Water, Water Sports and Water Supply in Kandy City
I can write volumes about water but instead of making it boring for the reader I will jot down some of the salient points related to me and the City of Kandy and its surrounds.
This is just a reflection for the people who want to come to Kandy and reside within the Municipal Limits.
1. Not so long ago Kandy did not have pipe borne water.
Yes it had a beautiful lake but did not have pipe borne water. The credit of getting pipe borne water running in Kandy probably goes to our late P.M. Mrs. Sirimawo Bandaranaike (I stand to correction here and in no way underestimate the efforts made by Civil Servants and Engineers who had overseen the Kandy Water Project).
In my part I had in my later years of Civil Service as it were, with many Engineer friends would extend this project beyond Municipality Limits and President D.B.Wijetunge was the only President who made water accessible to people outside city limits. Suffice is to say late Mr. Premadasa used water as a political carrot and the Civil Servants under him were impotent to say the least.
Still later having left government service and working with foreign collaborators and Mahaweli Engineers, I was able to make the political drive to get water beyond Digana Village and to surrounding villages when J.V.P activity had crippled (1988 to 1992) the entire country.
I did not run away from the country when people needed my services.
I went abroad again only after the problems were sorted out except L.T.T.E activity in the North.
Most of my engineer friends have now long been retired and many had gone abroad never to return and I thank them profusely for what they did expecting nothing in return (unlike the present day engineers who take huge bribes in every possible way) from the rude politicians.
I was their to spread the Social Vision “Water is Health and more water one uses more healthy one is ” was my jargon riddled Motto to convince them the need for drinking water for every being including animals.
2. There was high incidence of water-borne diseases in Kandy then.
3. Yes, British did not do anything to alleviate this problem.
4. The present Kandy Lake was a paddy field which extended to Nuwara Wela and Deiyanne Wela and the Old Lake that provided water to the paddy fields was located somewhere up and above and occupying the present Bogambara Stadium Complex.
The old lake road that runs parallel with the Wembly Theater is the only vestige left of the old lake.
4. But long before British the Nana Thota (Bathing Place) for the queens was on the left side of the Palace (Maligava).
5. The king’s harem was little above this Nana Thota.
This was turned into an armory during second world war.
6. Water was diverted from Bogambara Lake to this site by natural and built canals.
Built canals protected the Palace from invaders.
7. Present prison complex which is an eyesore to an ancient city (this prison now should be located elsewhere) probably belonged to the Nilames (including Pilimithalawe) who resided there.
All the old houses were demolished by the British.
They were ruthless and Kandyan Kingdom was toothless then in spite of the Tooth Relic.
Even now it is like that and the Mahanayaks are toothless and are overtaken by the political bigwigs.
8. I do not know how the Governor had a bath when he came to Kandy for his sojourns.
9. Kandy had ample amount of rain and underground water was available if one digs a little down to the earth.
10. Buddhist priests had a bathing place (it is still there, hardly used now) in front of the Malawatta Temple.
That supports my above statement.
11. My maternal grant parents moved to Kandy during British and settled on the outer periphery of Kandy beyond the Ampitiya Seminary (which is where even now the clergy to be are trained).
My English education started there from that seminary (that story is for another day).
12. The land they bought extended to the periphery of the Seminary at its top.
The boundary was determined by waste water that runs during the rainy season.
His land had the best well in the neighborhood and in actual fact there were no neighbors when he settled down.
His brother of course ventured into tea plantation but come our time the tea plantation was whole heartedly neglected.
14. The next biggest well was in the middle of the paddy field far away from my grandparent’s and that also belonged to a distant relation.
15. When I was very little I was in Kandy and my bathing place was Raja Pihilla (King’s Waterfall not a fountain) and that was where the king probably had his bath.
Strangely there were no water fountains in Kandy except one near the Maligawa.
Who wants water fountains when rain came every 7 to 10 day in Kandy?
I detest the use of water of the lake (from the Island in the middle) for spraying the city.
The water has all the nasties including pathological amoebae.
16. Beyond the point where the well was located inside a cubicle house water was really scarce even then.
It has become worse (well water) now.
17. After a major family dispute (basically due to eternal land disputes which my father hated) we moved away.
That was one of the best decisions my father made and I as a little brat (not even going to primary school) was very much involved in one of those disputes.
