Uma Oya Project boosts agriculture of Hambantota - Chamal Rajapaksa

By Daya Lankapura
On the eve of the opening ceremony of the Uma Oya Project, which will be held on April 29, with the participation of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Irrigation and Water Management Minister Chamal Rajapaksa explained to The Nation the importance of the project. The multi-purpose irrigation project is expected to irrigate 12,000 acres of cultivatable land in the lower Uva Region, produce 100 Megawatts of hydro power and supply water to the new industries in Hambantota

Following are the excerpts of the interview:
Q: What is the significance of the Uma Oya Project, when compared to other irrigation projects?
Uma Oya is a multi-purpose irrigation project. It is expected to supply water required for agriculture in the area, produce hydro power and supply water to the large-scale projects and industries in the Hambantota District.

In this project, instead of following the procedure step by step – arranging of project reports, qualifying it for the environmental feasibility certificate, finding funds and finally starting work to follow separately in stages, which in other projects usually doubles the original cost, we let it happen simultaneously.

The Iranian Government has agreed to lend Rs. 450 million for this project, though the estimated cost for the project is only Rs. 250 million rupees – so we don’t have a problem with the funding.

Q: By diverting the Uma Oya that starts from the Uva Region to the south, this project is to benefit the people of Hambantota. Are the people of the Uva Region protesting against this?
No. This project greatly benefits the Uva Province as well. Nearly 12,000 acres of new paddy fields in Wellassa are to be irrigated by the Uma Oya water stored at the reservoir in Handapanagala. There is also going to be an underground hydro power plant capable of producing 100 Megawatts of power in Wellawaya.

Also, this project will open job opportunities for the people of Wellassa. The minor contractors of these areas can lend their lorries, tractors etc. for the use of the construction works and earn money.

Q: The Lunugamvehera Project was initiated to irrigate the lands in Hambantota, but it failed. Will the same fate befall this project too?
That will not be so. There is an immense wastage of water when Uma Oya flows across the Welimada area, especially when it overflows. Also, there is wastage when the Minipe Anicut spills out to the Mahaweli River, the way it is presently allowed to flow. Under this project, this water will be stored in a reservoir in Puhulpola and brought to the hydro power plant via an underground waterway.

This project is also expected to supply water to the large scale projects of Weerawila Airport and Hambantota industries as well as to homes. Since the water in the Lunugamvehera Reservoir is not sufficient for this task, the Uma Oya Project becomes essential for the development activities in the Hambantota District.

Q: Will the deforestation and civilian settlement in these areas threaten the habitats of elephants and raise serious environmental issues?
There will not be any deforestation in the 23-kilometre area in Puhulpola since the water is going to be carried by an underground waterway. But we are planning to take measures based on environmental assessment reports to prevent illegal deforestation and to replant the forest destroyed by the project.

Q: Is the Uma Oya Project completely dependant on the funding of the Iranian Government or does it have other sources of funding?
The government is planning to bear 15% of the total cost for the project.

Q: Are construction works for this project undertaken by foreign engineers?
Though the contractors for this project are from an Iranian construction company, the Iranian Government has agreed to let us use the labour of local engineers, architects, etc. Therefore, a part of the money spent on this project will remain in this country.

Q: It has been two years since the foundation stone was laid for the Weerawila Airport, but its construction still has not begun. Will the same happen for the Uma Oya Project?
No. The Iranian Government is funding this project and it is under the blessings of the Iranian President himself that we have been able to make such progress with this project. We have planned to end the work of this project in four years.

Q: What are you going to do about the families who are going to be displaced due to the Uma Oya Project?
We will resettle those who are affected by the construction of the Puhulpola Reservoir in the vicinity of their original homes and will pay maximum compensation for these people.

Q: In large scale irrigation projects like the Lunugamvehera Project, a lot of small water reserves were flattened and their water combined to the larger main reserve – which victimised a lot of farmers who were depending on these small water reserves to farm. Will this project do the same?
Not at all. We will let those tanks be the way they are and supply water to them from the Handapanagala Reservoir that is to be built under the Uma Oya Project.



An irreplaceable human being

I have written many appreciations about my friends, relations and comrades but, I had to struggle when it came to start this appreciation about my loving brother Dayan.

Dayan was an extraordinary person since childhood. He left a special name and memories among all his loving friends and relatives. It was his flexible adaptation into society that earned him his fame among the people. He was an extremely kind-hearted person among other kind-hearted people; he is the toughest among the toughs. That special blend made him a special man in any forum.

