The Victoria Dam during construction
Minister in charge of Mahaweli has said that foreign experts are expected to inspect the Victoria Dam and other dams in the country. This is following some tremors that had occurred over the past few months around Victoria Dam.
But, as Professor P.W.Vithanage, one of the foremost Geologists in the country, had forewarned the government at that time maintained that the Victoria Dam should not be built on this spot due to a ‘living vein’ that was running underneath the present dam site. He said very many times, “ My colour is black and brown and not white so my words have not been taken, because of the money that is being dumped by the British. Mark my word the dam would not be stable and it would break over the years”.
So is his surmise coming true with the tremors that have been experienced over the months and years?
I am no geologist nor a scientist, but a vigilant journalist who is interested in the country and especially the Central Province. What I write is what has been told to me. This was told to me and another journalist working for “Dawasa” newspaper by Professor P.W.Vithanage of the Department of Geology at that time.
We used to make visits with Professor Vithanage or he used to call us and invite us to join him to view “Victoria Rapid” which was situated a little below the present Victoria Dam.
It is said that after the British ceded the Kandyan Kingdom they found this rapid and named it Victoria Rapid in the name of Queen Victoria.
An area not more than ten feet became the area where the British ‘dumped’ the money for the Victoria Dam. My journalist friend and It is for the name that perhaps the British dumped all the money for the construction of Victoria reservoir. Then there was a visits by then Prime minister Margaret Thatcher in 1985 and Her Majesty the Queen in 1981.
It was built above the river. In fact, he had told the government in power that this dam should not be built at this spot. No one took any heed of his advice. At one time there had been air bubbles on the Dam and these are supposed to have been sealed.
These tremors had been going on for years, but very little could be done. According to Professor Vithanage, Sri Lanka is shifting from India.
He said that this living vein would someday be the cause of damage to the dam and predicted that within the next thirty years the dam could break due to the tremors. the tremors have occurred from time to time.
The building was inaugurated on March 23, 1980 and the waters would irrigate thousands of acres of paddy land below the dam. It It later became an accelerated scheme under the J.R.Jayewardene’s government. The British Government spent eleven billion and thirty lakhs of sterling pounds for this purpose. Money was later sent from the United Kingdom Hanover Trust.
In 1981 Queen Elizabeth visited the site and on April 12,1985 Margret Thatcher- the ‘Iron Lady’- declared open the Project.
This is a Butterfly Dam and reaches a height of 122 metres and spans a length of 520 metres. A roadway is on top of the Dam. The massive tunnel that takes the water to the powerhouse is very long with a water capacity of 1772,000.000 Cubic metres.
Professor Vithanage prophesied that with the building of the Dam one has to expect tremors. They were targeting the massive assistance from the British and threw the cautions of Professor Vithanage to the winds.
Today the engineers cannot even trace the living vein or even if they admit the fact they can’t detect it they would not tell those concerned, because they have to save their faces.
I had the opportunity to go down the steps of the Dam through the help of a mutual friend who was the engineer in charge of the dam. We went right down to the bottom of the bed when it was filled with water and when one is within this limited space of the flight of steps, one gets the feeling as to what would happen if the water from above falls on us.
So this is my story which was told to us by Professor P.W.Vithanage. The authorities can either take it or leave it !