4.4 “Kulam” (pond) rehabilitation
Mannar Island had more than 70 ponds (“kulam”: sizeable water bodies) that were the natural drainage system for the low-lying island. Successive governments and residents encroached upon the ponds, filling them in for the construction of housing. The result has been serious annual flooding throughout the urban area. The remaining dozen or more ponds are mostly polluted and disused. The proposal was to rehabilitate the ponds and transform them into attractive recreational precincts in a town with little open and recreational space.
In partnership with the Urban Council, the volunteers conducted several community meetings with the many pond and foreshore project stakeholders. For the pond these were: St Xavier’s Catholic Boy’s School principal, staff and students, Hindu residents, Muslim mosque members and local residents. For the foreshore development these were: local traders, fisheries officers and fishermen, and Mosque trustees.
Several meetings were held with the staff and engineers of the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) resulting in an agreement that Diaspora Lanka’s planners will be responsible for designs for the Nedunkulam Pond based on community wishes and that UNOPS will fund and undertake the earthworks, drainage and landscaping. If successful, this partnership will be extended to cover the rehabilitation of two additional ponds.
The planners completed their pond designs, which were welcomed by most of the community. Regrettably, late in the piece, the school, which borders the pond, withdrew its support as it wants to capitalize on any lands nearby for future school expansion. The Government Agent of Mannar has decreed that all ponds in Mannar come under the jurisdiction of the Urban Council which wants the ponds project to proceed. The Lands Officers of the District Secretariat are willing to ensure the project goes ahead. Further negotiations are now needed.