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News Features


 MORAGAHAKANDA PROJECT 2-YEARS-OLD

Text and pix by Channa Kasturisinghe
January 25, 2009, marked the completion of two years since the inauguration of the construction work of Moragahakanda Kaluganga project. This important project, which comes under the Mahaweli River Development Programme, is expected to completely address the irrigation needs of the North Central Province (NCP). A visit to the area earmarked for the project, would provide ample evidence of a considerable amount of work done during the last two years, in constructing the largest reservoir in Sri Lanka.

The project area is located in the Laggala electorate of the Matale District in the Central Province. It also extends to some parts in the NCP. The most convenient way to approach the area is via Dambulla. Following a few minutes drive along the Dambulla-Kandalama road, one enters the new road built through the Minneriya forest reserve, which leads to Bakamuna, an area which has been benefited by the Mahaweli project. The project office, which coordinates the construction activities of Moragahakanda project, is situated a couple of kilometers away from Elahera, a small village by the Ambanganga.

Among the most important construction work carried out so far in this project is the building of Kumbiyangahaela-Elahera road, which partly encircles the Moragahakanda reservoir. Over 70% of the construction work of this access road has now been completed and, as a result, visitors can get a clear view of the vast extent of land earmarked for the Moragahakanda reservoir, hopefully, in another six years time. The building of several bridges and buildings to accommodate workers and officials, are among the other rapid construction activities apparent to a visitor.

Driving along this access road, one can enter the construction site of one of the two rock filled saddle dams of the Moragahakanda reservoir. About 15% of the work in constructing saddle dam No: 2 has now been completed, according to the engineers at the site. The reservoir consists of two rock filled saddle dams, in addition to the roller compacted concrete main dam, which is expected to be about 65 metres in height. The three dams will support the active storage of over 500 million cubic metres of water.

Although, the construction work of the project has already completed two years, one can still find several farmer families engaged in agricultural activities in small villages expected to go under water in a few years time. According to Agriculture Development & Agrarian Services Minister Maithripala Sirisena, these families are expected to be resettled in new Mahaweli villages to be built in the areas to be developed under the Kaluganga project.

“Some of these villagers do not want to leave Matale District. Therefore, we have made all arrangements to resettle them in Mahaweli villages, which will be built with all the infrastructure facilities, including roads, drinking water, electricity, hospitals and schools etc. There are some who prefer to be resettled in the Polonnaruwa District. They will be given lands in some selected areas in Medirigiriya,” the Minister said.

The Minister said that, since the commencement of the project in January, 2007, the Government has paid full attention to the resettlement of people in the area.

“We visited every household, even before the commencement of the project, and talked to these families. They fully understand the importance of this project and are satisfied with the resettlement arrangements. But, due to petty political reasons, some politicians in this area are staging protests,” the Minister said.

According to the Minister, about 2,100 families will need to be resettled due to Moragahakanda-Kaluganga project.
“Over 1,500 families will have to be resettled due to the Moragahakanda reservoir, while 600 families will lose their lands due to the Kaluganga reservoir. But the resettlement will need to be done only after five years, since the commencement of the project. Until then, they can engage in their agriculture activities here,” the Minister said.

The Minister said that Moragahakanda-Kaluganga project would take at least 7 years to complete from its commencement.
“The total estimated cost for the project is about Rs. 62,000 million. We have utilized about Rs. 1,200 million for the surveys and the construction work carried out so far. The most important thing is that, the money we have utilised so far, is from Government revenue. We have not yet taken a single cent as foreign aid for this project,” the Minister said.

However, he said that, the Government would need foreign aid to complete the project and it has already had discussions with several countries for assistance.

“The governments of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have already agreed to provide us with financial assistance. We also expect the Japanese government, through its Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), to provide us with financial and technical assistance. We expect the foreign aid component of this project to be around US$ 400 million,” the Minister said.
He said that benefits of Moragahakanda project will not only be limited to the NCP but will extend to the adjoining Central and Eastern Provinces.

“This is a 99% agriculture oriented project. Farmers in the NCP will be able to cultivate paddy for three seasons, after the completion of this project. That will increase the national paddy production by about 30%.

It will also solve the drinking water problems of people in Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Trincomalee and Matale Districts. Those who engage in fresh water fishing and cultivation of vegetable and fruit crops, would also benefit from this project. In addition, the project would generate about 30 MWs of electricity,” Minister Sirisena said.

Moragahakanda-Kaluganga project is expected to contribute to the future development of the NCP. But, its benefits will undoubtedly extend to some parts of the North and Eastern provinces which have been affected by three decades of war. The Government, at present, has been able to wipe out terrorism from these two provinces, and has already focused on development of the North and East. Moragahakanda-Kaluganga project will also play a considerable role in developing these areas.

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