Moragahakanda : Biggest Yahapalana hybrid project | Sunday Observer

Moragahakanda : Biggest Yahapalana hybrid project

Within six months of launching the Moragahakanda-Kaluganga scheme by placing Nidhan Wasthu (treasures) at the bottom of the dam, President Maithripala Sirisena, inaugurated the second phase, the North Western Province Canal Project (NWPCP) last week. This phase is aimed at ending the sorrowful stories of the people in the North Western Province, due to water scarcity.

The project is implemented under the Mahaweli Water Security Investment Program. The main benefit of the project will be increased cropping intensity of existing cultivated lands under major and minor irrigation schemes. In addition, the Project will provide safe drinking water to a large population that suffers now from drought and lack of safe drinking water.

The Moragahakanda Project is a symbol of the spirit of cooperation prevailing in the unity government. While the massive projects hitherto were implemented by the governments of the UNP and SLFP separately, under their own agendas, the current project is being implemented under the consensual government of the two major national parties.

The NWPCP Project will be implemented in two stages: (i) Stage 1 – Nalanda – Wemedilla – Devahuwa feeder Canal – Hakwatuna Oya Diversion, and (ii) Stage 2- Diversion of Mahaweli water to Mi Oya basin from downstream of existing Bowatenna Irrigation Tunnel.

In addition, provision of safe drinking water for the people in those areas will help prevent Chronic Kidney Disease. Direct and indirect employment opportunities will arise due to the construction works.

Around Rs. 16,000 million has been estimated for the project, scheduled to be completed in 2024. Speaking at the inaugural ceremony, President Sirisena said, “I will take every step to make the country prosperous in agriculture by enhancing the farmers’ economy, as a President whose roots hail from an agricultural family. I will take measures to solve the water issue by filling the large tanks with blue water so that farmers will not face any shortages for irrigating their lands.”

The Waymaba Ela Project which will minimize difficulties faced by farmers due to lack of water is carried out with a contribution by the Asian Development Bank. After completion of the project, annually, the northern part of the Kurunegala District, will receive 105,000 acre-feet of Mahaweli water. Around 300 small streams and eight main streams in the area will be nourished through the Mahaweli water and water can be released under the Hakwatuna Oya reservoir to cultivate 2,500 hectares. Under the small streams of the Mee-oya Jala-dara system, water can be released to cultivate another 3,500 hectares and thereby release water to cultivate more than 12,000 hectares, in the Yala and Maha seasons.

As President Sirisena recalled at Moragahakanda, it was the Communist leader S. A. Wickremasinghe who first spoke about the need to divert rivers and irrigate dry lands to raise the living standards of the impoverished farming community in the Rajarata, North, East and Wanni, way back in the 1940s.

Subsequently, the development of the Mahaweli river basin has been a common thread pursued by successive governments, irrespective of party rivalries. From the era of the first Prime Minister, D. S. Senanayake, all the political giants of post-independent Sri Lanka consistently pursued the dream of strengthening the development nexus of agriculture, water and land, and last but not least, hydro-electricity.

It came from both sides of the UNP-SLFP political divide, for example, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, Maithripala Senanayake, C.P. De Silva, Gamini Dissanayake and others. Starting from modest beginnings with the Mahaweli Master Plan of 1958, through the accelerated Mahaweli Development Program launched in 1978, to the finish line today, there has been remarkable consensus and policy continuity.

Moragahakanda Kaluganga Project is the proud and most recent descendant of a long line of water-based infrastructure schemes that have characterized Sri Lanka’s hydraulic civilization for over 2,500 years. Historically, the Moragahakanda reservoir was first constructed by King Wasaba in 111 AD. Building on the achievements of our ancestors, not only provides tangible development benefits, but also strengthens vital social capital – the essential glue that binds our society through shared Sri Lankan values, traditions, culture, beliefs, and practices.

