LIRNEasia and Vanguard Foundation conducted a third community meeting in Polonnaruwa on July 16. Together with speakers representing project partners ITDG, Sarvodaya, and the Vanguard Foudation, Rohan Samarajiva and Luxman Siriwardena presented Kantale: 19 years later, a documentary on the survivors of the 1986 Kantale dam breach and LIRNEasia‘s concept paper. The format of the meeting followed that of the earlier Kandy and Gampola meetings, with several presentations on different aspects of disaster response, community organization, and dam management, and extended question/comment sessions for public input.
The Polonnaruwa meeting, held at the Sarvodaya district office, was long and lively, with a diverse crowd of participants offering insightful input and illuminating commentaries. Local farmers’ organizations and Sarvodaya-Polonnaruwa officers were especially well-represented. During the audience-response period, many attendees shared a thorough knowledge of the problems with their dams, and several criticized the institutions and officers responsible for what they saw as a poor state of affairs in dam/reservoir upkeep. They also expressed commitment to working at the community level to raise awareness and contribute to local management efforts. It was clear that these people are well aware of the dangers they must live with.
As the project team traveled to and from the meeting, we observed people bathing and playing in the gushing waters of the sluice, irrigating their paddy fields, the tranquil beauty of the Parakramabahu reservoir and its wildlife at dusk, and the critical importance of the dam as a road, meeting place, and home to several devales. This experience underlined the importance of this project for advocating better management of dam structures and bringing a greater sense of security among downstream communities.
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