Dayan learnt his alphabet at Kudawewa, at his native village school. He was very reluctant to wear slippers to the village school, but since his mother taught at the same school, he did not have much choice. But, many days I saw him going to school with his mates without wearing any slippers and he was so blended and merged with nature.

Then at the age of seven, he had to leave this school and move to Colombo for studies. Then, he started his life at Nalanda College as a boarder, until he left school for university. He never missed the big match – all our family members are Nalandians and coming from different parts of the country we gathered at the big mach. When Dayan got delayed, it aroused such mammoth problems for us with many inquiries coming from his contemporaries and others, for he was such a jovial character among them.
The next phase of his life was at an Indian university, since he completed his commerce degree at the University of New Delhi in the early 1990s.

Dayan was not a seniority-conscious man and he used his own yardstick to measure people. I have clearly seen that at the university mates’ annual gathering at our home at Kudawewa. The annual get-together was a special event in our family’s calendar year. We all flock to the event from all over the country. He never accepted any contribution from his friends and he organised everything in coordination with the family.

His mates too were eagerly awaiting this exclusive event in the small village of Kudawewa, which offered them a rare enjoyment, including village walks, river bathing, toddy drinking, chatting and lunch with Chilaw prawns. All these burdens Dayan took very personally and he made the event fun-filled, which is still discussed among his friends. Dayan’s demise made a big vacuum in their hearts, which I have sadly witnessed during the funeral.

Dayan’s next benchmark was entering the Fisheries Corporation as a management trainee. Then he undertook different appointments all over the country and excelled in his job by winning the hearts of his superiors and adding a great value to the corporation.

He was a ‘no nonsense’ man but also very kind-hearted. Quality of the work and the streamlining of work is his forte during any kind of assignment whether it is at home or in the office. Dayan introduced and enjoyed many ‘firsts’ as a manager in his esteemed organisation. According to his general manager, Dayan is a “total solution” man; he spent only seconds and minutes to give solutions to his subordinates, peers and superiors.

As a soldier, I always believed in the subordinates’ version when analysing the quality of leadership in a person. During discussions with them, I found that the trust and respect bestowed upon him by the subordinates was exceptional. But sometimes, his honesty and professionalism boomeranged on him in unethical ways. We advised him in many occasions to take legal action against the authorities that created unfair situations but Dayan turned down the advice promptly since he did not want to tarnish the image of his esteemed organisation that he had served for 17 years.

Dayan’s love for his village and its people was exceptional. He never missed any village event and funded and participated lively at any event although he was extremely busy. Every villager admired his simple way of living and down-to-earth attitude towards them. Villagers have never forgotten his daredevil actions during the annual floods, to rescue the affected people. Dayan never hesitated to go to the village from anywhere in the country, ignoring all his priorities, to rescue people from the dangerous floods. He was such a good swimmer and diver, who excelled at meets as well as during disastrous situations. He always believed that a swimmer had a greater responsibility than just winning awards at competitions and lived according to his belief setting a strong example to the other swimmers.

Dayan was a role model for his contemporaries in the village and they used to imitate and follow Dayan’s living style I saw all of them running here and there doing all kinds of work to make Dayan’s final journey the best that they can produce.

An errant driver took Dayan’s precious life on January 27, 2008 when he was returning from a ceremony to his home with his wife Nirmala at Maravila. Nirmala barely escaped the fatal accident, at least sparing mother to his loving children Nethisha, Dasula and Siluni. My parents lost their loving son, who looked after all their needs and day-to-day domestic matters. My brother and sister lost his loving brother who was always a shadow and great strength to them. I being his eldest brother, who looked after his every need starting from helping his home work, washing his clothes, washing him, helping in his higher studies and carrier guidance could not bear up the loss, though I did not shed tears.

I know how much he loved his cousins and the sisters and brothers of my parents. They used to say that without Dayan there was “no go” at any event. In fact, he loved, respected and cared for all relations being equally attentive to all their requirements.

Country lost a great man, a patriot; society lost a great companion; villagers lost a sincere villager and the family lost a loving father, husband, son and a loving brother. It is an irreparable loss for every one of us!

