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Monday, June 17, 2024

Water Scarcity in Iranamadu Tank and the Surfacing Secrets: The Depleting Tank and the Disregarding Officials

Iranmadu Army Camp

By Nadarajah Kuruparan
Iranamadu and the Iranamadu Tank region of the Kilinochi district, in which important army camps are based, have become strategically significant places in the North. During the period of the Tigers too, they had established a runway near the Iranamadu Tank and maintained it as a strategic point.  Now that the Sri Lankan army has expanded the camp area threefold, one can easily appraise the importance of the place.
Now with the assistance of China more than 2000 temporary or semi-permanent houses have been built around the Iranamadu army camp and arrangements are made to settle the families of the defense personnel.

The Iranamadu Tank has a storage capacity of 36 feet. During the period of the Tigers, it was customary to store up to 34 feet. Now without public knowledge, the storage level has been reduced to 28 feet. The defense officials had a secret negotiation with the engineer responsible for the maintenance of the tank and made this arrangement. But the farmers’ association there was not consulted on this. No approval from the water management agency or planning committee was obtained in this regard. Thus 6 feet high of water was drained out overnight.

The reason was the warning by the engineering division of the army that if the water level rose above 28 feet, water would stagnate in the southern and eastern sides of the air base and thus the runway would be damaged. The army ordered the maintenance engineer of the tank to reduce the water level and the engineer promptly obliged. But it was not openly declared. It could not be. So the government officials have started lying that the dam has become weak.

After this incident, further water about one foot high was released. The investigative journalist of Global Tamil News notes that few days after the reduction of the water level, the Defense Secretary Kothabaya Rajapaksa visited the place and inaugurated the new base. This happened when it was said that people could fly from Vanni to Colombo. It should also be noted that after Mahinda Rajapaksa was elected President for the second time, he conducted his first cabinet meeting at Iranamadu.

Now the water level of the Iranamadu Tank is two inches below 7 feet. As this water is at the lowest part of the tank, this cannot be supplied to the farming lands. This remaining water is used only to conserve the fish available there and for watering the cattle. 

The condition of the farmers depending on the Iranamadu Tank is narrated by a farmer:

“The farmlands in Kilinochi have attained the stage of Kudalai (seed setting period), but the crops have been scorched. At this critical stage of germination all the farmlands have become parched without water. In this manner, 80% of the approved farmlands have become wastelands. This time, 8,600 acres (it is also said to be 8,000) of lands were approved by the Irrigation Department for short term cultivation. But those among the farmers who have political influence violated this rule by sowing in additional 2,000 acres. Those who have violated the rule are all those with political influence. They go to the government officials and state that they have not been given their due share. Using their political influence, they get permits. The project engineer could not do anything as they approach with political influence. Further, those who are said to be agricultural engineers and officials have also used their influence to sow in 200 to 300 acres of additional lands. Violation of by the ordinary farmers amounts to below 1,000 acres.

This kind of illegal farming has always been carried out. It has always been there before, during and after the period of the Tigers. Each time in more than 3,000 acres illegal farming is carried out.

However, water level then was maintained at 34 feet and the engineers had good knowledge and experience in water management. Even the illegal farmlands have never experienced drought.

Now there are new officials who refuse to consider the 40 to 60 years of experience of the farmers. If they had taken heed to what the farmers said in the farmers’ meetings, this situation wouldn’t have arisen. In Kilinochi district both the Planning Committee and the Farming Committee have the same person as the Chairman, the Irrigation Engineer.

Earlier there were separate chairpersons for these committees. There would be mutual interactions, exchanges and pressures between the two committees as there were different chairpersons. Thus decisions were taken in a consultative manner. Now to capture the leadership of both the committees, the government has appointed the same person as the Chairman to both the committees. As both are managed by the same person, the administration has become authoritarian. This has also affected the farmers.

However, if the due water has been stored in the Iranamadu Tank, this destruction could have been prevented. If the additional 7 feet water had been stored this situation wouldn’t have happened. The big problem was draining the tank yielding to the army’s pressure. Even when so many farmers have been affected, the government officials or the irrigation engineers are not prepared to say openly about the real reason. They cannot.

One cannot attribute the reason to drought. We have seen droughts severer than this. There was a time when rice was distributed to the people to alleviate the drought situation in Kilinochi. As all the water resources became dry, people were loitering with kudams for drinking water. Such a drought situation is not there now. It is normal for Poonagari to undergo drought. But Kilinochi is not like that. Even now there is water in the canal. Only that is not sufficient for farming.

There are many water pumps around Iranamadu. They are there to the full length of the canals in Kilinochi. The water level in the canal is not sufficient to flow through the sluices, farmers use pumps to pull the water to the farmlands. They do it to save the crops.”

A fire sacrifice was conducted in the Kanakambikai Temple for water. It was jointly conducted by the government officials, agricultural department officials and the farmers’ associations. Regarding this the President of the federation of farmers’ associations in Kilinochi, Mr. Sivaprakasam had issued a statement to the journalists. He said that the sacrifice was conducted to alleviate drought and to fill Mother Iranamadu. When a journalist asked him why there was no water in Iranamadu, Sivaprakasam said that he could not spell out the reason and added that the reasons might transpire in future. 

Another farmer told me, “Brother, one cannot say what is happening here with any citation. But in all my experience this is the first time that the crops have been parched without water in short term irrigation.”
Thus the important questions among the farmers are these:

If there is drought, all the tanks in the district should go waterless. But tanks like Puthumurippu  and Akkarayan have sufficient water even now. Farmlands depending on those tanks have not been affected.

The farmlands in Uruthirapuram that have been sown counting on the Iranamadu water are now irrigated with Puthumurippu water. Thus, Puthumurippu has surplus water to be supplied to other farmlands than the intended.

When this is so, how could drought affect only Iranamadu Tank?

When the tank was declared as strong in 2010 and 2011, how did it become weak all of a sudden in 2012?

Unapproved farming and water pumping has been there for more than 15 years. How do they become the main reasons for this year?

When rice cultivation with all other tanks in Kilinochi has not been affected, why is it affected only in the case of Iranamadu?

These are reasonable questions of the farmers who have many years of experience. On behalf of the farmers Global Tami News requests all those concerned, who have given up their conscience, humanitarianism and responsibility sometimes out of fear and mostly self-seeking, particularly all the eminent persons and officials who have forgotten their past, to answer these questions. If they reply, Global Tamil News will publish it with professional responsibility.


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