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25 July 2016
KEYNOTE SPEECH BY PROF. MOHAN MUNASINGHE, DURING THE
CEREMONIES TO ENSHRINE TREASURES AT THE KALUGANGA DAM
AYUBOWAN, VANAKAM, GREETINGS!
HE Maithripala Sirisena, President of Sri Lanka, Hon. Prime Minister, Hon. Ministers and Chief
Ministers, Excellencies, Esteemed Guests and Fellow Sri Lankans,
It is a great privilege and pleasure to address you all on this momentous occasion. It is indeed
most fitting that our leader, President Sirisena will be the one who is making history today with
the formal enshrining of precious treasures at the site of the Moragahakanda-Kaluganga
First, this project is a shining symbol of the President’s commitment to strengthen national unity,
reconciliation, peace and harmony. The Moragahakanda-Kaluganga scheme, executed under
his personal supervision, is delivering on the promise to provide many benefits, including
drinking water, irrigation facilities and power, especially to the impoverished people of the
Rajarata. Such widespread benefits shared among all communities in the North-Central,
Northern, Eastern and North-Western provinces, give true meaning and impetus to the
President’s noble dream of a united and prosperous Sri Lanka. Furthermore, this project will
benefit all citizens throughout Sri Lanka, by providing multiple outputs that will boost sustainable
development. National sustainable development is another important element of our President’s
vision, which he articulated so clearly in his speech at the UN General Assembly in September
2016, when he endorsed the UN 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG),
to the applause of world leaders.
Second, the project is also a symbol of the spirit of harmony that enables the government of
unity to function effectively under the joint command of President Sirisena and Prime Minister
Ranil Wickremasinghe – two exceptional leaders who have created this unprecedented union of
the two main political parties. In Sri Lanka’s post-independence history, the development of the
Mahaweli river basin has been a common thread pursued by successive governments,
irrespective of party rivalries. We owe much to the political giants of the modern period, who
have consistently pursued the dream of strengthening the development nexus of agriculture,
water and land. Starting with the father of the nation, D.S. Senanayake who was a firm believer
in rural development, these leaders came from both sides of the UNP-SLFP political divide, for
example, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, C.P. De Silva, Gamini Dissanayake and others. Starting from
modest beginnings with the Mahaweli Master Plan of 1958, through the accelerated Mahaweli
Development Programme launched in 1978, to the finish line today, there has been a
remarkable consensus and policy continuity. So, the Moragahakanda-Kaluganga scheme truly
represents the spirit of cooperation prevailing in the unity government.
Third, this project is the proud and most recent descendant of a long line of water-based
infrastructure schemes that have characterised Sri Lanka’s hydraulic civilization for over 2500
years. Historically, the Moragahakanda reservoir was first constructed by King Wasaba in 111
AD. Building on the achievements of our ancestors in this way, not only provides tangible
development benefits, but also strengthens vital social capital – the essential glue that binds our
society together through shared Sri Lankan values, traditions, culture, beliefs, and practices.
Time constraints do not permit me to expand on this rich dimension of our ancient civilization,
but the well-known quote from King Parakramabahu (who built the famous Parakrama
Samudraya), captures the essence rather well. He said that “even a single drop of water should
not be allowed to run into the ocean without serving human needs”.
This dam completes the fifth and last of the major reservoirs envisaged under the Accelerated
Mahaweli Scheme (AMS). Mr. President, Mr. Prime Minister, it is especially gratifying for me to
be celebrating this occasion with you and all Sri Lankan citizens, today. 35 years ago, while
working as Senior Energy Advisor to President J.R. Jayewardena, I helped to implement the
AMS – despite the warnings of even the World Bank and other major donors. Nevertheless, the
government persisted, and the big Mahaweli dams built in the 1980s – Victoria, Randenigala-
Rantembe, and Kotmale; and Upper Kotmale in 2012, became the pride of Sri Lanka,
generating cheap electricity for many decades. The volume of the Moragahakanda and
Kaluganga reservoirs together exceeds the volume of the Parakrama Samudraya by a factor of
six. With this formal event at the Kaluganga reservoir today, you Mr. President are following in
the footsteps of King Parakramabahu.
