Roundtable on salination of Jaffna lands, water sources

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 28 October 2003, 15:58 GMT]
Means of preventing salination of arable lands and fresh water sources in the Jaffna peninsula were explored at a roundtable organised by the National Water Supplies and Drainage Board at the Jaffna District Secretariat Tuesday. Thousands of acres of fertile lands have been rendered barren and many fresh water sources in Jaffna have turned brackish due to saltwater permeation from the inland lagoon system across the Vadamaradchi and Thenmaradchi divisions of Jaffna.

The roundtable discussed the damage caused by unchecked flow of seawater into this inland lagoon system.

Mr. A. C Vinotharajah, Jaffna regional manager of National Water Supplies and Drainages Board, presided.

Officials said that the World Bank will provide assistance to check the flow of seawater through the estuaries at Thondamanar and Chundikkulam. The former is on the northeast coast of Jaffna and the latter is on the eastern end of the peninsula’s neck linking it to the mainland.

A large dike with sluice gates at the Thondamanar estuary, built to control the inflow of seawater during the dry season and the outflow of lagoon waters swelled by rains in the monsoon, was blasted during military operations in 1987.

It is yet to be repaired.

There is no mechanism to check the inflow of seawater at the Chundikkulam estuary during the dry season.

Hence salt water has been spreading unchecked along the sides of the inland lagoon system from Thondamanar to Chundikulam, affecting fertile land and fresh water sources in areas such as Kapputhu, Karaveddy, Mandaan, Varani, Vallai, Udupiddy, Thondamnar, Madduvil and Sarasalai.

Drinking water sources of villages such as Kapputhu dried out completely years ago. GTZ, a company owned by the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany, built a pipeline to supply fresh water to Kapputhu in 2001.

(The literal meaning of the village’s name, which has long remained an embarrassment to place name specialists in Jaffna, is literally ‘island where the river/lagoon branches’. ‘Thoo’ is a non-Dravidian, non Indo Aryan aboriginal root term for island)

Last year, a reservoir for holding rainwater in Anthanathidal, an area near Kaputhu, was rehabilitated under the World Bank funded NECORD program.

Officials and participants at the round table stressed the need to urgently rehabilitate at least seventeen fresh water reservoirs in Jaffna and to construct three dikes to prevent the seepage of salt water from the lagoon into fertile lands and fresh water sources.

Others felt at seventeen dikes are necessary now to prevent the current pace of salination in Jaffna.


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