On A Slow Boat To Kotte

(a vision to revive an ancient boat traffic route)


White taking my first drive over the new bridge at Battaramulle vivid memories of this area during the late 1970s entered my mind, when I as the DGM of the Reclamation Board (now SLLR&DC) boldly undertook the task of reclamation work for the New Parliament & Administration Complex at Kotte on behalf of the Board, when no other organization present at this famous meeting presided by HE-JRJ, held at the UDA auditorium down DR Wijewardena Mawatha, was willing to undertake this massive task. Others present were R .Premadasa, Dr Ananda Tissa de Alwis, Gamini Dissanayake not forgetting R. Paskaralingam Secretary.

While I anticipate a ceremonial boat ride to take place under the new bridge very soon. what flashed through my mind most was the history of this same waterway as related to me then (1979) by some very senior residents of this area who described how boats from Kelani Ganga arrived at Kotte witnessed by them as school children..

Although the Dutch rulers left our shores long time ago remnants of many works done by them still haunt our memories when embarking on various development projects such as the much talked of development of the City of Colombo, one such being the possible revival of the ancient boat traffic route from Kelani Ganga to Kotte that history records... the only obvious route being through the much neglected Kittanpahuwa Ela.

It is shocking how we now end up against a major development project that had been repeatedly sidelined despite many agitations and prospects still remaining that it can be the " Last Hope for Colombo" in her march towards becoming Asia’s new wonder. I am referring to the hard work of a small group of national minded local professionals who were willing to expand on a subject already initiated by the irrigation department in the mid 1980’s., the proposal to reposition the Dutch built Kelani South bund as existing at present to it’s correct and rightful position which will bring about many benefits in addition to reopen the Kittanpahuwa Ela. for boat traffic.

This group had this subject restudied by a London Group of Consultants at no cost to the government. In fairness it is my duty to place on record the names of two live wires not among the living who were responsible to find the necessary funds for this private study. They are late Eng Annesley de Soyza from Australia and late Farouk Salley from the U.K. who lost all their money in this effort (Report and all Approvals available)

Returning to the subject of boat traffic, during the pre-Dutch period it was Kittanpahuwa Ela that drained the flood waters of the massive Madiwela Catchment of 19 sq.miles into Kelani Ganga discharging under the Battaramulle bridge then through the Madinnagoda bridge in Rajagiriya but abruptly ends at the Gothatuwa Bund of the Dutch era. The way to overcome this problem is again by repositioning the South bund as mentioned earlier. For other details see Report on Cabinet Approved study on Kelani Ganga (left Bank) Unprotected Areas dated 29h April 12009

Now with a closer study of the; area around the mouth of Kelani Ganga it can be seen that the famous Hamilton Canal too empties into the Kelani on the opposite bank of Kelani. This exposes a massive integrated tourist development potential at hand if only we can connect the many developments taking place on the left bank of Kelani with the Hamilton canal that flows through the already well developed tourist areas north of Colombo on the right bank. not to mention the presence of the historical Muthurajawela Wetland of 6000 Ac, on the opposite bank of the Hamilton Canal. Please see plans

All over the world where a major river flows through or by the side of a capital city the best developments are seen on either bank of the river. The best examples the writer can mention are the river Thames of London, River Seine of Paris France, River Nile of Egypt and river Volga of Moscow to mention a few. But what have we done with our beautiful Kelani Ganga that flows by the side of our Capital City Colombo? Who will answer this question? Who is willing to rectify this lapse even when pointed out?

Kelani too has all the potential to be developed similar or better than the above mentioned examples not only for tourism but even river navigation possibly up to Ambatele etc. River Nile that the writer had seen not only allows navigation but also accommodates floating night clubs too.. River Seine of Paris is another example that the writer can quote confidently. Many are the examples we have before our eyes if only we want to see.

All what the writer expects by this short exposure is that even at this last moment for someone somewhere calling himself a genuine Sri Lankan free from greed, to take off the tinted glasses before his eyes and look at this subject free from prejudice or jealousy or rivalry and see things in clear broad day light how much it can benefit our beloved country and all the benefits that will open up to the future generations of our country, yet to come

Eng Anton Nanayakkara

Senor Deputy Director of Irrigation (retd)

Promoter of "Development of Kelani Left Bank Unprotected Areas"

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