The third month’s religious ceremony will be conducted on April 26-27, 2008. Ven. Malwane Chandrarathana, a senior lecturer at the University of Kelaniya will conduct the bana based on the temporary nature of life.
Blessing of the noble triple gem be with you, Dayan!
Chandana Weerakoon


By Poornima Ravishan Wijemanne
We live in an age of prohibition signboards, and before them we should be humble, for we do not always know the reason for the ban. But this is also the age where it is necessary that we should not know why.

Since long the green of the Galle Face was out of bound for the public and since recently, the parking area nearby has been blocked due to security concerns raised by the upcoming SAARC summit. Also, the walking space is arbitrarily blocked off when dignitaries travel along the road.

It is sad that certain government measures taken in the best interest of the people should be so fear inspiring and unfriendly to the people themselves.

The Nation spoke with a few people, most of who had made it a habit to walk in the Galle Face for almost two decades, to know how they felt to lose – inch by inch – a freedom, all in the best interest of this country.
“It’s not nice… this is not Sri Lanka, this is not the Sri Lanka we are supposed to be living in, where shall our family, any family, rest?” said a source unwilling to be named.

Like him, many others were not as articulate about what they felt about the country’s security measures. They knew that they were necessary, but none of them could seem to be able to qualify the country’s present times for ‘nice’ times.

It is difficult to answer personal anxieties while trying to balance the nation’s troubles on the other hand. Perhaps it is even selfish to think like this and even unallowable in any civic minded man.

But still, like to the Galle Face walkers that we spoke to, there remains some qualm about bureaucracy.


FDA takes closer look at complaints from Lasik customers

WASHINGTON - A decade after Lasik eye surgery hit the market, patients left with fuzzy instead of clear vision are airing their grievances before federal health officials.

Make no mistake: Most Lasik recipients do walk away with crisper vision, some better than 20/20.
But not everyone’s a good candidate, and an unlucky few do suffer life-changing side effects: poor vision, painful dry eyes, glare or problems seeing at night.

How big are the risks? The Food and Drug Administration thinks about 5% of patients are dissatisfied with Lasik. How many struggle daily with side effects? How many are just unhappy that they couldn’t completely ditch their glasses? The range of effects on patients’ quality of life is a big unknown.

So with a public hearing Friday, the FDA is beginning a new effort to determine if warnings about Lasik’s risks are appropriate. The agency also is pairing with eye surgeons for a major study expected to enroll hundreds of Lasik patients to better understand who has bad outcomes and exactly what their complaints are.

“Clearly there is a group who are not satisfied and do not get the kind of results they expect,” FDA medical device chief Dr. Daniel Schultz said Thursday. The study should “help us predict who those patients might be before they have the procedure.”
About 7.6 million Americans have undergone some form of laser vision correction, including the $2,000-per-eye Lasik. Lasik is quick and, if no problems occur, painless: Doctors cut a flap in the cornea — the clear covering of the eye - aim a laser underneath it and zap to reshape the cornea for sharper sight.

The vast majority of patients, 95%, see better and are happy they had Lasik, said Dr. Kerry Solomon of the Medical University of South Carolina, who led a review of Lasik’s safety for the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery.

But doctors advise against Lasik for one in four people who seek the surgery. Their pupils may be too large or corneas too thin or they may have some other condition that can increase the risk of a poor outcome.

Solomon estimates that fewer than 1% of patients have severe complications that leave poor vision. Other side effects, however, are harder to pin down. Dry eye, for instance, can range from an annoyance to so severe that people suffer intense pain and need surgery to retain what little moisture their eyes form. That’s the kind of question the FDA’s new study is being designed to answer.

Dry eye is common even among people who never have eye surgery, and increases as people age. Solomon says that 31% of Lasik patients have some degree of it before the surgery and that about 5% worsen afterward.

But dry-eye specialist Dr. Craig Fowler of the University of North Carolina says other research suggests 48% of patients experience some degree of dry eye at least temporarily after Lasik. Cutting the corneal flap severs nerves responsible for stimulating tear production, and how well those nerves heal in turn determines how much dry eye lingers long-term, he said.
Even if the risks are low, that’s little consolation to suffering patients.

“As long as you know any ophthalmologist that’s wearing glasses, don’t get it done,” says Steve Aptheker, 59, a Long Island lawyer who was lured by an ad for $999 Lasik.

The flaps cut in Aptheker’s cornea literally became wrinkled during the surgery, blocking vision and causing severe pain. It took seven additional surgeries over four years to restore his vision, which Aptheker says still isn’t quite as good as before his Lasik in 2000.