To mark World Water Day under the theme “Accelerating Change through Partnerships and Cooperation” Lanka Rainwater Harvesting Forum organized a event on March 22, at Water’s Edge in Battaramulla The event was graced by the presence of the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, Honourable Dinesh Gunawardena, the Minister of Water Supply and Estate Infrastructure Development, Honourable Jeewan Thondaman, and H.E. Julie Chung, the US Ambassador for Sri Lanka.
The welcome speech at the event was delivered by Mr. M.M.M. Aheeyar, the Chairperson of the Lanka Rainwater Harvesting Forum, followed by an informative presentation by Dr. Tanuja Ariyananda, the Chief Executive Officer of the organization. She provided participants with insights into rainwater harvesting and water conservation, as well as an overview of rainwater policies and the role of the private sector in these efforts. She emphasized the fact that the rainwater, which is freely available to us, is often wasted and is a financial loss by allowing it to flow into the sea without being utilized, while in reality it holds great potential as a valuable resource.
In his speech, Mr. M. I. Izzadeen, the Senior General Manager of Elpitiya Plantation, discussed their organization’s focus on improving soil structure, water retention, and conservation, with the aim of achieving clean water and sanitation as a sustainable goal. He also highlighted the implementation of rainwater harvesting technology in their practice with the technical support of Lanka Rainwater Harvesting Forum.
In her address H.E. Julie Chung, the US Ambassador to Sri Lanka, emphasized the importance of effective utilization of the free resource from the sky and Sri Lanka’s rich history of irrigation technology. She stressed the significance of proper water management and planning to avoid future water shortages, encouraging not only Sri Lankans but also neighboring countries to act towards water sustainability.
She mentioned the great progress achieved by the Lanka Rainwater Harvesting Forum with the support of USAID, for provision of drinking water by construction of rainwater harvesting systems for household communities and building capacity of various groups on this technology. She said “USAID has partnered with the Lanka Rainwater Harvesting Forum since 2012, and the partnership has accomplished a lot. Besides bringing drinking water to 100,000 people, we’ve partnered to build more than 1,600 rainwater harvesting tanks for households and communities. We’ve also educated communities on the benefits of rainwater harvesting, trained people to maintain and operate these systems, and supported research related to rainwater harvesting.”
Further, she explained the importance of partnerships with the private sector for promoting rainwater harvesting. “This simple, rainwater harvesting system can be used by everyone, and Lanka Rainwater is ready to expand its use. But it needs help. The private sector must step up to help expand the use of rainwater tanks and other conservation systems. Private citizens can and must do more, too, and I’d like to give a shout out to some people in the audience who I know are working diligently in resource management efforts, in addition to our hosts at Lanka Rainwater.”
The Prime Minister of Sri Lanka , Honourable Dinesh Gunawardena, addressed the gathering, highlighting the critical role of water in achieving sustainable development goals. “There is much to be done to conserve and preserve the rainwater that our island receives of which 65% that flows as runoff to the sea through 106 rivers flowing from our central hills in Sri Lanka. Our industries, the plantations sector, are high end industrial users of water, treated water supplied by the NWSDB which is provided at a significantly high cost of energy and treatment. This high-water cost can be reduced by supplementing with rainwater,” he said. He emphasized the need for practical measures to tackle the global water crisis, drawing inspiration from Sri Lanka’s past kings, who had demonstrated the benefits of rainwater harvesting. “Let no single drop of water that falls from the skies flow to the sea without it being used for the benefit of man,” proclaimed the late King Parakarambahu the Great, standing testimony to the commitment of our ancient leader to preserve rainwater. Rainwater harvesting is not rocket science; it is a very simple and practical technology that can be adopted by everyone, he said. In conclusion, the event was a testament to the importance of partnerships and cooperation in accelerating change towards water sustainability, and the Lanka Rainwater Harvesting Forum was lauded for its 25 years of service to the nation at the household, school, and hospital levels. Representatives from different private sector organizations and media persons attended the event.