Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Hamilton Canal: Longest man-made canal in Sri Lanka

by damith
September 24, 2023 1:17 am 0 comment 1.1K views

Text and pix by S.K. Tissera, Chilaw Group correspondent

The Paru Ela Canal also known later as Dutch Canal or Hamilton Canal, the history of which dates back to the Dutch period in Sri Lanka is supposed to be the longest man-made canal in the island.

It starts from the Kelani river estuary at Elakanda, Hendala in Colombo North and ends in Puttalam with more than 125 kilometres in length and could be a money-spinner if used properly after a well-thought out, much concerted renovation which it richly deserves given its present situation, an antithesis of its intended purpose, i.e. transportation of goods from Colombo to Puttalam and vice versa.

It was the Portuguese who constructed the original canal in the 17th century. The Dutch expanded it in the next century and used it to transport pearls and spices from the North to Colombo.

A new Colombo – Negombo canal was built in 1804. Garvin Hamilton, the well-known English civil servant was instrumental in expanding the canal and therefore, it has come into existence as the Hamilton Canal. It was designed to drain salt water out of the Muthurajawela wetlands.

Historical records associated with this canal bear witness to the fact that by using the canal, goods were transported between Colombo and Puttalam. Since canoes were the mode of transport during its early period when vehicles were rare, the canal also came to be known as Paru Ela.

The Paru Ela Canal which connects the districts of Colombo, Gampaha and Puttalam is parallel to the West coast region of Sri Lanka.

Although steps had been taken to renovate the canal from Colombo to Kochchikade, the rest of it seems to have been abandoned. Trees and plants have grown along the canal. Waterlogged areas are replete with invasive plants such as salvinia and common water hyacinth.

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