Marvel of Alikota Ara reservoir | Sunday Observer

Marvel of Alikota Ara reservoir

21 July, 2019
Awe-inspiring Alikota Ara reservoir during water impounding
Awe-inspiring Alikota Ara reservoir during water impounding

The three resourceful rivers that flow through Uva Province are the Kirindi Oya, Menik Ganga and Kumbukkan Oya. When our kings ruled over Ruhunu Rata, they not only built Viharas (temples), dagobas (stupas) and rock hermitages, but also massive irrigation tanks. Their ingenuity in diverting rivers like Menik Ganga, Kirindi Oya and Kumbukkan Oya bears ample testimony to the relics of the monumental stone anicuts, bisokotuwas (modern engineering term - valve pits) that are seen to this day around Ruhunu Rata.

Kirindi Oya rising from the Bandarawela hill tops takes an abrupt turn at Koslanda from where it roars down 570 feet below to form the gushing veil of the picturesque Diyaluma waterfalls. From these boisterous leaping waters, the lonely Kirindi Oya meanders lazily through the verdant jungle terrain of Wellawaya and empties its waters to the sea at Magama, off Bundala where its estuary lies.

Kirindi Oya was tamed for man’s welfare and prosperity over 2,000 years ago. In the recent past, a reservoir had been built near a historic spot of Lunugamvehera, an ancient site where King Dutugemunu was preparing strategies to fight King Elara. Hence the scheme and its reservoir were named as the Lunugamvehera Scheme which was executed by the Department of Irrigation and River Valleys Development Board in 1985.

In modern times, the Uma Oya Multipurpose Development Project was launched to divert water from the Uma Oya, a tributary of the Mahaweli Ganga which flows from the Punagala mountain range in Bandarawela in the central hills.

I had always wanted to see the picturesque scenery of Pahala-Uva, so we jumped at the opportunity when Jagath Sirisena, a former Range Forest Officer of Wellawaya organized a trip to Wellawaya to see the construction site of the Alikota Ara reservoir.

We stepped on to the Alikota Ara reservoir whose dam is 750 metres long and 28 metres high, built across the Alikota Ara stream, a tributary of the Kirindi Oya near Wellawaya. This reservoir will feed the Handapanagala tank.

The construction of the Alikota Ara reservoir of the Uma Oya Downstream Development Project in Wellawaya which commenced in 2014 at an estimated cost of Rs. 950 million is now completed and provides water to irrigate over 3,200 acres of paddy fields in the Moneragala district. All the design and construction works of the reservoir and the Uma Oya Downstream Development Project are done by local engineers and technical staff of the Irrigation Department.

The Uma Oya underground hydropower plant will add 120 MW to the national grid by August this year.A series of tunnels to divert water to the underground power plant is being constructed 860 metres underground at Randeniya near Wellawaya, which would finally release water to the Alikota Ara reservoir in Wellawaya. A 35 km long canal will carry water from the Alikota Ara reservoir to the Kuda Oya reservoir. This canal will also feed the irrigation lands located alongside.

The water from the Puhulpola Reservoir to the Dyraaba reservoir will flow along a 3.9 km long underground tube with a radius of 3.7 metres to provide water for agriculture in the Moneragala, Wellawaya and Hambegamuwa areas. Agriculture in the lower range of the Kirindi Oya basin will also benefit from this water.

Under the downstream area development, 1,700 acres of agricultural lands are already under cultivation. The project will address the problem of drought experienced annually by farmers of Moneragala and parts of the Southern Province, provide drinking water benefiting a large number of farming families and develop the inland fishery industry.

Water diverted from the left-canal to the Handapanagala tank and 37 km long right-canal to the Kuda Oya reservoir goes through Wellawaya. There are nearly 25 abandoned minor tanks and canals spread across Wellawaya and Buduruwagala which are being rehabilitated under the downstream development project. Waters of Handapanagala will feed minor irrigation lands and water flowing into the Lunugamvehera reservoir will be available for irrigation activities in Hambantota.

The water thus diverted will be stored in three reservoirs. Alikota Ara and Kuda Oya are new reservoirs being constructed, and the existing Handapanagala tank is the third reservoir, augmented to store more water. Pahala-Uva is surrounded by a range of misty mountains dotted with many ancient sites which are must-see sites for visitors. However, due to the lack of information and publicity, many do not know about these attractions.

The Handapanagala tank on a picturesque mountain frontier encompasses a serene range of mountains that roll on and on as far as the eye could see. Atop the bund of the tank, one could enjoy the captivating mountain scenery rising over the horizon. Then in the mornings and evenings, one would be greeted by the sight of elephants that come in their numbers to quench their thirst at the Handapanagala Tank.

The area is a popular tourism spot due to the Ravana and Diyaluma waterfalls, in between which lies the reservoir . The 3rd century ancient Buddhist site of Buduruwagala is located close by, where a Buddha statue stands carved out of its boulder which appears to have been sculptured in high relief in stucco.

If you intend to visit the awe-inspiring Pahala-Uva or Uva-Wellassa region, make sure not to miss this fascinating Alikota Ara reservoir. While experiencing the ancient grandeur of the area, you can also witness the marvellous achievement of Sri Lankan irrigation engineers.