Ancient Water and Soil Conservation Ecosystems of Sri Lanka
Water History and Culture
Published Online: 15 JUL 2005
Copyright © 2005 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
How to Cite
Mendis, L. O. 2005. Ancient Water and Soil Conservation Ecosystems of Sri Lanka. Water Encyclopedia. 741–745.
- Published Online: 15 JUL 2005
Sri Lanka, an island of approximately 65,000 sq km, in the Indian ocean, lying between 6° and 8° North latitude, at the southern tip of the Indian subcontinent, experiences two monsoons, the northeast between October and March and the southwest between April and September, with occasional intermonsoon rains. Northeast monsoon rainfall is spread over much of the island, but the southwest monsoon is largely intercepted by a south-central hill massif, and a dry southwest wind blows over the north and east.
A famous king Parakrama Bahu I, said “Let not a drop of rain water flow to the sea without being made useful to man!” (Mahavamsa, quoted in Reference). Human intervention in nature's hydrologic cycle is seen in the plains of ancient Rajarata and Ruhunurata in the form of river diversion systems and small, medium, and large reservoirs. In wet zone uplands, much later, terraced rice fields saw reuse of irrigation water under gravity, benefiting from forest cover induced fertility. In colonial times, destruction of forests for planting coffee, and later tea, led to adverse impacts (2). Ancient diversion systems include stone anicuts (derived from the Tamil language) or weirs, called amuna in Sinhala and tekkam in Tamil, channels diverting streams for both irrigated agriculture, and storage in reservoirs.
- Sri Lanka;
- hydraulic engineering;
- Joseph Needham