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NEWS / Video: Ancient water system in Sri Lanka to help build climate resilience
Category: Water & Sanitation

Image: Sri Lankan farmers working in a rice field. Photo by Dennis Candy/Flickr (CC by NC-ND-2.0)

By Elisa Jiménez Alonso

Once upon a time (over 2000 years ago), in a land far far away (depends on where you are), the ancient kings of Sri Lanka decided to do something about the water scarcity on their island and built one of the most sophisticated rain harvesting systems of their day and maybe ours.

Sri Lanka, which lies just south of India, has about 80% of its area covered by a dry zone prone to water scarcity. This meant that people would only be able to work their land during the wet season. However, around 300 BC, King Pandukabhaya was the first of many ancient kings to start building a network of water tanks for rain harvesting - a network that still exists today. Canals connect the tanks to large reservoirs. This creates a cascading system that uses the natural topography of the land to collect every drop of rain and distribute it.

After many years of existence and of negligence due to poor understanding of how the system was built and worked, it doesn’t function as effectively anymore which has led to severe problems for many farmers. Now, with the additional pressures resulting from climate change, it is even more important for this water system to be rehabilitated.

That is why the Government of Sri Lanka with the help of UNDP are repairing and upgrading 33 tanks to give self-sufficiency back to farmers and help improve their livelihoods.

Learn more about the work being done, how the tanks work, why they are good for biodiversity, how they mitigate floods and droughts, and more by watching the video below: