asian countries have nuclear capacity, war heads and even
launch space shuttles to outer space while Sri Lanka lags far behind in
these areas. Yet, the country has praiseworthy initiatives none other
South Asian country can match, like providing safe drinking water to
almost 90 percent of its population.
Sri Lanka is positioned to provide safe drinking water to its entire
population in a few years. In a bid to achieve this goal the government
has intensified investments to the Water supply and sanitation projects
with the Asian Development Bank playing a major role in providing
Sri Lankans are more educated than other South Asians so they look
better sanitation and the government on its part is providing the
necessary infrastructure by initiating major water supply development
projects all over the country. Attitudes and culture of Sri Lankans also
play a role towards the country being a nation with better health
However, drinking water was always a grey area especially in the
North East, Puttalam, Polonnaruwa, Anuradhapura and Hambantota. Nearly
60 percent of the northern rural population lacks access to safe
drinking water and sanitation. In a bid to overcome this the Jaffna area
would get a two million dollar grant from Japan and the Asian
A water project in Batticaloa
The Iranamadu tank
The Kilinochchi tank destroyed by the LTTE
M. Gnanawathi with her cattle in Chandana Pokuna
Along with the ADB-administered grant, the Government of Sri Lanka
will provide nearly $261,000, with in-kind community contributions of
over $157,000, to a total investment cost of over $2.4 million. The
Ministry of Water Supply and Drainage is the executing agency for the
project which will run for two years with an expected completion date of
A water project in Tangalle
Deputy Director M. T. M Fazil at a project in Thalpota
quenching her thirst in Thalpota
"In the 1,400 villages of the Jaffna Peninsula, just 13 water supply
schemes exist, providing only around one hour of water a day," the ADB
said. "A key feature of this assistance will be the involvement of
communities in the construction, operation and maintenance of
facilities, to ensure sustainability of the project, while providing
income and livelihood opportunities to the beneficiaries," said ADB's
Urban Development Specialist Ron Slangen.
About 1,000 people in target communities will benefit from
cash-for-work programs that will build and rehabilitate infrastructure.
One of the biggest projects to be undertaken by the government in
providing continued drinking water to Jaffna Peninsula is the Iranamadu
Project which would take pipe water to Jaffna, 90 km away.
Another project, the sixth to be assisted by the ADB will cover areas
in Vavuniya, Mannar Chilaw and Puttalam.
Though Polonnaruwa boasts of the world's oldest irrigation system
which is still up and running, the area lacked access to safe drinking
water resulting in water borne diseases.
Several projects were implemented but they were all failures.
It was to overcome this that the fourth ADB assisted project was
conducted in Polonnaruwa which is a major success with many now having
access to safe drinking water.
Deputy Director Water Supply and Sanitation Project Polonnaruwa
M.T.M. Razil said the project is aimed at providing safe drinking water
to 969, 000 and sanitation to 171,500 people in the North Central
Today Polonnaruwa's rural areas benefit from this scheme.
Safe drinking water
People in Chandana Pokuna, a remote village in Polonnaruwa had to
carry utensils to over two kilometres to get drinking water.
However, today these villagers have built their own wells with some
having access to tap water too. Safe drinking water provided by donor
organisations has helped transform villages and increase the income
level of people. Mini lending organisations play a vital role in
improving the lifestyle of people.
President of the newly formed Chandana Pokuna Community Development
Society, Indrani Perera said that they received Rs. 20,000 to increase
sanitation facilities in the area and this in turn was given on credit
to four families on a five percent interest rate.
After almost two years the money has increased to nearly one hundred
thousand and this loan scheme has been raised to Rs. 15,000.
She said that she started a mini dairy and earns around Rs. 10,000 a
month while other loan recipients have opened garment shops, vegetable
sale outlets, flower pots manufacturing, poultry and even building
material stores to cater to the needs of the area. "We had to spend
hours to get water but today we have easy access to it and as a result
we save plenty of time to spend on our occupations", she said.
The community has also built their own toilets and this has helped
In the neighbouring Thalpota area two wells have been built along
with a pumphouse, office and stores. This scheme provides pipe water to
nearly 200 families and they have also devised their own metre and
billing system where each household pays around Rs. 200 for their
monthly water bill.
M. Sheela Herath representing this Randiya Community Society said
that they were forced to use hard water and now they have water which is
purified. "We now have time to devote to several self-employment
projects which bring an additional revenue to us", she said.
Sri Lanka first had its first drinking water project in 1881 with the
commissioning of the Labugama project. In 1958 Kalatuwawa was built
which was followed by several projects.
During the past two years the government focused on providing safe
drinking water, sanitation and development projects such as the
Moragahakanda and Rambakan Oya projects. Projects have been launched
in Ambalangoda and Tangalle to provide safe drinking water to the areas.
The ADB assisted in several development projects and their third
Water Supply and Sanitation Project was implemented from 1998-2007 in
six districts: Anuradhapura, Kalutara, Kegalle, Hambantota, Puttalam and
People had depended on shallow ground water for their daily needs for
thousands of years. Since the first piped water supply system has been
constructed for Colombo city in 1895, many cities and semi urban areas
have access to pipe-borne water.
There were a large number of small scale gravity water supply systems
especially in the estate sector. However, majority of the rural
population continued to rely on shallow well water even up to the 1970s.
A large number of hand pump tube wells were constructed from 1970 to
Participatory rural water supply systems were introduced in the 1980s
by few donor-funded water supply projects. Many governmental and non
governmental organisations provided small scale rural water supply
projects during the past two decades.
The population in Sri Lanka was around 19.6 million according to
census carried out in 2001. Approximately 60 percent of the population
live in rural areas of which only a small part is covered by large and
medium scale water supply schemes operated by the National Water Supply
and Drainage Board or by the Local Authorities. Majority of people
living in rural areas will have to depend on domestic sources for their
Around 34 percent of the population has access to pipe-borne water.
The Government has taken steps to increase pipe-borne water supply
through the Ministry of Water Supply and Drainage Board.
The Government expects to provide pipe-borne water to around 45
percent of the population by 2015.