July 2014, Vavuniya, Sri Lanka: Vavuniya Town, located in Northern Sri Lanka, regularly experiences floods and droughts. The effects of these hazards have increased due to the lack of infrastructure such as drainage systems in the urban council area. The inadequate capacity of the irrigation system around the Vavuniya Kulam (Vavuniya tank), the main water body in Vavuniya, has exacerbated the problem.
The Vavuniya Kulam Disaster Mitigation Project was identified as a priority and has been initiated in response to the need to minimise the risks of both flooding and drought in Vavuniya Town. This project is implemented by the Vavuniya Urban Council and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) under the direction of the Provincial Irrigation Department. Funding has been provided by the Government of Australia under the Project “Disaster Resilient City Development Strategies for four Cities in the Northern and Eastern Provinces for Sri Lanka”, and is also assisting the cities of Mannar, Mullaitivu and Akkaraipattu.
Repairing the causeway across the spillway, construction of two culverts in the spill tail canal and clearing the water inlet of Vavuniya Kulam are some of the major activities under this disaster mitigation project.
The ground breaking ceremony of the Vavuniya Kulam DRR Project was held on 9th July 2014. The District Secretary of Vavuniya, Mr. Bandula Harishchandra, UN-Habitat Programme Manager for Sri Lanka, Mr. Saman Ekanayake, Regional Assistant Commissioner of Local Government, Mr. P. M. A. K. Kumara, Council Secretary, Vavuniya Urban Council, Mr. K. Sathiyaseelan, Vavuniya Divisional Secretariat Division, Mrs. S. Karnan, Deputy Director, Provincial Irrigation Department (Northern Province), Mr. N. Navanesan and other senior Government officials participated at this event.
Mr. Harishchandra acknowledged the support provided by UN-Habitat in bringing resources for disaster mitigation and preparedness activities to Vavuniya as well as enhancing the technical and institutional capacities of staff at the Vavuniya Urban Council and the Provincial Irrigation Department of the Northern Province.
The Project is expected to bring multiple benefits to the residents of Vavuniya. The initiative will clean the drainage systems of the Kulam, removing debris and garbage, while widening the narrow canals. It will increase the catchment area of the Kulam and improve the capacity of infrastructure along the inlet and outlet flow paths to ensure a smooth flow of water during heavy rains. This in turn is expected to improve the water quality and minimize the damage to surrounding paddy lands and the inland fishing industry. Improved opportunities for recreation and a pleasant and conducive environment will be added benefits of this initiative. The Project will directly benefit 4,900 families who reside in close proximity to the Kulam while indirectly benefiting all residents of Vavuniya Town.