Published on: February 15, 2024

The President engages in addressing farmers’ issues surrounding Mahakanadarawa Lake

  • Agriculture remains a top priority – says the President.
  • Water supply project in Anuradhapura North poses no threat to agriculture – Prepared to sign Memorandum of Understanding, States Shasheendra Rajapaksa.
  • Street protests won’t provide solutions – Issues must be gradually resolved, Emphasizes Duminda Dissanayake.
  • Certain political groups allegedly leading protests, claims Former Provincial Minister H.B Semasinghe.
  • People Trust the President’s Contribution to Farmers – Subhasingha Ratnayake, Chairman of Mahakanadarawa Lake Integrated Farming Movement.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe participated in the inauguration of the Anuradhapura North Water Supply Project, drawing from the Mahakanadarawa Lake, this morning (15). Following the event, the President engaged in discussions with local farmers to address their concerns.

During the discussion, farmers directly presented their issues to the President, who responded with constructive solutions.

Addressing objections to the project, President Wickremesinghe emphasized the importance of focusing on potential solutions now that the water project has been completed, rather than agitating to halt it.

Accordingly the President urged farmers to submit their proposals within two weeks and assured that positive aspects would be promptly acted upon.

Chairman of the Mahakanadarawa Lake Integrated Farmers Movement, Subhasingha Ratnayake, expressed confidence in President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s commitment to fulfilling promises made to the farmers around the Mahakanadara Lake, citing his track record in supporting farmers nationwide.

He emphasized the potential for significant water conservation through funding the reconstruction of split canals supplying water to Mahakanadarawa Lake. In response, the President suggested utilizing the Rs. 01 billion allocated this year for the lake’s reconstruction.

President Wickremesinghe further emphasized:

“It’s crucial to concentrate on the implementation of this project as it cannot afford to be halted midway. Agriculture remains our top priority.

In the past, water supply and irrigation were overseen by different ministers. However, they are now under the purview of a single minister. Hence, we must engage in discussions to devise the best approach for executing this task.”

State Minister for Irrigation and Water Supply, Shashendra Rajapaksa, asserted:

“There’s no agreement regarding obtaining a water capacity of 1000 acre-feet from this lake. Agricultural needs must take precedence. We should allocate the necessary water to farmer organizations. Based on these allocations, we’ll determine the amount of water to be extracted from this pumping station for drinking purposes. The Water Supply Board has concurred with this approach. If there’s insufficient rainfall or if water is required for agriculture, we won’t draw water from this lake. The proposal can be formalized into a legal document, and both farmers and officials from the irrigation department and the water supply ministry can sign a memorandum of understanding. Additionally, we welcome any other suggestions for inclusion in this MoU.”

Former Provincial Minister H.B Semasinghe expressed his views, stating:

“This project is highly beneficial. During the campaign in these areas, a significant question was raised regarding whether water would be provided for drinking or agricultural purposes. The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna played a leading role in this campaign. Therefore, what these farmers require now is your assurance. They seek assurance that their drinking water needs will be met without compromising agriculture.

The President never declined participation in this discussion. He simply stated that he would join the discussion at a suitable location along his route. We must recognize how much our President values the farmers of the Mahakanadarawa and the people of this country. If it were another leader, they might have declined altogether. But he didn’t. That speaks volumes.”

Former Minister Duminda Dissanayake stated:

“The issues faced by the farmers won’t be resolved through protests. Instead, let’s honour the President’s commitment and negotiate an agreement with the farmers, officials from the irrigation department and water supply officials. If that agreement is violated, then we can resort to street protests to address this matter. Otherwise, there won’t be any solutions to this problem.”

Chairman of the Mahakanadarawa Joint Farming Movement, Subhasingha Ratnayake, expressed:

“We are not opposed to this water scheme at all. The lake has a water capacity of 38,000 acres, and 52,000 acre-feet are required for farming. How will the remaining 14,000 acre-feet be obtained? When this amount is insufficient, how can 1000 acres of water be provided annually? If there is a solution to this issue, we are prepared to accept it. This is the first time we are discussing the issues of Mahakanadarawa Lake farmers with a President. We have confidence in your promises and actions.”

Treasurer of the Mahakanadara Farming Movement, Mr. Thusitha Sampath stated:

“We did not come here to protest and halt the water supply project. Our concern is how to obtain the water necessary for our farming activities. We do not oppose providing drinking water to the people. However, we are questioning how to secure the reduced water supply for our farming needs. If water can be distributed equitably to both sides, there would be no need for us to take to the streets.”

A farmer raised concerns about the condition of the dividing canals and field canals surrounding the Mahakanadarawa Lake, which were constructed in the 1960s and are now more than 50 to 60 years old. He highlighted that these canals are collapsing, emphasizing the urgent need for renovation.

He mentioned that a considerable amount of money, totalling Rs. 1000 million, has been allocated for the lake’s renovation, with extensive networks of dividing and field canals requiring attention. These canals, stretching over 25 kilometres on the left bank and 17 kilometres on the right bank, on each side of the Mahakanadarawa lake, there are a total of 50 dividing canals, evenly distributed with 25 on each side.

Additionally, the area features 500 field canals. Retaining the water that currently escapes from the lake through these canals could significantly contribute to water conservation efforts. Presently, out of the total 38,000 acres of water, more than 15,000 acres are being wasted.

The farmer expressed hope that President Ranil Wickremesinghe would provide a positive resolution to these issues.

State Minister Shehan Semasinghe, Member of Parliament S.M Chandrasena and various political representatives from the area were also present during this discussion.

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