The withering coconut trees, the barren paddy fields that have remained uncultivated for four consecutive seasons and dried up tank beds describe the situation in Villachchiya.All what’s happening is like a curse spreading over the entire village and its surroundings and has left the people living in hunger.
“People in Villachchiya hardly have three meals a day. Parents often stay hungry leaving the available food for their children. We are living in extreme difficulty and have no means of income.
According to him the Irrigation Department emptied the Mahavillachchiya major reservoir of its water in 2015 by breaking the dam for rehabilitation work. But the restoring work still continues. Since the beginning of this restoration work there hasn’t been sufficient rain in the catchment area to fill the tank.
About 5,000 families are living in this farmer settlement.Their main livelihood comes from cultivation. But today they are experiencing a very difficult time since farmers haven’t been able to do any cultivation.
Government servants and businessmen can hardly be found in this area. Therefore people in the area are mostly retail traders and those engaged in odd jobs. Whatever their professions they are all in a precarious financial situation.
Despite these hardship farmers in Villachchiya have adapted to the hard way of living.
“If there is paddy we wouldn’t go hungry, but during past few years hardly a single bag of paddy was brought to farmers’ homes from our fields. Even our elder children aren’t in a position to help us as they are also experiencing the same difficulties,” is how 70-year-old S.Dingiri Menika, a mother of two daughters, describe the precarious situation she is faced with. She is a resident at No 358 Thulana Left Bank.
The water provided to the villagers by a bowser is used by the villagers only for washing purposes. For bathing purposes the villagers have to depend on the only tube well that exists in the area.
The villagers say that they have to bring drinking water from a distant shop. The situation in all 13 Thulanas in the Villachchiya Divisional Secretariat is the same.
I wonder whether this is a spell which has been caused as a reaction to neglecting the performing of rituals relevant to agriculture, even at the national level
The Chairman of the Mahavillachchiya Combined Farmer Organisations R.M.S.Ekanayaka claimed that the declining of the under ground water level has worsened the drought situation. He also attributed cause of the low underground water level to the emptying of Villachchiya tank at an
“Villachchiya farmers haven’t experienced a drought of this nature in the farmer settlement area since it was set up in the 1950s. I wonder whether this is a spell which has been caused as a reaction to neglecting the performing of rituals relevant to agriculture, even at the national level,” Ekanayaka said.
“People were never exposed to such a terrible situation during past climatic extremes as edibles like manioc and other varieties of yams were available for consumption. But this time the drought has spared nothing in the area and we can’t quell our hunger. The distribution canal flowing around my farm is completely dry,” he said.
“I was able to do some vegetable cultivation labouring hard. But all will be in vain if the April rains fail to come,” he said.
H.B. Dayawathi (60) is a female belonging to a farmer family living in the same village. She had a different explanation for the frustrating situation that the villagers are experiencing.
A. Kapurubanda, another farmer in the village, viewed the catastrophe in the area as a rural economist would.
“When there is no cultivation all activities in the village come to a standstill. This is because the base of livelihood in these remote areas is cultivation,” is how Kapurubanda express the situation as an experienced farmer. “ I am living with my children and grandchildren. We already feel hungry and the fear of thirst is on the way,” he said with concerns. He felt so worried about the future.
I am living with my children and grandchildren. We already feel hungry and the fear of thirst is on the way
The whole village seems to be in disarray and with work coming to a standstill. Here and there one can see half-built houses where construction has come to a stop. Boutiques are abandoned and arid paddy fields in the surrounding areas indicate that the economy is depressed. The whole area is deserted as most of the males have left for urban areas in search of employment, mostly in construction sites as labourers.
U. Jayatisssa said that living here in the village is very difficult. Many villagers have left the village to earn a living and sustain their families while women have gone to Trade Zones seeking jobs.
M.Nandawathi in Oyamaduwa said that she had returned home sometime back after finding employment at a private company in the Katunayaka Free Trade Zone.
According to the Manager of the Anuradhapura District Disaster Management Unit Deshapriya Bandara, drinking water is provided to about 3,000 drought affected families in Villachchiya daily, free of charge. However the resources from where the water is coming from is on the verge of drying up. This water is supplied by the National Water Supply and Drainage Board. As rains aren’t expected till the end of the year the authorities are expected to continue providing water to the drought effected areas using bowsers,” he said.
Meanwhile Divisional Secretary E.R. Thilakarathna said that they have considered the necessity to increase the monies paid as drought relief. He said that the necessary actions are in retrogress to this effect.
The Divisional Secretary expressed the confidence of receiving drought relief for about 1,500 more families from the funds allocated to the Anuradhapura District.
But the people in the areas like Villachchiya have already suffered more losses that cannot be compensated with government funds. Indebtedness, forfeiture of vehicles bought on lease, obstacles to the children’s education,lack of nutrition are major problems brought about by the drought, he said.
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