With heavy rain continuing and hundreds of thousands of people affected by floods and earthslips, the Government, while generously helping and rehabilitating the victims, needs to give more attention to the preservation of our rivers and fresh water.
During the past 25 years several wars have been fought especially in Afghanistan and Iraq for the super-power United States to gain control of vast areas where there is an abundance of oil and natural gas resources. The US of course claims it is a war against terrorism. But with the US combat troops pulling out of Iraq, US-based oil companies have been given multi-billion dollar contracts to obtain oil from hitherto untapped areas. The same is likely to happen in Afghanistan.
World social analysts believe that in the coming decades there may be similar wars for the control of fresh water resources. Sri Lanka, as a tropical paradise, has been blessed with several big rivers, and we need to be alert to subtle efforts by super powers or trans-national corporations to gain control of our fresh water resources. Some years ago interested parties made double-distilled efforts to give control of some of our water resources to foreign companies. Fortunately civic action and social justice groups acted fast and effectively to dam these moves.
In the 12th century, one of Sri Lanka’s greatest kings, Parakrama Bahu the Great, appealed to the people to ensure that every drop of rain water should be made use of without allowing it to go waste into the sea. To implement this, he built the Parakrama Samudra, which is regarded as one of the marvels of ancient irrigation engineering. Some westerners were still on trees at that time, but unfortunately we have in recent decades brought in western engineers and paid them millions of rupees to advise us on irrigation management.
The rulers who came after Parakrama Bahu also built hundreds of wewas which also are marvels of ancient irrigation engineering. In times of heavy rain the excess water was stored in these wewas to be used in times of drought. After 1977 especially, Sri Lanka was carried away wholesale by the globalised capitalist market economy and modern technology, resulting in the gradual erosion of the wewas. In 2004, the JVP, when it was a powerful force in the UPFA government, launched a massive scheme to restore the wewas. But after the JVP quit the Government, the restoration of wewas has not got high priority. The time has now come for the Government and every Sri Lankan to be conscious of the need to save fresh water both on a large-scale and on a small-scale in our homes. If every Sri Lankan could save a few litres of water every day, the total savings would amount to millions of litres, and Sri Lanka will not face the problems it is now facing in fuel imports.