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President commissions Moragahakanda, bringing to a close the Mahaweli chapter

President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe commissioned the giant Moragahakanda Reservoir yesterday. Picture by Sudath Silva

Fulfilling a long felt need of the people in the dry-zone, the giant Moragahakanda Reservoir, a multipurpose development project under the Moragahakanda - Kaluganga Reservoir Development Project was commissioned under the patronage of President Maithripala Sirisena and with the participation of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday, amidst the blessings and the chanting of Seth Pirith of the Maha Sangha.

With the commissioning of the project the waters of the Moragahakanda reservoir will nourish and make fertile thousands of hectares of barren lands and bring them under the plough while providing drinking water to quench the thirst of millions of people, who are affected with the scarcity of pure drinking water facilities for decades.

Sri Lanka, considered primarily as an agricultural nation, marked a significant milestone yesterday when the waters of the last but the biggest reservoir of the multipurpose Mahaweli Scheme at Moragahakanda had it’s sluice gates opened to irrigate parched dry lands in faraway Vanni in the Northern Province on the one side and Rajarata, Wayamba, Central and Eastern Provinces on the other.

The commencement of filling water to the Moragahakanda reservoir started on January 11 last year by President Sirisena giving a pledge that the project would be commissioned by the following January.

With the commissioning of the Moragahakanda reservoir, an additional 64,000,000 cubic metres of water will flow from the reservoir to far flung regions. The Moragahakanda project completed at Rs 180,000 million will end the water scarcity in several districts mainly in Matale, Polonnaruwa, Vavuniya, Anuradhapura, Trincomalee and the Vanni. Besides, the water will add 25 MW to the national grid through four turbines installed in the main dam of the reservoir.

The Moragahakanda Dam is a high-gravity dam with a height of 65 metres. 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 Kalu Ganga Reservoir project, which has completed 70 percent construction, will link the Moragahakanda Reservoir 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 per cent or in other words it would increase the paddy production by 109,000 tons annually, amounting to an estimated monetary benefit of US$1.67 million, per year.

The project consists of two irrigation channel systems as the Rajarata channel system and the Wayamba Channel system. The Rajarata channel system is 102 km long and connects the Mahakanadarawa Tank via Huruluwewa.

The 96 km long Wayamba Channel system completed at a cost of US$ 200 million provides water to Wayamba, Both channel systems will supply water to 1,500 small tanks in the dry zone.

The two channel systems will help cultivate around 94,000 hectares of paddy land throughout the year allowing paddy farmers to cultivate both, the Yala and Maha seasons.

It is significant that yesterday also marked the 42nd anniversary of the commissioning of the first Mahaweli Project at Polgolla in the Central Province by the then Prime Minister Late Sirimavo Bandaranaike, on January 8, 1976.

The Moragahakanda project is the last of the Mahaweli scheme, which is truly the biggest multipurpose national project in the country. Although the bulk of the work was done during the UNP regime under the accelerated Mahaweli scheme, the last phase, that of Moragahakanda-Kalu Ganga project, was considerably delayed due to various reasons, until President Sirisena took measures to expedite work on the project.

Owing to his untiring efforts, finally the President was able to take effective steps to accelerate the project when he won the Presidential Election exactly three years ago and assumed duties as the Executive President.