Relating that story was not relevant but I lost contact with all our dearly loved cousins thereafter.
18. From that point onwards the water supply and bathing was a big problem (I of course preferred not bathing since water was very chilly unlike nowadays).
19. The said well housed inside a cubicle and was permanently locked and we had to take the key and fetch water and bathing was allowed only during weekends.
20. The weekends were the water sports days.
All the boys (related) will do the fetching of water and all the washing ups.
It was our swimming pool too (when closed from inside) and I learned to float on water upright and horizontal in this huge well.
Then we empty the entire well and that was supposed to feed the paddy fields.
In any case that was our justification (never the water sports we played inside) and hit two birds with one stone.
21. There was a common bathing place for the entire village and we were lucky we never went there unless we were in a mood for water sports and nobody else was bathing there at the time of our visit.
When we come in a gang of course others give way but we knowing very well it is bad, never had any mishaps for the entire period we were there.
22. As we grew up we hated taking a bath inside (it was basically meant for ladies) a cubicle and we were basically outdoor people and went out in all directions looking for streams and bathing places.
23. There were quite a number then.
The streams were clean and learning swimming in open space was another practice we indulged.
24. We left this place in early sixties never to return.
My father gets 4 yearly regimented transfers and only in his last 8 years I was able to move into Kandy City again.
Recently I visited one of those streams and there is no more stream left but a waste water canal and it was putrid and no fish life at all.
25. Little over thirty years all of them have become Kunu Elas (rubbish streams like the Mada Ela-I call it the Condom Ela since one can see condoms floating in the water) or run dry in Kandy.
26. From Raja Phihilla to Kunu Ela is the development we have had seen and witnessed in Kandy after the independence.
27. Kandy Lake is the most polluted water body and there is no question about it.
Once a national champion swimmer got drowned there.
That water is not even conducive to fish and tortoises.
28. The point I am driving at is there is no clean underground water to drink in Municipality Limits and we have to purify the water before drinking.
If for some reason pipe borne water is interrupted which is a regular occurrence nowadays there is no alternative source of water i.e., well water.
The open or surface water bodies are constantly being contaminated like in Pollonnaruwa.
It is becoming worse by the day.
29. A strange thing that happens nowadays is when the political bigwigs come to Kandy, water from Nillambe is diverted to supply Kandy, rudely interrupting the supply to where I live and sometimes over 24 hours.
This is specially so during Perehara time.
30. In this discussion in a list form, I have avoided talking about Mahaweli which runs round the city periphery.
Reason I should tell now.
Mahaweli was very dangerous in our time.
One of my cousins, one of my teacher’s brother, lot of undergraduates and many more lives were lost in our times as opposed to only one life I mentioned above in the Kandy Lake.
After my cousin’s death we were banned but I still used to go with my uncles, dogs and servants.
There was always company and life saver standing by.
After the Polgolla dam everything in Kandy changed and the bomb at the Maligawa put a final nail to this city of adventure for many including Kings and the British.
It is where now only the business monkeys come to venture out.
I cannot walk my dog in a quiet evening round the lake which I used to do as a medical student.
The dog was my physical instructor then, not a highly paid foreigner/s (used by the Cricket Board going bankrupt).
I was a sportsman good enough to represent the university but not the national teams.
Sadly there is no place to play snooker or billiards except few hotels.
The other day we were at Digana and my daughter only remembered me playing snooker with the British guys which went on till early hours.
They were given ample space to play and a good restaurant to eat anything they want including fish and chips, they loved it.
The sports complex is no more and tennis court was like the university tennis court in late 1980s (1988-1989) with grass growing to the height of 6 feet and above in 2011-2012.
But tennis court at Digana was in trim condition then in spite of the hive of J.V.P activity.
I was able to play either indoors or outdoors and we had a squash court too.
Mind you we had a private bar too.
My current dog has no place to wander except inside the house.
This developing world has changed for worse and they are still continuing to develop more and more roads but no place for the poor pedestrians to rest or walk for leisure and exercise.
This has become a Miracle City only for Buddhists.
With development there is pollution especially Air we breath and Water we drink.
I thank the god in this Thanksgiving Weekend that I no longer reside within the municipality now.
I will not move in now, even for leisure.