If river dries, life dies | Daily News

If river dries, life dies

Surakimu Ganga Project, an initiative of Environment Ministry

The world history shows that all human civilizations in the world were built around river basins. Four Civilizations such as Mesopotamian, Indo, Egyptian, and Chinese civilizations, considered to be the world’s oldest civilizations developed along the main rivers such as Euphrates and Tigris, Indus, Nile, and Hwang- Ho respectively. Because water is the basic necessity of the human life.

The earliest human civilization in our country was associated with rivers and streams. Looking at the original lands of our country’s civilization, the first human settlements were the Mahaweli River (Maha Valuka Nadee), Malwathu Oya (Kadhamba Nadee), Kala Oya (Gona Nadee), the Kelani River (Kalyana Nadee), the Walawe River (Vanavahini), Deduru Oya (Jujjara Nadee), Kirindi Oya (Kappakandara Nadee), Gal Oya (Galha Nadee) and the Amban River (Kara Kara Nadee).

The 103 rivers that strengthen the basic drainage system of our country are as follows. Kelani River, Bolgoda River, Kalu Ganga, Benthara River, Madhu River, Madampe River, Talwatta River, Rathgama, Gin Gaga, Koggala River, Polwatta River, Nilwala River, Seenimodara River, Kirama Oya, Rekawa Oya, Urubokka Oya, Kachigal Ara, Walawe, Karagan Oya, Malala Oya, Embilikala Oya, Kirindi Oya, Bambawe Ara, Maha Seelawa Oya, Butawa Oya, Menik River, Katupila Ara, Kurunda Ara, Nabadagas Ara, Karame Ara, Kumbukkan Oya, Bagura Oya, Girikula Oya, Helawa Ara, Villa Oya, Heda Oya, Karanda Oya, Salmon Ara, Thandiadi Aru, Kanjikudichchi Aru,

Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweera handing over a sapling to a student to plant in a river bank while Environment Ministry Secretary Dr. Anil jasinghe and others look on.

Rupaskulam, Pannal Oya, Ambalang Oya, Gal Oya, Andella Oya, Thunpankarni Oya, Namakanda Aru, Mandipattu Aru, Pathanthoppu Aru, Wettaaru, Unnichchai, Mundeni Aru, Miyangolla Ela, Maduru Oya, Puliyanpota Aru, Kirimedi Oru, Kirimechchi Makarachchi Aru, Mahaweli River, Kantale Aru, Palampottu Aru, Panna Oya, Pankulam Aru, Kunchikumban Aru, Palakuttu Aru, Yan Oya, Mee Oya, Ma Oya, Churia Aru, Chavar Aru, Palladi Aru, Manal Aru, Peraru, Pali Aru, Maru Aru, Thervir Aru, Pirimanthal Aru, Matai Aru, Kanagarayan Aru, Kalwalappu Aru, Akkarayan Aru, Mandakal Aru, Pallavarayan Kaddu Aru, Malwathu Oya, Chappi Aru, Parangi Aru, Nayaru, Aruvei Aru, Kalaru, Modaragam Aru, Kala Oya, Mungil Aru, Mee Oya, Madurankuli Aru Oya, Deduru Oya, Karambala Oya, Ratmal Oya, Maha Oya and Attagallu Oya are the 103 rivers and streams.

Especially, at the beginning of the Anuradhapura era, when the tank system was being built in the country, human settlements were created in the vicinity of tanks due to the ease with which the people could access water for farming and drinking. Animals also depended on these tank systems. The water is a basic human need. It is questionable whether a man can live at least one day without water. There is no human existence without water. But when we look at the serious damage that man is doing to water as well as aquifers in today’s world, it is understandable that they are heading to an era which will not have even a drop of water to drink.

Therefore, water conservation is of more interest to the whole world than ever before as water is the primary wealth of man. Although every Government in the country has implemented various programmes to provide safe drinking water to people, the environmental damage resulted due to industrial development poses a serious threat to the survival of the planet and the animal kingdom. But in the long run, the damage done by humans to the ecosystem of our country, including rivers, streams and lakes, is not insignificant.

According to a survey conducted by the Environment Ministry recently, the Kelani River, the main source of water for Colombo city, is being polluted daily. Around 7,000 large and small factories are operating in the Kelani River Valley from Kaduwela to the Peliyagoda Bridge. In addition, thousands of establishments, hotels, and private residences have been set up targeting the tourism industry.

