Development oriented administrative boundaries for Sri Lanka
by A. Denis N. Fernando
Historical background: The present administrative boundaries are a creation of the British colonial powers for purposes of law and order and for the collection of revenue. It was in contrast to the administrative boundaries that existed in the time of our Kings who in their wisdom determined administrative boundaries based on natural boundaries called Disawanies and Korales.
In the late 1960s when Mr. James Lanerolle C.C.S. was Managing Director of the Industrial Development Board he was concerned of the availability of water for integrated development including the use of water from rivers and reservoirs for industrial purposes especially in the outstations. It was in this background that Mr. Lanerolle with my expertise in water resources first proposed the seminal idea of reforming our administrative structure for development oriented administrative boundaries for Ceylon.
We presented our joint paper to the Ceylon Association for the Advancement of Science in 1970 for its annual sessions and was published by the CAAS. This was also published in the Daily News paper and the "Economic Review" of the Peoples Bank edited by Dr. Susantha Gunatilaka. This was also submitted to the Land Commission in the 1970s. This was followed by a Seminar in the 1980s on "Development Oriented Administrative Boundaries for Sri Lanka" sponsored by the Organisation for Professional Associations, where my proposal together with others were discussed and the concensus of the participants was, the necessity of having an odd number of provinces. Thus my original proposal of having four provinces was altered to five by subdividing the Rajarata province, and creating a separate province of Japane to include the 24 river basins in the Vanni and the Jaffna peninsula.
Proposal of the Citizens Movement for Good Governance:
We have an area of over one and a half billion square kilometres of sea, which is about 25 times the land area. This area has seabed minerals, petroleum, oil, gas and shale in addition to the fisheries resources; under the Exclusive Economic Zone and the Continental Shelf which we have to claim under the UN Law of the Sea. This would have to be taken into serious consideration and this area has to be excluded from any decentralisation process indicated in Map 1.
It has been recognised by water resources experts all over the world that water is going to be the crucial resource that would determine the very future of the people as it would be the crucial resource for their survival. The need for further decentralisation of the decision making process from the province was considered imperative as the province was too large and that territorial units of smaller size is necessary and practical to satisfy grassroots level water resources considerations. The next war would not be for land, but for the control of water that would be the critical resources for the development and sustenance of our people.
Since the Wet Zone comprises mainly the Mayarata water resources region with reasonable water resources, the present administrative divisions in that zone would be acceptable except when there is excessive population. While in the Accelerated Mahaweli region that covers both the Mahaweli and rajarata water resources regions, we have to take into consideration the different agricultural systems that have been determined for reasons of water management. Since in the dry and arid zone of the southern and eastern regions, the river basins cross the present provincial and district administrative divisions and creates a serious water resources management problem.
It is imperative that they should be subdivided according to river basin areas. In the Northern area too we have adopted river basin boundaries in their subdivision. In all we have divided the five major water shed regions to 30 territorial units, which have taken into consideration watershed areas, natural boundaries and excludes the national reserves that should be under the Central Government and are summarised as follows: and indicated in the accompanying Map 2.
(A). The Japane Watershed Region comprises 24 river basins and Jaffna peninsula and the territorial units namely: (1) Jaffna (2) Kilinochchi (3) Mannar and (4) Mullativu
(B) The Rajarata Watershed Region comprises 23 river basins and the following territorial units namely: (5) Horowpotana (6) Anuradhapura (7) Kalawewa (8) Puttalam (9) Kurunegala
(C) The Mahaweli Watershed Region comprises 10 river basins and the following territorial units Namely: (10) Trincomalee (11) Polonnaruwa (12) Welikanda (13) Matale (14) Mahiyangana (15) Kandy (16) Nuwera Eliya (17) Badulla
(D) The Mayarata Water Shed Region comprises 17 river basins and the following territorial units namely: (18) Negombo (19) Gampaha (20) Kegalle (21) Colombo (22) Kalutara (23) Ratnapura and (24) Galle
(E) The Ruhunu Rata Watershed Region comprising 39 river basins and the following territorial units namely: (25) Matara (26) Walawe (27) Hambantota (28) Moneragala (29) Ampara and (30) Batticaloa
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