- Government suspends clean drinking water project
By Skandha Gunasekara
The Thambuththegama protest that occurred yesterday left seven Police officers injured, hospitalising one, and resulted in 59 arrests being carried out by the authorities.
According to the Police Media Unit, nine of the 59 arrested were released on bail while the remaining were remanded till 5 March.
Police affirmed that the situation was under control and normalcy had returned to the area.
All Ceylon Farmers Association President Namal Karunaratne told Daily FT that some 1,500 protestors had gathered to protest the excessive use of water from the Rajanganaya reservoir by the Government for a clean drinking water project which deprived local farmers of adequate water for their agricultural needs.
“We are not against the clean drinking water project. We fully support it, but we are protesting this issue because the Rajanganaya reservoir provides water for 35,000 farming families in the locality and when the Government uses such an excessive amount for its project, the farmers cannot do their farming. Paddy cultivation is the main livelihood of these families,” he said.
He then pointed out that the Rajanganaya reservoir had no direct water supply for it to be refilled and that water was supplied only when the Kala Weva reservoir sluice gates were opened or through the redirection of excess from adjoining paddy land.
“However the Kala Weva is refilled through the Mahaweli River and we ask the Government that the Rajanganaya reservoir be refilled with water from the Mahaweli River via the Polgolla Tank,” he said, adding that the Government had temporarily suspended the clean drinking water project.
He then went on to note that main problem stemmed from the Government’s flawed water policy.
“The main problem is the Government’s policy on water. The Government’s main priority is generating power. Second is clean drinking water and third is for use by industries. Water for agriculture is the Government’s last priority in its water policy.”
Karunaratne asserted that the farmers demanded a reform of the Government’s water policy.
“Water for agriculture should be its highest priority. Water for power generation can be considered last as there are ample alternatives for power generation.”