General context

The island of Sri Lanka is located south of India (Fig. 10.1) and is experiencing serious water resource problems. Walawe Basin (250,000 ha), located in the southern part of Sri Lanka, is inhabited by about 600,000 people, most of them dependent on agriculture, including fisheries. The basin's ambitious development plans indicate that the dominancy of agriculture in the region will change towards more industrial and service-oriented activities. These changes will have impacts on society as well as on natural resources, including water managerial issues. Currently, almost all the water resources are diverted for irrigated agriculture, with only a few per cent for industry and drinking water. Most recent development plans show that the use of water for urban use and industry will rise ten- to 15-fold (UNESCO, 2003).

Sri Lanka has a longstanding tradition of water management and the historical background of the country has helped create the perception that water is a public good. Agriculture is a tradition, in addition to being a major component of the livelihood strategies of the population. A local management structure for water resources was developed which included provisions for cost recovery and regulation. These provisions enabled a self-sustaining rural agrarian society to exist in the villages, but this is under threat as water issues become increasingly influenced at a basin scale.

The major natural hazard in the basin is drought. Monsoonal rains during the Maha season (November to March) and the Yala season (May to September) contribute a major part of the annual rainfall, which is supplemented by inter-monsoonal rains. The amount of rainfall reduces from the upper reaches to lower reaches and from west to east. The recent rainfall records at selected stations show a trend of

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