Moragahakanda: Farmers yet to reap full benefit | Sunday Observer

Moragahakanda: Farmers yet to reap full benefit

Kaluganga Reservoir
Kaluganga Reservoir

There is no doubt that the Moragahakanda-Kaluganga development project which aims to provide water to 81,422 hectares of agriland in Central, North Central, Northern and North Western Provinces will bring prosperity to hundreds of thousands people. The multipurpose project will further contribute with drinking water facilities, electricity generation, inland fisheries and tourism.

Despite tons of benefits to the country by the project, people resettled within the two reservoirs are struggling to date in many ways.

Galeyaya located one and a half kilometres on Wasgamuwa Road from New Town Laggala was an area where people resettled with the commencement of Kaluganga Reservoir. Father of two, E.M. Susantha Bandara (33) had moved to Galeyaya about four years ago. The traditional farming community of the original Laggala-Pallegama area are now facing numerous difficulties due to improper planning in resettlement, he said.

“We were totally deceived. We do not have any positive impact after this project,” Bandara complained.

Lack of water for their agriculture activities is the main issue Bandara and his fellow villagers are subject to, since the beginning of resettlement. They have to limit their cultivation according to the rain water received and sometimes all their investment on agriculture goes down the drain, if rain did not come on time.

When the Moragahakanda project was under construction most of the villagers had got jobs as labourers. Once the construction work ended villagers lost their jobs with no other alternative than going back to paddy cultivation. “We will consider” is the commonly heard answer for these families when they complain about their difficulties to the Mahaveli Authority, Bandara claimed.

“If they empty the reservoir and let us go back to our old villages we would be happy to do so,” Bandara said.

Lack of drinking water is another key issue these villagers face. Although the Mahaveli Authority currently provides them drinking water through bowsers, villagers are not happy with the quality of the water.

In fact, water of the Kaluganga Reservoir is planned to be supplied to the people in resettled areas. However, the Moragahakanda project was completed first, resulting in the drinking water issue to the people in resettled areas.

“I think they have discovered hundreds of kidney patients from this area alone. We never had kidney problems at our villages back then,” another villager in Galeyaya, A.G. Abesingha Banda (58) said.

Records of the doctor in charge at the Ayurveda Hospital in Laggala, prove that about 220 patients with Chronical Kidney Disease (CKD) had been identified in the area.

“This number is according to a list of patients who receive the government dole for CKD patients. However, there could be patients who are not registered with the government, but take treatment for CKD. Also there could be more people with the disease who have not yet been identified, ” the doctor-in-charge, Dr. N.J.K.Wickremesinghe said.

“I cannot confidently say that the number of patients have been increased only after coming to this area. But I can say that the number of patients identified have been increased after resettlement,” he opined.

Improvement of medical facilities and more access to such facilities could be reasons for identifying CKD patients in numbers, he believes.

Meanwhile the Sunday Observer team met a three-member group of wild life rangers looking for a group of wild elephants who have become a life threatening menace to the people in Hapugasyaya in Naula.

Villagers had seen a group of wild elephants for several days while a bhikkhuni was killed by the elephants a few days ago. Responding to their complaint, the group of wildlife rangers armoured with guns were looking for elephants.

Chief incumbent of the Sri Dharmaraja Temple in Hapugasyaya, Raththota Rahula Thera said that the involvement of the wildlife department is not enough to resolve the issue. “Firing elephants is not a solution. They should catch those elephants and transport them to a sanctuary,” he opined.

“Elephants are everywhere in the village as there is a lot of food these days for them. They are on roads after 6 pm almost every day,” A.G.G.M. Bandara said. The small shop he runs in front of the house has a CCTV camera which had recorded a group of three elephants freely roaming on the main road of the village.

As Bandara said, most of the villagers now finish their daily work early and head back home because of the situation.

Hapugasyaya villagers complain that wild elephants had never been an issue for them before the construction of the Moragahakanda reservoir.

While Moragahakanda was beneficial to people in Polonnaruwa, people in villages around Naula got a fresh wild elephant issue with the completion of the Moragahakanda project, Bandara said.

“They spent Rs 70 million for the election. But they are reluctant to spend some money to solve our problem,” Bandara lamented.

Director Moragahakanda-Kaluganga Development Project Engineer D.B. Wijayarathne admitted that the Moragahakanda project affect a threat of wild elephants. But he believes it will be resolved with time as the elephants will get used to the elephant corridor built from Moragahakanda to Wasgamuwa.

“We cannot predict on the behavior of the animal. But we hope it will be sorted soon,” he said.

He also said that water distribution for agriculture activities in resettlement areas will be resolved by April 2020, predicting that the Kaluganga Reservoir will then be running to full capacity.

The issue on drinking water will also be resolved by December next year with the implementation of a new water project. However he denied news on CKD spread over the area. “These are fake stories created by water bottling companies. There is no such risk,” he assured.