December 03, 2022
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    March 18, 2018

    The Jaffna peninsula which is home to agricultural farming and the nerve centre of economic activity in the Northern province is to receive more potable water with the completion of renovation work on the Thondamanaru Barrage under the Dam Safety and Water Resource Planning Project (Additional Finance) (DSWRPP AF) of the Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment before May this year.

    The project which is being implemented by the Department of Irrigation of the Northern Province through (Additional Finance) from the World Bank has been scheduled to be completed before May 15 this year.

    Department of Irrigation of the Northern Province Jaffna Kilinochchi Water Supply and Sanitation Project Iranamadu Component (JKWSSP-IC) Project Director V. Premakumar said he is confident of completing work on the project before the deadline.

    “The completion of the Thondamanaru Barrage will be a major relief to the people in the peninsula who are facing a shortage of drinking water due to the contamination of ground water,” Premakumar said.

    Irrigation experts said the operation of the barrage will be a boost to agriculture and livestock farming which has been the livelihood of people for generations in Jaffna.

    “From an irrigational point off view the renovation of the barrage will encourage more agricultural farming and enhance economic benefits to people,” an irrigation expert said.

    With an area of around 1,000 square kilometers of flat land having no rivers the peninsula depends on ground water recharged through an annual rainfall of around 1,270 mm during the North East monsoon from October to December. “The issue is not inadequate water but the quantity of clean water which is fast running out due to over extraction of ground water which results in sea water percolating into wells, oil contamination and use of chemical fertilizer in agriculture,” Deputy Director of Irrigation, Northern Province, Kilinochchi and Jaffna, N. Sudaran said. Over 30 percent of the wells in Jaffna are saline due to excessive use of pumps for drawing water for domestic and agricultural use.

    In the past, water was physically drawn from wells. It is estimated that there are over 100,000 wells in the peninsula.

    Topological limitations make the task of finding a solution to the rapidly depleting clean water sources, difficult.

    Construction and renovation of barrages. Modern water preserving methods, drip and sprinkle irrigation, food/ furrow irrigation and appointing empowered regulatory committees are some of the recommendations made by the Northern province Irrigation Department .

    According to the site engineers, over 80 percent of the work on the Thondamanaru barrage has been completed. This comprising civil engineering, mechanical engineering and converting manually operated gates into electro mechanical operation. “While civil engineering has been fully completed over 80 percent of mechanical engineering has been completed,” Sudaran said.

    The first phase of the DSWRPP was launched in 2008.

    However it is under the second phase that attention was drawn towards developing irrigation in the Northern province.

    Under the DSWRRP AF the government has invested Rs. 405 million to renovate the Thondamanaru barrage to prevent salt water seeping into the Vadamarachchi lagoon.

    The Thondamanaru barrage was built between 1947-1953 comprising 18 steel gates. Fresh water lagoons will act as sources to recharge ground water.

    However, irrigation experts said there was adequate time to implement the proposal and come up with a solution for the water issue in the peninsula.

    The rehabilitation and converting the three salt water lagoons, Elephant Pass, Vadamarachchi and Upparu into freshwater storage areas under the ‘River for Jaffna’ project aimed at addressing the water issue in Jaffna was proposed in the 1950s by Engineer S. Arumugam.

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