The Moragahakanda-Kaluganga Dam completes the fifth and last of the major reservoirs envisaged under the Accelerated Mahaweli Scheme, of which the gigantic dams were built in the 1980s – Victoria, Randenigala-Rantembe, and Kotmale; and Upper Kotmale in 2012. They are the pride of Sri Lanka, generating cheap electricity for many decades.  The Moragahakanda and Kaluganga reservoirs together provide a volume six times that of the Parakrama Samudraya. President Sirisena said, the implementation of the Moragahakanda-Kalu Ganga Irrigation Development Project is not only a fulfilment of a long awaited aspiration of farmers, but also a personal dream come true for him.

The project, commenced in 2007, was to be completed in 2012, but due to the lack of interest in the highest positions of the then government it has not taken off until now. The President further said, he is extremely glad now as the project could be commenced, and when it is completed in 2018, he would be a tremendously happy and contended person.

The first feasibility report for the project was completed when Maithripala Sirisena was Deputy Minister of Irrigation in 1994 in the Chandrika Kumaratunga Government, and later in 2007, he laid the foundation stone for the project as Minister of Mahaweli. The total cost of the current Moragahakanda-Kaluganga Project is estimated to be about Rs. 100 billion.

Prof. Mohan Munasinghe described this project as an excellent example of sustainable development, providing multiple benefits that strengthen all three dimensions (economic, social and environmental) of the sustainable development triangle.

The economic benefits of the project include 25 megawatts added to the national electricity Grid, and the provision of irrigation water to about 87,000 farmers in the Matale, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Trincomalee districts, during both, the Yala and Maha seasons.

The project will irrigate 82,000 hectares of existing dry land and another 5.000 hectares of new land. Annual inland fishing will rise by another 4,500 metric tons. The project will feed the Iranamadu Jaffna-Kilinochchi Water Supply scheme to provide drinking water to 300,000 people in Jaffna and 50,000 people in Kilinochchi. Provision of industrial water requirements, ecotourism and effective flood control are additional benefits.

Many social benefits too will ensue, as several towns are being developed to provide better facilities to the communities in the area. The construction of the Guruwela and New Laggala new towns is well under way, including post offices, health care centres, administrative buildings, schools and police stations. Families living in the Kaluganga Dam construction area are better off, resettled just 5 km away, and compensation paid. The families affected under the Moragahakanda reservoir were also provided new lands.

New farming technology is being introduced together with capacity building among newly settled farmers, through a 27 hectare model farm at Guruwela, which will play a vital role in farmer training, supplying of planting materials for the new settlers, introduction of organic farming, and demonstrating agriculture potential in the area, nationwide.

The Moragahakanda project has necessary safeguards for environmental protection.Special attention has been paid to minimize impacts on the environment and biodiversity. About 1,365 hectares in the catchment of the Amban Ganga Basin has been reforested, while a buffer zone of 100m around Moragahakanda reservoir has been created by reforesting approximately 650 hectares. An elephant corridor between Giritale – Minneriya nature reserve and Wasgamuwa National Park has been created, while enriching the habitat. Tanks in adjacent nature reserves have been rehabilitated and invasive plants eradicated. An electric elephant fence has been installed around the resettlement area.

The Moragahakanda Project will strengthen the resilience of agro-ecological and socio-economic systems on the impacts of climate change. Prof Munasinghe pointed out that just in the first half of 2016, Sri Lanka experienced both, abnormally high temperatures and record rainfall.

Furthermore, floods have ravaged the capital city, Colombo, at least five times in the last ten years, damaging vital urban infrastructure. Floods and drought have also decimated the agricultural heartland of the country in recent decades, especially, the dry zone covered by the Mahaweli schemes. Small farmers bear the brunt of climate variability and increasing unpredictability of the monsoons.

By the end of this century, the Maha crop will require 20% more water due to climate change. Across the country, farmers, especially, the poor, face uncertain livelihoods. Climate impacts could reduce rice production and farm incomes, worsen poverty, inequality and malnutrition, increase rural to urban migration, and encourage the migration of women for low-skilled jobs in the Middle East. The Moragahakanda-Kaluganga project will help to adapt better to such climate change impacts.