Mahaweli Development programme

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The Mahaweli Development programme (Sinhala:මහවැලි සංවර්ධන වැඩසටහන) is known as the largest multipurpose national development programme in the history of Sri Lanka and is also considered as the keystone of the government's development programme that was initiated in 1961.

Purposes of the Programme[edit]

The main purposes of carrying out the programme were the generation of hydroelectric power, controlling flood, making irrigation facilities for dry zone cultivation, settlement of landless and unemployed families by constructing and developing physical and social infrastructure required for human habitation by using the waters of the Mahaweli River. Increase local agricultural production and create employment opportunities for the people were among the other expected purposes.

The Master Plan[edit]

The Master Plan of Mahaweli Development Programme was prepared with the assistance of UNDP and FAO and recommended for step wise implementation over a period of 30 years.[1] The programme, included irrigation development of about 365,000 ha and hydro power development of 470 MW in capacity. For the purpose of identification, the whole development area was divided into projects, referred to Systems A to M.

Initiation and First Phase[edit]

In 1961 the Sirimavo Bandaranayake government of Ceylon requested assistance from the Special Fund of the United Nations to survey the Mahaweli Ganga Basin and the Dry Zone areas.[2] The funding was approved and the project operation started in 1964. The survey was carried out in two stages: in the first stage between 1965 and 1967 a field investigation of the entire project area with the aim of developing an outline for a Master Plan for the full development of the water resources for irrigation and hydropower was performed; in the second stage between 1967 and 1968 all the three phases of development for the entire scheme were identified, additional investigations were made of the areas selected for the three projects to be included in the first phase of development and detailed designs were prepared. Execution of the project one of the first phase, which included Polgolla headwork, commended in 1970.[3]

The first phase of the programme consisted of diversion headworks at Polgolla and Bowatenna, 40 MW hydropower plant at Ukuwela and an improved water supply to about 52,700 ha of existing irrigated land. The phase one was completed in 1976.

Accelerated Mahaweli Programme[edit]

The step wise implementation of the Mahaweli Development Programme would have lasted about 30 years from 1975. However, the newly appointed J. R. Jayewardene government in 1977 decided to speed up the programme and complete it within its term of office of 6 years.[4] According to that the Accelerated Mahaweli Programme (AMP) was implemented with a revision of the Master Plan in 1977. Which was consist of 12 projects and mainly confined to four head works in initial works of the programme, including the construction of Kotmale, Victoria, Maduru Oya, Randenigala dams and the downstream development of about 60,000 ha in Systems B and C and the Minipe anicut, the Right Bank Trans basin Canal and the Ulhitiya and Ratkinda reservoirs. To implement the project plan in the balance areas proposed by the Master plan and also Gazetted areas, Mahaweli Authority of Sri Lanka was established in 1979 by an Act of Parliament with a mandate.[5][6]

As the end of 1995, all the head works of the AMP had been completed and were functioning. Feasibility studies were scheduled to be completed in respect of the proposed Moragahakanda Project.

Completed Projects[edit]

Name Image Location Year commenced Year completed Type of Dam Storage capacity (million cu.m) Power capacity (MW) Notes
Bowatenne[7] 07°40′00″N 80°40′00″E / 7.66667°N 80.66667°E / 7.66667; 80.66667 (Bowatenna Dam) 1972 1976 Concrete Gravity 56 40
Kotmale[8] KotmaleDam-Srilanka-January2014.jpg 07°03′39″N 80°35′50″E / 7.06083°N 80.59722°E / 7.06083; 80.59722 (Kotmale Dam) 1979 1985 Gravity 174 200 The reservoir was constructed under the Accelerated Mahaweli Programme
Maduru Oya 07°38′53″N 81°12′50″E / 7.64806°N 81.21389°E / 7.64806; 81.21389 (Maduru Oya Dam) 1979 1986 Gravity 596 25 The reservoir was constructed under the Accelerated Mahaweli Programme
Polgolla Barrage[9] PolgollaDam1-SriLanka.JPG 07°23′56″N 80°39′08″E / 7.39889°N 80.65222°E / 7.39889; 80.65222 (Ukuwela Power Station) 1970 1976 Barrage 4.1 40 The reservoir was constructed under the first project of Polgolla Diversion Complex
Randenigala[10] RandenigalaDam-December2013-5.JPG 07°12′00″N 80°55′30″E / 7.20000°N 80.92500°E / 7.20000; 80.92500 (Randenigala Dam) 1982 1986 Gravity 860 135 The reservoir was constructed under the Accelerated Mahaweli Programme
Rantambe[11] RantembeDam-December2013-1.JPG 07°12′00″N 80°57′00″E / 7.20000°N 80.95000°E / 7.20000; 80.95000 (Rantembe Dam) 1987 1990 Gravity 21 52 The reservoir was constructed under the Accelerated Mahaweli Programme
Victoria[12] VictoriaDam-SriLanka-April2011-1.jpg 07°14′29″N 80°47′05″E / 7.24139°N 80.78472°E / 7.24139; 80.78472 (Victoria Dam) 1978 1985 Arch 730 210 The reservoir was constructed under the Accelerated Mahaweli Programme
Moragahakanda Moragahakanda Dam.jpg 07°41′56″N 80°46′12″E / 7.69889°N 80.77000°E / 7.69889; 80.77000 (Moragahakanda Dam) 2007 2018 Gravity 521 25 The reservoir is the last project of the five great reservoirs in the Mahaweli Master Plan[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Master Plan". Mahaweli Authority. Retrieved 30 July 2016.
  2. ^ "Mahaweli Master Plan". Mahaweli Authority of Sri Lanka. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Sri Lanka's biggest river basin development project". The Sunday Times. 24 October 2010. Retrieved 30 July 2016.
  5. ^ "Mahaweli Authority..." Mahaweli Authority. Retrieved 30 July 2016.
  6. ^ "Mahaweli Authority of Sri Lanka". Ministry of Irrigation & Water Resources Management. Retrieved 30 July 2016.
  7. ^ "Bowatenne". Mahaweli Authority. Retrieved 30 July 2016.
  8. ^ "Kotmale". Mahaweli Authority. Retrieved 30 July 2016.
  9. ^ "Polgolla". Mahaweli Authority. Retrieved 30 July 2016.
  10. ^ "Randenigala". Mahaweli Authority. Retrieved 30 July 2016.
  11. ^ "Rantembe". Mahaweli Authority. Retrieved 30 July 2016.
  12. ^ "Victoria". Mahaweli Authority. Retrieved 30 July 2016.
  13. ^ "Moragahakanda Reservoir Project to flow towards success under presidential supervision". News First. 19 July 2016. Retrieved 14 August 2017.