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Sri Lanka opts for desalination to solve north water problem

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has decided to go for a seawater desalination plant to supply drinking water to people in the northern Jaffna peninsula after a plan to divert water from a reservoir failed.

The Asian Development Bank has agreed to consider a loan of 90 million US dollars to Sri Lanka to fund the seawater desalination project, the government said.

The Cabinet of Ministers has approved a proposal by Rauf Hakeem, Minister of Urban Development, Water Supply and Drainage, to seek additional funds to revamp the Jaffna – Kilinochchi water supply and sanitation project.

The ADB loan is to fund a seawater desalination plant in Jaffna after a previous plan to divert water from the Iranaimadu reservoir, south of the peninsula, failed owing to protests from farmers and drought which reduced water levels.

Implementation of the project under its initial plan failed owing to difficulties in obtaining the required amount of water from the Iranaimadu Tank, according to the Ministry of Urban Development, Water Supply and Drainage.

It said the initial design of the drinking water scheme was entirely dependent on getting water from Iranaimadu Tank in the Kilinochchi district.

This could not be done because of a dispute over water sharing between drinking requirements and irrigation needs.

With the resettlement of people displaced by the ethnic war, which ended in 2009, in Kilinochchi, demand for water for irrigation increased, resulting in strong resistance from farmer organisations to share water with Jaffna district.

The situation escalated after an unusually severe drought in 2012 when the water level in the Iranaimadu Tank fell drastically.

“All parties have now unanimously agreed that the Iranaimadu-based option to provide water to the Jaffna peninsula has to be abandoned, given current technical, social and economic considerations,” a ministry official said.

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(Colombo/July 22 2015)
 

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