Sri Lanka: A Heritage of Water

( December 4, 2016, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) This beautiful coffee table book, continues the tradition of its predecessors Gardens of Lanka and Sri Pada: Peak Heritage of Lanka and is appearing just in time for the season of giving. The book marks a decade of unusual collaboration between Sarala Fernando, whose experience lies in the world of diplomacy and one of Sri Lanka’s best nature photographer, Luxshmanan Nadaraja who loves the jungle. Their common interest was to explore the civilizational roots of the island of their birth, its unique attributes and heritage treasures which lie hidden to the casual eye. Gardens of Lanka and Sri Pada: Peak Heritage received an enthusiastic response from the public and the limited editions sold out so quickly the books have now become sought-after collectors items.busi

The core of the new book on water is an unpublished paper by Dr R.L.Brohier made available by his daughter Deloraine, on the subject of Sri Lanka’s ancient hydraulic civilization. This paper read at the SEANZA seminar organized by the Central Bank in Colombo in1968, reflects on the history of the building of the massive tanks and reservoirs, some visible even today, manifesting the skills of the ancient engineers and their mastery of technology which co-existed with the village systems responsible for their maintenance. From this centre, several expert perspectives radiate out, touching on the relationship between water and philosophy, politics, economics, society, human rights, culture, biodiversity and the environment. The authors were free to chose their own style of writing, so that different voices enrichen the text. The marvelous photographs by Luxshmanan Nadaraja and the sensitive book design by Nelun Harasgama Nadaraja make this book a feast for the eyes, the mind and the senses.

Bhante Shravasti Dhammika delves into ancient texts and modern scientific discoveries to show how water is valued in all the religions in Sri Lanka. Somasiri Devendra explores the nature of the people and how they have responded since early times to the call of the sea. C.M. Madduma Bandara suggests that river- basin based devolution is more equitable and sustainable than the present arrangement of provinces. Herath Bandaratillake and Herath Manthrithilake describe the importance of the upper watershed and the lagoons below in the creating of aquatic habitats as part of the functioning of ecosystems . Eric Silva takes a scientific view of the nature of water and its cleaning for drinking . Arumugam Kandiah details the conservation options and means to supply clean water in Jaffna, as a special case requiring national attention. Kusum Athukorala relates of the traditional practices of water cooperation in rural areas and the leading role of rural women in the harvesting of water. Then it is the turn of the biologists and scientists such as Anouk Ilangakoon who specializes on the study of marine mammals in the surrounding seas, Anslem de Silva on crocodiles, the last dinosaurs, Sarath Kotagama on water birds and Deepthi Yakandawela on aquatic plants. Ramani Shirantha, a young scientist from NARA reveals the treasures of the Kanneliya- Dediyagala-Nakiadeniya rainforest and the rarely seen indigenous fish and dragonflies.

The survival of humanity depends on water and its sustainable use for agriculture, land and water use. Hence strategists are wont to speculate today about future water wars. Sri Lanka is fortunate to have a good stock of water , originating from Sri Pada and the Peak Wilderness area from where many rivers convey the water to all directions of the island. Historic example like the tank-village-forest community which once existed in Sri Lanka gives an example of sustainable water systems and practices. However there is no room for complacency, much remains to be done from the de-silting of the tanks and reservoirs to the increase in the forest cover, the cleaning of the rivers and the management of the aquatic resources like lagoons. Climate change will bring a whole host of new problems and make more urgent the task of protecting the wealth of indigenous animal and plant life in this country and reviving species now under threat of extinction from human exploitation and pollution. This book is a call for the public to take action now to preserve the treasures of Sri Lanka’s built and natural heritage for the generations to come.

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One thought on “Sri Lanka: A Heritage of Water

  1. Unfortunately the country boasts about the abundance of water but we should take a minute to understand the damage that has been done to humanity by abusing the natural gift. The water which is a life giver has now been converted to water the life killer thanks to the uneducated politicians and their servile counter part the so called senior public servants. Water is the natural vehicle of every thing from oxygen of life to the vehicle that distributes the nutrition in human beings. To day it is the vehicle of poison . This is the legacy of the biggest traitor in this country J R Jayawardena.

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