Sri Lanka gets US$453mn ADB loan for Mahaweli River diversion

COLOMBO (EconomyNext) – The Asian Development Bank (ADB) said it has approved a loan of 453 million US dollars to fund a project in Sri Lanka to divert water from its main Mahaweli River to the north-central dry zone.

The government sought ADB funding in April for the water security investment program to transfer water from the Mahaweli River northwards for irrigation, drinking and commercial purposes.

The investments with ADB support will deliver clean drinking water to over 350,000 people, resulting in improved community health in these areas, the ADB said in a statement.

The project will also help the government better cope with the chronic kidney diseases prevalent in the north-central region which have killed thousands of farmers and become an issue of national concern.

The ADB loan will finance more than 260 kilometers of new and upgraded canals, reservoirs, and other irrigation infrastructure by 2024, the statement said.

Funds will also be used for studies on improving water management and delivery systems, the ADB said. 

“Sri Lanka has abundant water resources but they are not distributed evenly across the country,” said Lance Gore, ADB Water Resources Specialist.

“This assistance will allow the government to complete a decades-old program to transfer water from the country’s largest river to the dry zone, giving a real boost to growth, food security, and poverty reduction.”

The dry zone region is home to nearly a third of the country’s population, with 70% of rural dwellers dependent on agriculture for their livelihood.

However, the zone receives less than 1,500 millimeters of rain per year, and droughts are common, which severely constrains agricultural output, the ADB said.

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