Tomorrow also marks the 42nd anniversary of the commissioning of the first Mahaweli Project at Polgolla in the Central Province by the then Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike on January 8, 1976.
Indeed, Mahaweli is truly the biggest multipurpose national project, which was implemented by different governments during the last four decades. The Project, first planned and feasibility studies done by the governments of Dudley Senanayake and S W R D Bandaranaike ,was initiated by Mrs Bandaranaike in 1976 at Polgolla. However, bulk of the work was done during the J R Jayewardene period, during which the 30 year project was speeded up to be completed in five years under the able leadership of Minister Gamini Dissanayake.
Although the bulk of the work was done during the UNP regime under the accelerated Mahaweli program, the last phase -that of Moragahakanda-Kalu Ganga project was considerably delayed due to various reasons.
Maithripala Srisena, watched these developments, first, as a youth belonging to a Mahaweli farmer family and later as a novice Member of Parliament representing Polonnaruwa, the cradle of rice farming.
Much later, in 2007, he succeeded in obtaining government approval and initiated the Moragahakanda Project, which was his dream vision. Immediately thereafter, he ran into difficulties starting with non availability of funds and later the lack of desire to implement the project by the then leadership.
Undeterred, he continued his struggle and finally he could take effective steps to accelerate the project when he won the Presidential Election exactly three years to date and assumed duties as Executive President.
Tomorrow, with the commissioning of Moragahakanda-Kalu Ganga reservoir of the Kalu Ganga Dam, an increase of 64,000,000 cubic metres of water will flow from the reservoir to far flung regions including, the Vanni, Matale, Anuradhapura, Trincomalee, and Polonnaruwa.
The Moragahakanda Dam is a high gravity dam with a height of 65 meters. The dam has created the Moragahakanda Reservoir, which has an active storage capacity of 521,000,000 cubic meters, and is four times bigger than the gigantic Parakrama Samudraya in Polonnaruwa.
Two additional embankment saddle dams have been built to contain the Moragahakanda Reservoir. The reservoir of the Kalu Ganga Dam has been linked via a tunnel.
Water from both, the Moragahakanda and Kalu Ganga reservoirs, will be primarily used to support agricultural needs in an area of at least 81,422 hectares. This would increase rice production by 81% or 109,000 tons, amounting to an estimated monetary benefit of US$1.67 million, annually.
In addition to the irrigation of land, water from the Moragahakanda Reservoir will be used to power the 25-megawatt Moragahakanda Hydroelectric Power Station.
Prior to Moragahakanda, all other projects under the Mahaweli have been completed.
They include: the Victoria Dam, located across the Mahaweli Ganga immediately upstream of the Victoria Falls rapids about 130 miles from the river mouth; the Randenigala Project, the fourth major multi-purpose project and the largest reservoir under the Accelerated Mahaweli Development Program; the Rantambe Dam and power station form the most downstream project of a cascade of reservoirs and hydro power stations on the Mahaweli Ganga in the Dumbara Valley; the Polgolla project, which carried water resources of the Mahaweli Ganga Basin; the Kotmale project, which is one of five major head works projects undertaken under the Accelerated Mahaweli Ganga scheme; and the Bowatenne Diversion Project, which lies in the northern part of the central highlands of Sri Lanka.
A major factor for the success of the Mahaweli Program was the ready response of several countries to finance the various construction works under the Project.
The Government of the United Kingdom financed the Victoria Project, Canada the Maduru Oya Project, Federal Republic of Germany the Randenigala Project and Sweden the Kotmale Project.
Meanwhile, the Governments of USA, Canada, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Australia, as well as International Agencies agreed to finance the downstream development.
Initially, Japan was to fund the Moragahakanda Project. However, after the 1983 riots the project got delayed and finally on the request of the then Minister Maithripala Sirisena, China agreed to fund the project in 2007.
Families living in the Kalu Ganga Dam construction site were resettled about five kilometers away from their original homes, at the Guruwela resettlement area and compensations paid.
The families affected under the Moragahakanda reservoir were provided new lands in the Thorapitiya resettlement area.
The Project has paid special attention to minimize the impact on environment.
The following activities are currently being implemented as stipulated in the Environmental Effect Assessment (EIA) Report. They include: reforestation of about 1,365 hectares in the immediate catchment of the Amban Ganga Basin, demarcation of 100 meter buffer zone around the Moragahakanda reservoir and reforestation of 650 hectares inside this buffer zone, the establishment of an elephant corridor between the Giritale Minneriya nature reserve and the Wasgamuwa National Park, habitat enrichment in the above areas, rehabilitation of tanks in adjacent nature reserves and eradication of invasive plants, establishment of an electric elephant fence around the resettlement area and introduction of new farming technology and capacity building of the newly settled farmers are important for the successful resettlement process.
In order to achieve this, the project has established a 27 hectare Model Farm in the Guruwela resettlement area. The farm plays a vital role in farmer training, supplying planting materials for the new settlers, introduction of organic farming and to illustrate agriculture potential in the area.
President Sirisena said, the implementation of the Moragahakanda-Kalu Ganga Irrigation Development Project is not only a fulfilment of a long awaited aspiration of the farmers, but also a personal dream come true for him.
He made these remarks during the national ceremony to enshrine treasures to build the main dam of the Moragahakanda-Kalu Ganga Irrigation Development Project in May 2016.
The Project, which was 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 said.
The President further said, he is extremely glad now as the project could be commenced, and when it is completed in January 2018 he would be a tremendously happy and contended person.
Another unique feature is, the Moragahakanda-Kaluganga scheme represents the spirit of cooperation prevailing in the government of consensus.
While the massive projects hitherto were implemented by the governments of the UNP and SLFP separately under their own agendas, this the first major project implemented under the unity government of the two major national parties.