Posted by: Srimal Fernando | July 19, 2011

Gal Oya Valley of Sri Lanka a quotes from A. T. G. A. Wickremasuriya

Gal Oya Valley of Sri Lanka

quotes from  A. T. G. A. Wickremasuriya

Gal Oya has become almost a household word. It is symbolic of the new Lanka, may it obtain fulfillment speedily and herald the progress of our march towards self sufficiency”

Rt. Hon. D. S. Senanayake, the Father of Modern Ceylon

It goes without saying, the importance of Gal Oya Valley Irrigation Project that straddles the border of the Monaregala district of Uva Province and Ampara district of the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka was summed up in those words of the Rt. Hon. D. S. Senanayake, the first Prime Minister (1948-1952) of Free Ceylon on 28th August, 1949 on the inauguration of the project. Those words were then aptly inscribed on a commemoration pillar erected at Inginyagala in three languages: English, Sinhala and Tamil.
It was only a little more than a year ago, to be precise, on 4th February 1948, Ceylon was granted independence from the Britain. That was following a peaceful struggle led by Sir James Peiris, D.B. Jayathilake, E. W. Perera, Dr. Colvin R. de Silva, A. E. Goonesinghe, S.A. Wickremasinghe, Arthur V. Dias, D. R. Wijewardene, Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan, Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam, Sir Razeek Fareed, Miss. Vivienne Gunawardena and E. W. Jayawardane.

Being freed from the shackles of colonialism, the wealth of the land remaining where it ought to, the need arose to speed up economic progress of Ceylon for the betterment of the long suppressed populace. Famine required to be wiped out; poverty needed to be abolished; agriculture demanded to be supported by rehabilitation of ancient tanks at Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa districts and many other districts of the island. Then again new modern irrigation schemes were required. Rt. Hon. D. S. Senanayake took up the challenge.

The concept of Gal Oya Project
It was within this backdrop the Gal Oya Project was speeded up. D. S. Senanayake was determined to make the dry zone suitable for agriculture once again as was in the glorius ancient era of Sri Lanka. Senanayake planned several large irrigation projects: the Minneriya scheme; Minipe Ela scheme; Gal Oya scheme. The grand Gal Oya scheme which gave birth to then the largest irrigation reservoir of Sri Lanka was his crowning glory.
Illustrious A. T. G. A. Wickramasuriya of Department of Irrigation of Ceylon (Sri Lanka since 1972) writes: at the time I joined the department in 1941 there was at the main doorway to the Hydraulic Laboratory, a photograph, and below it, a statement. The former was that of then Governor of Ceylon, Sir Andrew Caldcoll (1937-1944). The latter was what he had said when he declared open the laboratory in 1938. It read: “Little drops of water, little grains of sand, need much care and attention, to irrigate our land.”
Such was the concept which drove the grand irrigation schemes of Free Ceylon since the independence: the first and foremost of the projects was Gal Oya, today somewhat overshadowed by the grandeur and splendor of still larger Mahaweli multi purpose irrigation project, the largest ever irrigation project of Sri Lanka. The research on the Gal Oya project had been continuing since early 1940. In the year 1951, “Gal Oya Valley Project in Ceylon” was in full swing.

Flood in the year 1951 at Inginiyagala
Quote A. T. G. A. Wickremasuriya, Apart from the engineering matters directly related to the construction works at Gal Oya, Scharenguivel has also made a vey brief reference to the conditions of life experienced by his staff living at Inginiyagla. This brings to my mind several personal experiences. One related to the major flood of mid January 1951 when Inginiyagala was almost totally cut off from the rest of the country for about ten days. I owe a debt of gratitude to my Yankee friends who worked at Inginiyagla for loading my car and me to the top of one of those massive high level flat bottomed Euclids and sending me from Inginiyagala to Batticaloa, across deeply submerged roadways and dangerously damaged causeways, one of which the one at Kallar. On being safely unloaded from the Euclid on reaching Batticaloa, I was compelled to avoid my usual route to Colombo via Manampitiya, and instead had to proceed via Bandarawela to reach my destination and destiny just two nights before the 25th January 1951, the day of my wedding. Unquote A. T. G. A. Wickremasuriya

Gal Oya: the benefits in all directions: opportunities to all communities
Gal Oya project in the Ampara district of the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka envisaged by impounding of 67 mile long River Gal Oya. It was a multipurpose project: the conservation of water was planned to yield benefits of flood protection to agricultural and residential area; control of irrigation to existing farmland and new falmland; resettlement of farmers who had been in the employment of landed cultivators; generation hydro electric power for the rural areas of Gal Oya and surroundings. Sri Lanka without coal, oil, or gas deposits depended solely on hydroelectric-power development.

Gal Oya Development Scheme, the pioneering multi-purpose post-independence agricultural project in Sri Lanka, then called Ceylon, securing a vast extent of jungle to productive, irrigated, agricultural lands to meet the needs of an increasing population, involved in transforming a rural feudalistic agricultural community to a large-scale, state sponsored, agricultural expansion and colonization scheme.

Gal Oya multipurpose project went onto colonize uninhabited areas with no less than 250,000 people resettled to pursue agriculture. Most of the settlers were from the area surrounding Gal Oya. Priority was given to those villageres in the Gal Oya valley who lost their homes and farmlands owing to the construction of Gal Oya reservoir. The remainder was from the rest of the island. Gal Oya Project, that irrigates the dry lands of the east of Sri Lanka, remains a glorious testament to the most ambitious irrigation development project immediately aftermath of the independence, though today the project is overshadowed by the gigantic scale of the Mahaweli Multipurpose Development Scheme.The completed Gal Oya project resulted in opening up 40,000 hectares of land to the cultivation of paddy, sugarcane, chilies, potatoes, and other crops throughout the eastern province.

Modern Senanayake Samudraya Irrigation Reservoir
Gal Oya project in the process, by damming the River Gal Oya at Inginiyagala, its seven tributaries and 23 seasonal streams, went onto create the largest ever (ancient or modern) irrigation reservoir of Sri Lanka: Senanayake Samudraya (Sinhala: Sea of Senanayake) spreading 7700 hectares of the Gal Oya basin, which spread over an area of 179,200 hectares. Modern Senanayake Samudraya irrigation reservoir bested the ancient Parakrama Samudra (2100 ha.) (Sinhala: Sea of Parkarama) at Polonnaruwa built by King Parakramabahu the Great (1164-1196 AD) during whose era the ancient island of Sri Lanka reached the pinnacle of glory by becoming the “Granary of the Orient” in view of its rice cultivation of enormous scale.

Gal Oya National Park
Moreover, catchment area of the Senanayake Samudraya covered no less than 100,000 hectares. In order to protect the catchment area surrounding the reservoir, Gal Oya Development Board of Sri Lanka established Gal Oya National Park in the year 1954. Gal Oya National Park, a Sri Lanka Holidays tourist attraction affords the tourists to enjoy the spectacle of herds of elephant swimming from one island in the Senanayaka Samaudra irrigation reservoir to another island. Gal Oya National Park affords grand opportunities to the tourists to enjoy the enchanting landscape, the wildlife and the birdlife by means of boat safaris as well by jeep safaris.



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