Major hydropower crisis looms with non-maintenance of reservoirs | Daily News

Major hydropower crisis looms with non-maintenance of reservoirs

Scientific method towards suction of mud and ‘other garbage’ urgently needed
Over Rs. 400 mn CSR to clean ‘Tissa Wewa’
Gaja Holdings, CEO, Gayath Jayasinghe
Gaja Holdings, CEO, Gayath Jayasinghe

Sri Lanka is in a brink of a major hydropower crisis since most of reservoirs are filling up with mud and other garbage resulting in the lowering of their water retention levels, said Gaja Holdings, CEO, Gayath Jayasinghe.

He said that over the years mud has accumulated at the bottom bed of reservoirs limiting its future hydro power generating capabilities.

“Hence a scientific method towards suction of mud and ‘other garbage’ urgently needed to boost water storage capacities of the reservoirs. If this is not urgently addressed there would be an imminent threat towards the hydro power generation capacity.”

Jayasinghe said that a similar situation is happening with regard to the local reservoirs (wewa) and though Sri Lanka boasted of around 33,000 in the ancient era today only around 9,000 are functioning. “Most of them went redundant as they were filled up with mud while others were non-functional due to water resources drying up, encroachment and other issues.”

The ancient reservoir system played a major part in making Sri Lanka self-sufficient in agriculture by supplying water for irrigation. “Today in addition this reservoir system can be utilised to provide more drinking water, power generation, inland fisheries and also for tourism.”

He said that in a bid to reactivate the reservoir system Gaja Holdings, a multinational conglomerate, came forward to clean up the ‘Tissa Wewa’ in Tissamaharama as a mega CSR and a pilot project. “We have invested over Rs. 400 million for this project and 90% of the process is completed.”

He said traditionally reservoirs are cleared and cleaned by draining out the water and clearing it out or by using large backhoes which damages the ecosystem.

He said they imported a special purpose-built ‘mud and sand suction’ machine from China for this operation. He said that the unique feature of this floating machine is that it sucks the mud sand and garbage and segregates them separately and most importantly without harming and unsettling the natural water retention cycle of the reservoir bed and plants and fish in it.

However there was negative publicity created for this as some tried to pin Chinese engineers who were installing and teaching the use of the machine to local engineers as part of the Chinese Army! “But now the villages and the general public know our objective and future benefits it can bring to the community and are very supportive of the project.”

It’s true that the Chinese were wearing a uniform similar to a one worn by military personnel due to its rugged material but they are not Chinese soldiers but engineers and supportive staff. ‘These military type uniforms which were banned during the LTTE terror period are now freely available in Pettah and other places and the public wears them as well.’

“I must thank Minister of Internal Trade, Food Security and Consumer Welfare, Mahaweli, Agriculture, Irrigation and Rural Development Chamal Rajapaksa who played a key role in initiating this project and also for standing by this project and helping in clearing misinformation on this venture.”

He said that this project while clearing the reservoirs (wewa) will help to kick start the irrigation and thereby reawakening the abandoned land for paddy and agriculture cultivation. “Tourism too could benefit as the scenic beauty of the reservoirs can be used to put up hotels and open up new ‘nature sites’.” “The other major advantage is that the pure sand that is extracted from our ‘suckers’ can be directly used for the construction industry which will reduce demand for sand excavation from Manampitiya and other traditional sites. “We have estimated that this process can bring the overall cost of sand up by 30%.’

Similarly the mud/clay that is extracted can be utilized by tile and brick manufactures of the area.

“The huge sand transport cost too can be saved which in turn will result in the reduction of sand prices.”

We have observed that Sand transport trucks going on long journeys carrying sand have also caused major accidents and created other issues and this reservoir cleaning process too will minimize this issue as well.

He said that the cost of cleaning the reservoirs incurred to them, could be settled to a great extent by marketing the extracted sand and mud/clay to the construction industry stakeholders in the area in an open auction. “This would be a ‘win win’ formula for all parties.”

He however said that this proposed sale/auction should be done by the government.

Gaja Holdings, CEO, Jayasinghe said that they now hope to tender for several other ‘Reservoir cleaning up projects’ from the government and depending on the number of approvals will invest on the second machine.

Jayasinghe said that the company has already invested Rs. 5 billion in building Sri Lanka‘s first Cold Storage facility in Mirigama and an integrated 400 unit housing complex in Kurunegala targeting public and private sector employees.

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