Galgamuwa people cry out for cool clear water | Page 7 | Daily News

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Galgamuwa people cry out for cool clear water

Water has not been a common sight in the dry zone, while the search for water is a struggle even during the best of times. But for the last one and a half years, Galgamuwa, a Divisional Secretariat division in the Kurunegala District had sadly witnessed its lakes drying out, paddy fields wilting, while the hope for rain fades away.

It is a cloudless sky in Galgamuwa and any that dare to appear are soon swept away by warm winds. The rays of the sun beat down directly, burning the soil and evaporating every trace of water that collects on the ground. As the country braces for a long drought, residents of Galgamuwa are fast losing hope. They fear that not only the rains and the government, but also the Gods have abandoned them, leaving them high and dry.

Many villages in the North Western Province have fallen into the clutches of the drought, while 62 Grama Niladhari divisions in the Galgamuwa Divisional Secretariat are no different. Villagers in the area have had to trek several miles in search of water, while their soles of their feet had begun to resemble the cracks on the ground they walk on. Those who could afford, hire tractors and lorries to travel even greater distances in search of water. But the Galgamuwa villager in addition to his lack of water, would have to sacrifice his Yala cultivation to the severe drought this year.

Of the 180 small and medium tanks, 160 have already reached rock bottom. Water levels in the remaining 20 tanks are on the verge of drying up. As a result, over 90 per cent of the cultivation in the main agrarian areas have now been lost. Those who had traditional wells too have started to suffer the decrease of the water levels. As water turns scarce, wild animals too have begun invading villages in search of water, increasing the number of animal attacks in villages.

Palukadawala Lake running dry

The Palukadawala Lake has been the main source of water for both agriculture as well as for drinking water purposes in the Galgamuwa Divisional Secretariat for many years. Farmers of the Mee Oya project have to depend for water for the cultivation of their lands, but today, with very little rain, people have started to find it hard to meet all their water needs from the lake.

“We have around 270 families in our village who depend on this lake. Apart from drinking water, all our water needs are met by this lake. We depend on the village temple well for our drinking water. But that well too had almost dried up. If we go there around 3 - 4 am, we could manage to fill a pot of water. The water level there too is not that good. In families where there are small children, they undergo many problems,” said M.S. Mohideen, a resident of Palukadawala.

The Palukadawala Lake is the central source for the water supply in the area and when it is full, the wells in the surrounding areas too are replenished, explained A.B. Manchanayake, also a resident of Palukadawala.

“We have all come to a decision to stop the release of water we presently possess for agricultural purposes as that would affect people more. Fishermen who have come to depended on this lake too are in trouble now. Since many of the water in this area is hard water, there are few options available to the people of Galgamuwa.

If this goes on, water in this lake would be polluted that other than bathing, the people won’t even be able to use it for some other purpose. Similarly, we were not able to cultivate our usual two seasons this time. We are going to face many more problems in the future,” he added.

No work and no food

Water today, has turned more precious than gold in these villages, while many have begun even to fight over the little water they possess. While the earth has hardened to the extent that one could not even plough the fields, those who managed to do so, have abandoned the prepared fields as there was no water to cultivate. Those who expected to at least grow some seed paddy, have found that their harvest has been scorched.

“All our paddy fields have wilted by now. We shifted to chena cultivation, but that too was of no use. As the water levels in the lakes recede, the chances of any water being released to the fields have turned slim.

There are around 320 families in this village. All these people are suffering due to lack of water. The five lakes of Mahawewa, Ambagahagama wewa, Galkandawewa, Dikwewa and Dembatagahawewa have all turned dry, while villagers have to bathe in muddy water.

Even the cows and goats who used to be able to drink from the shore have to wade into the Lake for some water, turning the water even murkier. It is this water that the people have to bathe in. Most of the big lakes too have no water. If this continues for another month, we might even die for the lack of water,” said D.M. Tilakaratne, a resident of the 48th Grama Niladhari division in Galgamuwa.

Galgamuwa Agrarian Services, Executive Officer, A. A. W. S. Pradeep observed that the severe drought which was similar to that of last year, would have to significantly reduce the acreage cultivated.

“Except for the Mahaweli region, no other region has been able to cultivate this year.

Especially in areas which depend on small and medium irrigation schemes.

