Sri Lanka: Reviving an ancient irrigation system to meet climate change

They call it the Dry Zone—a huge area of northern Sri Lanka where there is a real shortage of water for agriculture and drinking.  

In the last decade, as a result of climate change, Sri Lanka has been experiencing severe shifts in its seasonal rainfall patterns, accompanied by increased floods and droughts.

The situation is acute because many farming communities who depend on agriculture for their food and income live in the Dry Zone.

Recently I visited Sri Lanka’s Dry Zone where one project is being carried out by the Government of Sri Lanka, with the support of UNDP.

This seven-year project, which began in 2017, is rehabilitating 325 reservoirs of a water distribution structure known as the Tank Cascade System. The 16 cascades consist of hundreds of small reservoirs known as tanks, all connected by irrigation channels.

Sri Lankans have been irrigating their land this way for thousands of years—estimates date the Tank Cascade System back to the third millennium BCE. History has demonstrated they are a superbly efficient system of water management.

However over the years, the system has fallen into disrepair. This project aims to rehabilitate especially deprived parts. Part of the project also focuses on harvesting rainwater for villages and households.

Read the full article by David Annandale on the websites of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Sri Lanka.