People in Sri Lanka’s Dry Zone have always been struggling with water issues. For centuries, cascades – defined as a “connected series of tanks organized within micro – (or meso) catchments” – together with their respective village reservoirs have been the traditional mode of adapting to communities’ water scarcity issues in Sri Lanka’s Dry Zone. These innovative water management systems served the communities not only in irrigation, but also in other water needs such as domestic uses and livestock. This clearly explains the vital role of cascades in forming the base of the rural economies in Sri Lanka’s Dry Zone.
Currently, Climate Change is threatening to push the situation to a more critical level. As a result, funds from the Green Climate Fund (GCF) are being invested to throw a lifeline to the desperate situation caused by Climate Change in Sri Lanka’s Dry Zone. A major part of the allocated funds will be spent to restore cascades, that had been deteriorating over long years.
Restoring of cascades would not only provide farmers with the water they need for their crops; this action would also protect the forests, ensure food security in these regions battered by Climate Change. Rehabilitation of cascades also means that groundwater could be replenished and that water quality in the village wells around the tank would improve as a result.
However, experts unanimously agree that it is essential that the community plays an active role if the restored cascade systems are to survive. Examples had been set by the ancient legislation that required farmers’ compulsory involvement in maintaining these irrigation systems. The Project would continue that legacy by working continuously with respective Farmer Organizations that had been managing the Village Irrigation Systems. As the local farmers emphasize the need to adhere to the community approach managing water which is a scarce resource with a collective community approach.