Sri Lanka Revives Ancient Hydraulic System

Sri Lanka Revives Ancient Hydraulic System

A report by Climate Action UNDP has highlighted how the tiny Commonwealth country of Sri Lanka is re-building its ancient network of water tanks to balance the needs of its entire ecosystem.

Sri Lanka’s territory is 80% a dry zone and prone to water scarcity.

More than 2,000 years ago, ancient kings built a sophisticated hydraulic network of small tanks, connected to large reservoirs by canals, to collect and redistribute water that would replenish soils and ensure access to a stable supply of water for drinking, cooking and bathing.

Gradually forgotten over the centuries, the tanks and canals fell into disrepair and water scarcity has become a bigger problem, especially for rural communities.

Furthermore, Sri Lanka’s 30-year long conflict which ended in 2009 has caused significant damage, displacement and disintegration of its people, institutions and communal and public infrastructure.

It has also, however, created a new opportunity to repair and rebuild.

After the conflict ended, the Sri Lankan government promised to ensure the nation’s recovery and restore essential services by offering post-conflict investments to communities.

The impacts of climate change, though, such as droughts and flash floods, have made it more difficult for these communities to re-establish livelihoods.

In order to combat the impacts of climate change and help facilitate the country’s rebuild efforts, a new project, `Strengthening the resilience of post-conflict recovery and development to change risks in Sri Lanka’, was introduced and was funded by the Global Environment Facility’s Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF).

This funding is going towards various reconstruction and rehabilitation programmes, including one to reintroduce the ancient water tank system.

UNDP is working with the Ministry of Disaster Management to rehabilitate 34 ancient water tanks and upgrade and adapt them to new climatic requirements.

The system is intended to offset the effects of climate change, which include higher temperatures, more irregular rainfall and extended droughts, and ensure the protection of people and ecosystems against future climate change.

Read More: Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, President of Mauritius, and Enrique Peña Nieto, President of Mexico, explain the work of the High Level Panel on Water, and call on all levels of government, civil society and the private sector to mobilise action and innovative finance for a water-secure world