Bridging Lanka I: Sustaining Mannar’s Kulams

BRIDGING LANKA is a multi-faceted programme initiated by the Sri Lankan Austrailan Jeremy Liyanage and friends from circa 2009(?) to assist the social welfare of all the peoples in Mannar island and its adjoining hinterland. I was an observer at a town planning jam-session way back around 2011(?) and have been in touch with Liyanage ver since. Thuppahi is delighted to feature the several social service paths that BRIDGING LANKA is pursuing in the locality.

Protecting and Rehabilitating Mannar’s Kulams (ponds)


Our aim: This project aims to rehabilitate Periyakamam Kulam as a ‘demonstration kulam’ so that authorities and residents alike will be inspired to value, protect and rehabilitate other kulams in Mannar. The sharp decrease in the number of kulams caused by severe encroachment has led to worsening annual flooding in the urban area, resulting in much human displacement and misery.


This project incorporates physical and social infrastructure development including flood mitigation, beautification of usable open space, recreational and health benefits as well as opportunities for local economic activity and tourism.  It integrates community input, leadership and ownership while collaborating with local authorities to ensure local aspirations as well as legal requirements are met.
Background: ‘Kulams’ are water retardation basins, both natural and constructed, which have protected Mannar from flooding in the intense three-month wet season for hundreds of years. Some eighty kulams have now been reduced to about a dozen due to severe encroachment for urban expansion. This has contributed to significant annual flooding of the urban area, causing much human misery and population displacement.
Until recently, the connection between ‘filling’ of the kulams and ‘flooding’ of Mannar Town hasn’t been realised either by authorities, encroachers or residents. It has been a challenge to convince them of the dangers and benefits associated with kulams, hence the decision to create an effective demonstration.
Meetings have already been held with the Women’s and Men’s Rural Development Societies, authorities and local residents who have all given the ‘green light’ to the transformation of this kulam into an attractive, open space, recreational facility.
The Kulam project: The kulams are a vital component in alleviating the stress on Mannar’s drainage system and also offers an ideal opportunity to promote social, environmental and economic wellbeing for the whole community.  Cost: $15,000: earthworks, plantings, pathway and perimeter wall construction, paving and seating.
Key objectives
  1. Social: (a) build community agency and ownership in the development of an attractive precinct which nurtures social interaction in a town with little open space; (b) engage the community in the design and implementation process and increase community understanding of the importance of kulams;
  2. Environmental: (a) protect kulams from urban encroachment and destruction; (b) provide an effective drainage system that will mitigate the impact of urban flooding; (c) improve water quality; (d) create a community campaign that stops littering and dumping of rubbish in kulam;
  3. Health: (a) create accessible pathways surrounding the kulam to encourage healthy activity; (b) design and conduct a ‘healthy community’ program to address the health epidemics of diabetes, heart disease and obesity through awareness and activity (walking, jogging, swimming, canoeing, etc);
  4. Economic: (a) create micro businesses for vulnerable groups including widows, young people and the unemployed which service local demand; (b) develop tourism-related activity for visitors to Mannar.

TWO AMATEUR IMAGES of kulams taken by Michael Roberts, August 2016, with one beside a new house 


Filed under heritage, legal issues, life stories, modernity & modernization, patriotism, performance, plural society, reconciliation, rehabilitation, security, self-reflexivity, Sinhala-Tamil Relations, social justice, sri lankan society, Tamil civilians, unusual people, voluntary workers, welfare & philanthophy, world affairs

3 responses to “Bridging Lanka I: Sustaining Mannar’s Kulams

  1. Pingback: Karuna’s Split with Pirapāharan in 2004 in his Own Words | Thuppahi's Blog

  2. Pingback: Addressing the 9/11 Conspiracy Theorists: Where Fervour Trumps ‘Deep Throats’ | Thuppahi's Blog

  3. Pingback: The Looming Death of Kulams in Mannar … and Thus …. | Thuppahi's Blog

Leave a Reply