If factories and other business establishments are to be set up, environmental reports should be obtained. But so far only 3,000 of the 7,000 factories have received environmental reports. Also, even if some institutions have obtained environmental reports they have not implemented given recommendations. The Kelani River carries not only wastewater from some institutions but also water containing other chemicals. As a result, the Kelani River seems to be on the verge of pollution.

The situation in other river systems of our country is no different. Of the total drainage system, i.e. 103 rivers, 80 percent is located in the dry zone. Although they flow with large volumes of water for about six months of the year, there is little water in the remaining six months. Sixteen rivers in our country are more than 100 kilometres long and the amount of water flowing into the sea through these 103 rivers annually is over 55,000 cubic metres.

The Mahaweli River is the longest and the largest river in Sri Lanka. The Mahaweli River Basin covers about 1/5 of the total land area of Sri Lanka and the total valley fed by the Mahaweli River is about 10,800 square kilometres. The Kelani River Basin is about 2,500 square kilometres. It is stated that the Mahaweli River is 335 km, Malwathu Oya is 164 km, Kala Oya is 148 km, Kelani River is 145 km and Yan Oya is 142 km.

Several decades ago, the valley on either side of our rivers was overgrown with majestic trees such as Kumbuk (Terminalia arjuna), Mee (Mabhuca), Atamba (Mangifera zeylanica), Kaluwara, Burutha, Ingini, Wewarana, Halmilla and Kolon, and in the undergrowth, Bokala, Puswel, Kiriwel, Eraminia and other small shrubs. Cool water flowed as rivers and streams through such green vegetation. In the past, a large number of meditators who practised Buddhism in our country built their monasteries under the canopy of trees along these streams and rivers and nurtured Buddhism.

But at present, there is not a single Kumbuk tree near a river or stream. They are all used to tile the floors or as the ceiling of houses to cool the soles and heads of the bourgeoisie and some politicians. Global warming teaches us a lesson daily as humans cut down huge trees near rivers or streams, build their homes on them, install air conditioners, and cool off. The people of our country need not be told anything new about the coolness of the water flowing in a well or canal near a Kumbuk tree. But Kumbuk, which purifies the water of rivers and streams, have been cut down.

It is proposed to implement a programme by the Environment Ministry to protect the vast water system with 103 rivers which supply water for the total consumption of the people of our country. Under this project called Surakimu Ganga, a programme has been prepared to conserve all 103 rivers in the country. Under the instructions given by Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweera to the Central Environmental Authority (CEA), all the burden of the Surakimu Ganga (Save the River) programme will be placed on the CEA. According to Minister Amaraweera, the Government is to spend Rs. 32 billion for the Surakimu Ganga programme.

If the factories set up in the river basins are built in an environment-unfriendly manner or if they have ignored environmental reports, they will be given a loan under the Surakimu Ganga programme to set up their factories in an environment-friendly manner. Also, people living in riverine areas are provided with systematic drainage facilities if they do not have scientifically-designed sanitary facilities.

It is also planned to provide permanent land for illegal occupants and relocate them, as well as to plant trees such as Bamboo and Kumbuk, which will help prevent riverbank erosion. It is the responsibility of the present generation of elders to endow our country with resources for future generations of the country. The present generation is relentlessly destroying natural resources that our ancient ancestors preserved for their lives, subject to hundreds of rupees.

The Environment Minister said the Cabinet discussed at length regarding the Cabinet Memorandum submitted by him to make the Surakimu Ganga programme a success. However, such a programme has never been implemented before to conserve the river system of our country.

“It is no secret that water is the basis of nature. Nature can only be saved if the water is protected. Every time water is polluted, nature is also threatened. Therefore, one day if people can drink water from every river in our country without fear or suspicion, it will be the success of the Surakimu Ganga programme,” he said.

Under the Surakimu Ganga programme, the right to take care of rivers is vested in all District Secretaries, Divisional Secretaries and Grama Niladharis. They must take steps to prevent any activity that could harm the rivers flowing through their jurisdiction. If any harmful impact is resulted due to damage to the river basins, the relevant officials are responsible for it.

Seventy-one percent of the Earth is covered with water. Our world appears blue in outer space due to the presence of water. Although 71 percent is water, only 2.5 percent is fresh. Only 0.01 percent is suitable for drinking.

Although not so much in the spotlight today, fossil fuels sparked world wars as well as the Cold War between nations a few decades ago. But in the future, wars between people will be caused not by any of them but by water. One day man will realize that he has created his own grave with his own hands. But still the majority of people in our country love the environment, so getting their contribution to protect our water systems is also a goal of the Surakimu Ganga programme.