Resolving long felt water scarcity in Anuradhapura

Mahakanadarawa tank - The main water source of the Anuradhapura-North water project-Phase I.

Anuradhapura is the largest district in the country with a population of around 893,000 across 717,900 hectares. There were nearly 3,000 major, medium and small-scale tanks and irrigation works in ancient Sri Lanka dating from the reign of King Pandukabhaya in 300 BC.

The government has given priority to provide potable drinking water to the people. Around 1,500 tanks in the Anuradhapura district are in a state of dilapidation, filled with sediment. The tanks have been contracting due to sediment disposal and thus, water capacity is dwindling. The people in the district suffered from the acute shortage of both drinking and irrigational water during the last two years due to the prolonged drought.

The government spent around Rs. 3,000 million to extend drought relief facilities such as dry food rations for the victimised families. The National Water Supply and Drainage Board (NWSDB), in collaboration with the National Community Water Supply Department and the Sri Lanka Navy, is engaged in remedying the problem of acute shortage of drinking water by installing reverse osmosis filtering devices in the dry zone which includes the North Central Province as well. It is learnt that the government spent Rs. 109,153 million in 2018 for the provision of potable drinking water. Between 2015 and 2018, eighteen new water supply projects were commissioned, while 440,220 new water connections were given to the people.

Anuradhapura-North water project - Phase I

Three mega water supply schemes are emerging in the Anuradhapura district. The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Chinese government are providing financial and technological assistance for these water projects. Under the Anuradhapura-North mega water project - Phase I, Mihinthale - Mahakanadarawa tank which holds a water capacity of 35,000 acre feet has been selected as the main water source. The tank would release 6,700 cubic metres of water per day on the basis of 2,000 acre feet annually. Under the proposed water project, Rs. 300 million is to be spent for the modernisation of the tank and the irrigation canal system as a prerequisite to the water project.

The construction work of Phase I of the Anuradhapura-North water project is due to be completed before the end of 2020.

The construction work of the water project is now in progress. It has been estimated that a population of around 75,000 in 30 Grama Niladhari (GN) divisions in the Medawachchiya, Rambewa and Mihinthale Divisional Secretariat (DS) Divisions which are considered as kidney disease-prone areas will benefit from the emerging Anuradhapura-North water project Phase I.

A water purification plant with a capacity of treating 9,400 cubic metre water per day is coming up adjoining to the Mahakanadarawa tank bund. Its capacity of water intake is 39,600 cubic metres. There are three ground reservoirs in Rambewa (1,500 cubic metres), Medawachchiya (1,000 cubic metres) and Pihimbiyagollewa (250 cubic metres), in addition to the four main water towers put up in Isinbassagala, Rambewa, Ethakada and Pihimbiyagollewa which together hold a water capacity of 4,000 cubic metres.

The main transmission pipeline is 89 kilometres long. The distribution sub-pipeline is 340 kilometres in length. The uPVC sub-distribution main which is 3,400 kilometres long has been completed. It has been designed to feed the Mahakanadarawa water source with an additional 56,750 acre feet of water from the Moragahakanda reservoir through the Upper Elahera and the NCP canal via the Manankattiya and Eruwewa tanks within the next five years.

Anuradhapura-North water project - Phase II

The JICA extends financial support for the proposed Anuradhapura-North water supply project Phase II. The remaining areas of Anuradhapura-North will receive water through the Anuradhapura-North water supply project Phase II. The Yan Oya reservoir in the Horowpathana DS Division will supply water for this project.

The main target of the Phase II is to ensure the supply of safe pipe borne drinking water to the population of around 193,319 in the DS divisions - Padaviya, Horowpathana, Kahatagasdigiliya and Kebithigollewa in the Anuradhapura district, covering 119 GN divisions. Under this scheme, Kallikulam and Vedivaiththakalu GN divisions in the Vavuniya district will also be partially covered, in addition to the 119 GN divisions.

The project is partly funded by the JICA with the Sri Lankan government funding the balance. The consultancy contract for design and procurement commenced on May 1, 2018. The detailed design and procurement are expected to be finished in February 2020 and thereafter, the implementation will follow immediately. A loan of JPY 23,137,000,000 has been granted for the project.

In the meantime, the construction work of the Thambuththegama water project in the Mahaweli H Area is to be started shortly. This project will cater to around 14,000 people in 42 GN divisions in the Thambuththegama, Galnewa and Thalawa DS Divisions. Here, the water source is the Rajangane reservoir (85,000 acre feet) and the intake of water per day would be 42,000 cubic metres.

The water treatment plant is capable of treating 18,000 cubic metres of water per day and the project consists of three towers with 1,500 cubic metres water capacity in each. A transmission pipeline extends to 52 kilometres, while the main distribution line is 135 kilometres in length. The capacity of raw water transmission is 27,000 cubic metres a day. It is learnt that submissions of preliminary design are in progress and construction work is scheduled to be completed by June 2021. However, farmers who come under the Rajangane reservoir project have vehemently objected to the daily water intake in fear that such a move would badly affect their cultivations and at present, the NWSDB in collaboration with irrigation authorities is trying to convince them of the benefits of the water project and explain to them that the water intake would not affect their crops.

Yan Oya reservoir project

Apart from these major water projects, the Anuradhapura Yan Oya reservoir project is nearing completion at a cost of Rs. 39,000 million. The reservoir’s water capacity is 149,000 acre feet. The project is to be completed shortly once the construction of the left and the right bank canals is over.

The Padaviya area has been suffering from an acute shortage of water since the Padaviya reservoir (85,000 acre feet) depends on rainfall as it has no permanent water source to feed it. The reservoir will be provided adequate water through the 20-kilometre long right bank canal. Also, the construction work of lower Malwathu Oya reservoir will commence soon.

The reservoir which emerges in the proximity of historic Thanthirimale holds a water capacity of 169,000 acre feet and costs Rs. 15,000 million.

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