Construction of the lower Malwathu Oya reservoir is scheduled to be launched on August 25 with President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as chief guests. This is the sixth-largest reservoir in the country with a water capacity of 170,000 acre feet. It will be the largest reservoir in the Anuradhapura district. The construction of this giant tank will be a relief to the people of Anuradhapura who are affected by floods and drought frequently, and also to the farming community in the adjoining Mannar and Vavuniya districts.
The Malwathu Oya basin is included in the Climate Resilient Integrated Water Management Project funded by International Green Climate Fund. According to the Irrigation Department, the construction of the lower Malwathu Oya reservoir was first proposed by a team of Russian experts in 1959. It has delayed for nearly 60 years without any practical step being taken to realise the project.
Once the proposed lower Malwathu Oya reservoir project is completed by 2022, paddy cultivation in the Mannar district, which is limited to only one cultivation season at present, would be extended to both Yala and Maha seasons. Apart from that, water for irrigation would be provided to nearly 20 small tanks in Thantirimale and neighboring villages to cultivate around 3,000–4,000 acres in the two harvest seasons. The proposed dam of the reservoir is 3.6 km in length. The Malwathu Oya basin is the country’s second largest river basin holding 3,246 square kilometres. There are seven major tanks in the Malwathu Oya river basin catchment area – Nachchaduwa, Nuwarawewa, Tissawewa, Mahakandarawa, Pawatkulam, giant tank and Akithamurappu. The government plans to construct 209 new housing units worth Rs. 2.5 million each for resettling the families being evacuated.
Irrigation, Agriculture, Livestock Development, Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Minister P. Harrison, referring to the lower Malwathu Oya reservoir project, emphasised that it would be a ‘reservoir of reconciliation’ since the reservoir would connect the Anuradhapura Mannar and Vavuniya districts. “It will give Sinhalese, Muslim and Tamil communities an equal opportunity to share the reservoir water for drinking and cultivation purposes without any discrimination.
The lower Malwathu Oya reservoir along with adjoining emerging Yan Oya reservoir will help in preventing CKDu in the region. Thantirimale village will be upgraded to a well-equipped tourist attraction. The reservoir project will permanently resolve flooding in the Anuradhapura and Mannar districts,” he added. “The project has plans to generate 4.68 gigawatt hours of electricity annually for the national grid. We target to complete housing construction and payment of full compensation before the completion of the main dam of the reservoir,” Minister Harrison said.