When you take the 2016 Yala season, we had already harvested paddy by this time. Apart from paddy, people have also stopped growing vegetables. Not a cloud was yet to be seen in the sky. So people have lost their hope that rains would come down soon. We are trying our best to do something fair to the farmer, even with all these water problems,” said Pradeep.

Within the Galgamuwa Agrarian Services Division, there are 2,257.5 acres belonging to the Mahaweli zone. A further 4,601.9 acres belongs to other major irrigation schemes, while 3,138.87 acres are cultivated using minor irrigation schemes. All cultivations under minor irrigation schemes have completely stopped, explained Pradeep.

In addition, there are 1,110 acres dependent on rain fed agriculture. Out of all this land however, only 1,580.25 acres have so far been cultivated. Pradeep said that this would lead to food security issues in future.

At present, of the 49 Grama Niladari divisions under the Galgamuwa Agrarian Services Division, only four Grama Niladari divisions have been engaged in some sort of agricultural activity. This had led to the worsening of the farmers’ economic conditions, as many were also not able to cultivate during last years,’ Maha and Yala seasons.

With farming on the decline, employment opportunities in the area are on a sharp decline and a large section of the population, it seems have simply resorted to staying at home.

Dry moulds

The lack of water has also had a drastic impact on the traditional pottery industry in the area. The village of Hampukumbura in No 77 Kalegama, Galgamuwa Divisional Secretariat, had always been a traditional pottery village. For hundreds of years, its residents had depended on pottery for a livelihood. With the lack of water to make pots however, the industry has almost come to a standstill,

“We have been in this business from the time of my father. For the last 30 years, my wife and I have been making clay pots for a living. We take the silt from the banks of the lake, people remove that silt having got permission for that and it is sold to us by tractor load.

Each load would cost Rs. 1,500 which was sufficient for a month. But today, we have a major water crisis and the number of pots we make have greatly reduced. To be honest, when we make the potting mixture, by the time it had been mixed, it dries up fast. The strong sun does not help either, so we are in deep trouble,” M.J.A. Ananda Jayakody, a resident from Kalegama said.

There are around 83 families living in the village, said J.A. Ramani and all of them engage in pottery making.

“Water is life to this industry just as it is life to us. A few days ago, we received a bit of pipe borne water, but we don’t even have that now. There is a bit of water in the lake, but everyone in the village depends on that. At this rate, we will soon run out of water and I am not sure what we would be able to do then,” she explained.

According to the Disaster Management Centre, close to 1,038 families have been impacted as a result of the prevailing drought, with the Divisional Secretariat having to deal with water issues of 3,650 individuals. Around 14 Grama Niladari divisions are suffering from the acute shortage of drinking water. DMC officials have resorted to using two bowsers at present to meet the water demands of the people. Accordingly, greater Galgamuwa, Diwullewa, Medawachchiya, Buduruwakanda, Upper Palukandewa, Kaluwaragaswewa, Kurundankulama, Kallanchiya, Monnankulama, Ihalagama, Ganediwulwewa, Kurundewa, Kohomankulama and Palukadawala face severe water shortages and bowsers have been sent to these regions, said DMC officer, J.M. Upali Jayasinghe.

In the Kurunegala District, a total of 33,032 families have been affected by the drought.

The Galgamuwa hospital which has not been opened for a long period, was declared open by President Maithripala Sirisena on July 20, but it is learnt that the hospital too suffers from a water issue, while no permanent solution had been offered to it so far. As a result, many patients who seek treatment at the hospital, if needed to be admitted are transferred out to other hospitals.

The greatest fear in the minds of all who live in the district was “What would we do once we reach the bottom of the Palukadawala Lake?”


There are 2 Comments

Cut down more trees and see what you'll get. Nobody understands this until they have to gape at the skies for that life giving liquid, WATER. It is a 30 minute job nowadays to bring down a tree that has grown to its size for about 100 years. Trees are cut down for the lightest excuse, be it, urbanization, agriculture, fuelwood, you just name it. Cut them down if you must or if they pose a danger to human life but please plant others in their place. They are rainmakers, the oxygen providers, the soil conservators, at no extra cost us ungrateful humans. What we do not realize and take for a joke is that they provide the 2 most essential elements necessary for us humans to live, namely, water and oxygen.

Very true Mr Aru what you say. Trees are a source of life.


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