Irrigation Department of Sri Lanka
Irrigation in Sri Lanka has been practiced for a period of more than 2500 years. It is believed that our ancestors had acquired the technology of Irrigation from the ancient irrigation systems which existed in Babylonia, Mesopotamia, the Indus valley and China since 4000 BC. The massive irrigation systems built by our ancient kings freed our people from the need for the country to depend on external sources for the purpose of feeding her people. Unfortunately after this illustrious period from 500 BC to 1200 AD, due to invasions, disease and other unknown reasons, the irrigation system in the country went into disuse and the glorious hydraulic civilization collapsed.
During the colonial period, British Governors realizing the great potential in the ancient irrigation works, a separate department distinct from the former Public Works Department to handle irrigation works, was established in 1900.
Having restored Minneriya, Kala Wewa, Parakrama Samudra, Nachchcduwa, Kantalai and many other major works inclusive of almost all the important ancient tanks and anicuts during the first 50 years of its existence, the Department undertook the construction of the Gal Oya Project. Even today Gal Oya can be considered as the biggest reservoir so far constructed by the irrigation Department or any other organization in the country. Its service to the nation during first 50 years to the nation was celebrated last year. The Rajangana Reservoir Project is one of the most successful irrigation projects in the country today. Inginimitiya, Kirundi Oya and Neelabemma are some of the entirely new projects recently undertaken by the Department and successfully completed.
The irrigation Department played a unique role in planning of the Uda Walawe and Samanala wewa reservoirs and the preparation of the master plan and early implementation of the gigantic Mahaweli development programme. Having realized the social and political changes taking place in the society, the Department shifted its emphasis towards farmer organizations, institutional development and integrated management of irrigation schemes during the latter part of the century.
Today, after enjoying the benefits of the contributions made by the Department over the last 100 years, I have no doubt that it can play a vital role in the area of water resources planning and development in view of the anticipated changes in the global climate and economy in the future.
The efforts and capabilities of the staff of the Irrigation Department can be judged from the nature and quality of this publication. In addition it has to be emphasized that this publication will be a testimony to the great heritage of record keeping, which is an essential feature in the education process of the younger generation. This publication also transfers the vast experience gathered by our engineers and scientists during the 20th century to the 21st century.
15th May, 2000, W. P. Jinadasa, Director General of Irrigation
Above is reproduced herein by kind courtsey of Director General of Irrigation in Sri Lanka. The text is an excerpt off the Forward written by W. P. Jinadasa, Director General of Irrigation in Sri Lanka to the centenary commemoration volume [1900-2000]. ISBN 955-8431-00-1. During your Sri Lanka Holidays do not fail to visit the ancient irrigation reservoirs of Minneriya at Sri Lanka Holidays close to Polonnaruwa, Kala Wewa close to Dambulla and Parakrama Samudra at Sri Lanka Holidays Polonnaruwa, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.