Mahaweli land ownership: Dream come true | Sunday Observer

Mahaweli land ownership: Dream come true

“This is indeed a God given gift for my family,” farmer Rambanda of Rambakan Oya System C of Mahaweli scheme said, shedding a tear of joy. “I have cultivated this land for more than 30 years and now, finally, I can call it my own soil”.

Rambanda stated this minutes after receiving the land deed for the 5-acre land extent given to him 30 years ago. He, together with his sons and daughters and their spouses were present at the ‘Randiyawara’ ceremony to hand over land deeds to the Mahaweli settlers, held at the Maguldamana School grounds at Aralaganwila, last week.

The President declared that all Mahaweli settlers will be given land deeds by the end of this year. At the Arlaganwila ceremony 12,083 land deeds to Mahaweli settlers of Mahaweli ‘B’ and ‘C’ Rambakan Oya systems were presented under the President’s national program to present one million land deeds island-wide within this year. This program was launched in 2016 to provide a solution to the long-standing problem faced by Mahaweli settlers. Under this program, 100,000 land deeds have already been presented to the Mahaweli settlers. Another 40,000 deeds, grant titles, and lease certificates will be presented shortly.

The accelerated Mahaweli Project was launched in 1978 under the stewardship of Mahaweli Minister Gamini  Dissnayake in the government of President J R Jayewardene. Its focus was on hydro power generation in addition to irrigation and agriculture development 

According to the Land Commissioner General’s Department, one million deeds and permits have been given to Mahaweli B, C and H systems in 2017, under this project. Accordingly,12,573 government entities including schools, hospitals and police stations that have hitherto operated without a proper deed have also received land titles.

During the program, deeds of ownership were granted to people in Mahaweli B (6,104) and C (4,312) and Rambakan Oya (1,595) systems. Further, 22 temples were granted land, while 50 government institutions also received titles, totalling 12,083 land deeds.

Addressing the gathering, the President said, the Mahaweli development project was a mammoth multi-purpose development project that covered many sectors, including, electricity and agriculture. Commenting on ensuring people’s rights to own land, the President said, the remaining land deeds will be given to farmers without delay, irrespective of politics or political party affiliations of the recipients.

He recalled that mega conflicts in history were based on the right to lands. He said, the Government is performing to fulfil its responsibility to give all Sri Lankans a right to own land.

The President expressed pleasure that the Moragahakanda Reservoir could be constructed to complete the Mahaweli scheme’s large tanks. This project has helped to relieve the grievance of farmers and strengthen the economy of the country.

The President also expressed confidence that the farming community will greatly benefit from the largest of its kind initiative since Independence, to restore 2,400 agricultural tanks simultaneously, launched last year. “The project has suffered due to the lack of numbers of sufficient engineers and technical officers. Special remedial measures are being taken right now.”

The Mahaweli Authority owns one third of the lands in the country. The main focus of the Mahaweli farmer is to supply food, such as fruits, vegetables and paddy. There are many key components, the first is to manage the lands, and second, manage water. These are important aspects for agriculture.

The Mahaweli Project was initiated in 1969 during the Government of Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake and his Minister of Lands and Agriculture, C P de Silva was the pioneer of the project.

The accelerated Mahaweli Project was launched in 1978 under the stewardship of Mahaweli Minister Gamini Dissnayake in the Government of President J R Jayewardene. Its focus was on hydro power generation in addition to irrigation and agriculture development.

Under President Sirisena, the program was reviewed with main focus on agriculture and people’s needs. It also included the Mahaweli youth, who are the third generation of the Mahaweli Project. Work has been commenced to customise them with future global food and water requirement, global warming, energy, solar, etc.

The third generation of the Mahaweli Project has been launched in collaboration with all stakeholders, such as, the Mahaweli, Agriculture and Land Ministries, with focus on the Mahaweli youth, to conduct livelihood and cultural programs as well as sports and create a proper position for them in society. The “Mahaweli Prathibha” program was also aimed at promoting the talents of the Mahaweli youths.

Another program ‘Mahaweli Hydraulic Civilisation Problems’ and awareness campaigns have been conducted along with university students to educate the students. The program intends to protect the environment and optimise the production of crops through agriculture and farming.

Last week, the President opened the two-storey building constructed under the ‘Pibidemu Polonnaruwa’ project at Aranaganwila Maguldamana Maha Vidyalaya before the presentation of deeds.

Acknowledging the best farming families of Mahaweli B and C and Rambakan Oya systems, the President presented special gifts to them. Speaking at the ceremony, President Sirisena said, the Government expects to implement a new program in the agricultural sector to strengthen the economy of the farmers as well as the national economy, through increasing the foreign market for local vegetables and fruits. He said, the Government has planned a program to attract the young generation to agriculture through modernising the agricultural sector.

This is the first time such a large number of title deeds were awarded, providing a lasting solution to a prolonged issue faced by Mahaweli settlers.

(The writer is attached to the Presidential Media Division)

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