The total cost of the current Moragahakanda-Kaluganga Development project is estimated to be
about Rs. 100 billion. It is an excellent example of sustainable development, providing multiple
benefits that strengthen all three dimensions (economic, social and environmental) of the
sustainable development triangle, which I first presented at the 1992 United Nations Earth
Summit in Rio de Janeiro, as a key element of the Sustainomics framework for making
development more sustainable.
Economic benefits include 25 megawatts added to the national electricity grid, and provision of
irrigation water to about 87,000 farmers in the Matale, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and
Trincomalee districts, during both the Yala and Maha seasons. The project will irrigate 82,000 ha
of existing dry land and another 5.000 ha of new land. Annual inland fishing will rise by another
4,500 metric tons. The project will feed the Iranamadu Jaffna-Kilinochchi Water Supply scheme
to provide drinking water to 300,000 people in Jaffna and 50,000 people in Kilinochchi.
Provision of industrial water requirements, ecotourism and effective flood control are additional
benefits of the project.
Social benefits include towns that are being developed to provide better facilities to
communities in the project areas. Construction of Guruwela and New Laggala new towns is well
under way, including post offices, health care centers, administrative buildings, schools for
children, and police stations. Families living in the Kaluganga Dam construction area are better
off after being resettled just 5 km away, and compensation has been paid. The families affected
under the Moragahakanda reservoir were also provided new lands. New farming technology is
being introduced along with capacity building among newly settled farmers, through a 27 ha
model farm at Guruwela, which will play a vital role in farmer training, supplying of planting
materials for the new settlers, introduction of organic farming, and demonstrating the agriculture
potential in the area nationwide.
Environmental protection is assured by the special attention paid to minimize impacts on the
environment and biodiversity. About 1365 ha in the catchment of the Amban Ganga Basin has
been reforested, while a buffer zone of 100m around Moragahakanda reservoir has been
created by reforesting approximately 650 ha. An elephant corridor between Giritale – Minneriya
nature reserve and Wasgamuwa National park has been created, while enriching the habitat.
Tanks in adjacent nature reserves have been rehabilitated and invasive plants eradicated. An
electric elephant fence has been installed around the resettlement area.
Most importantly, the project will strengthen the resilience of agro-ecological and socio-
economic systems to the impacts of climate change. Just in the first half of 2016, Sri Lanka
experienced both abnormally high temperatures and record rainfall. Furthermore, floods have
ravaged the capital city, Colombo, at least five times in the last ten years, damaging vital urban
infrastructure. Floods and drought have also decimated the agricultural heartland of the country
in recent decades, especially the dry zone covered by the Mahaweli schemes. Small farmers
bear the brunt of climate variability and increasing unpredictability of the monsoons. By the end
of this century, the Maha crop will require 20% more water due to climate change. Across the
country, farmers (especially the poor ones) face uncertain livelihoods. My institute, MIND,
carried out a research study in the very districts covered by the Moragahakanda-Kaluganga
scheme, where poor families rely critically on farming. We found that climate impacts could
reduce rice production and farm incomes, worsen poverty, inequality and malnutrition, increase
rural to urban migration, and encourage the out-migration of women to low-skilled jobs in the
Middle East. The Moragahakanda-Kaluganga project will help us adapt better to such climate
Mr. President, you and your Mahaweli team deserve the highest praise and congratulations of
all Sri Lankans. Although planned since 1958, Moragahakanda was sidelined for various
reasons, until you resurrected interest in the scheme in 1994. We recall how you persisted with
your dream and finally succeeded in laying the foundation stone for the project in 2007 (as
Minister of Agricultural Development). In fact, the scheme to divert Mahaweli waters to the north
as proposed by one Maithripala (ie. Minister Maithripala Senanayake) in the 1960s, is now
nearing completion 50 years later, due to the steadfast commitment of another Maithripala (ie.
President Maithripala Sirisena) !
Permit me to end on a slightly personal and emotional note. I was born in this beautiful and
blessed country on this very day, many years ago. My heart is full. Thank you President Sirisena
-- indeed, all Sri Lankans and especially the future generations will thank you for this gift and
STHUTHI, NANDRI, THANK YOU !