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Polonnaruwa Farmers Accuse Irrigation Officials

  • Drought in N.C.P.

By Nirmala Kannangara

Farmers in the Polonnaruwa district accuse the Irrigation Department for releasing enough water for cultivation only to the areas in the district that represents Government Ministers.

Farmer Organisations in Maduru Oya, Elahera, Kawudulla, Minneriya and Girithale told The Sunday Leader how unfair it is for the Irrigation Department to release water to areas that has government representation but paying no attention to the other areas.
“We have been ignored completely. Enough water is released from Parakrama Samudraya for the farmers around the tank and they have been able to cultivate all their paddy lands whereas we are unable to cultivate all our paddy lands,” a member of the Kaudulla farmer organisation said on condition of anonymity.

According to him, the Irrigation Department has instructed the farmers in Kaudulla, Minneriya, Elahera and Girithale to cultivate only half of their paddy lands. While in Maduru Oya they were instructed to cultivate only one third of their paddy lands due to lack of water.

“In these areas we cultivate more than 122, 000 acres of paddy during Yala Season and 150, 000 acres during Maha Season. We are now in Yala Season and have not been able to cultivate even 60, 000 acres. Since we could not get the necessary water that is needed for cultivation we cannot expect a good harvest next month. If we could get a fair harvest to survive till April when the Maha crop is harvested, we can survive without starving,” he added.

Meanwhile he said that due to a decline in paddy production in Polonnaruwa this season, there would be a shortage of rice in the country by the end of this year.

“It is the farmers in Polonnaruwa who produce bumper paddy harvest in the country. There was a time when the country could export rice but unfortunately to please the chemical fertiliser companies and wheat flour importers the government is systematically taking steps to reduce the rice production in the country,” said the sources.

He further accused the government of not giving drought relief to farmers who have spent their savings on the drought hit cultivation.
“There were knowledgeable agricultural officers in the good old days but they have now been replaced with Grama Niladharis (GN) who is a political henchman. If we had the agricultural officers they would have advised us on how to manage the drought and over come the situation. Instead, the present GN has messed up every thing and have ruined our lives,” the sources added.
The demoralised members of these farmer organizations further said that they are now living in fear as they will not be able to pay back the bank loans they have obtained.

“This has become a curse. We have been pushed to the wall from all quarters. The Irrigation Department does not release enough of water for us and when we got a good harvest during the last Maha season, the paddy buyers from Angunukolapelessa were not allowed to come to our villages by the Ministerial siblings who operate rice mills in the district. Hence we had no other options but to sell our crop to an agent of these ministerial siblings who did not pay us a good price,” he added.

According to him, had the paddy buyers were allowed to come to the villages to purchase the crop the farmers could have got a good price for their paddy.

“It would be an uphill task for us to pay back our bank loans even this time. If we fail to pay the loans the farmers would resort to the easiest way to get out of the anguish and commit suicide,” he added.

Meanwhile a coroner in Giritale who did not want to disclose his name explained how he and his colleagues had been instructed by their superiors not to reveal the exact cause of death in the death certificates of those who had committed suicides due to desperation as they could not pay back their loans. Instead, the coroners were instructed to state in the death certificate the cause of death as due to family disputes.

“So far we did not receive such orders for this year but we got these orders in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. We were given instructions to give the cause of death as -due to family disputes. I have given many death certificates with counterfeit details but on two occasions I could not follow the instructions as the families came to assault me for giving wrong details in the death certificate,” the coroner said.

This coroner further disclosed that they were given such instructions merely to hide the truth from the media.
“If the actual cause of death was given it will be recorded and once this is highlighted in the media, the people know that the government has not provided any relief to the farmers. This will certainly contradict what the politicians’ state in public meetings. For the politician government has provided all the facilities and is living a cozy life. Only the farmers know how they have been treated and how the government has failed to give the fertiliser and water needed for paddy cultivation,” he added.

Meanwhile Punchibanda a farmer in Girithale said as to how the farmers are compelled to use agro chemicals and fertilisers in abundance for the cultivation when enough of water is not provided for the paddy fields.

“When water is not provided, the weeds spread easily and we have to use agro chemicals to combat it. We guess that it is the agro chemical companies that control the distribution of water amongst us knowing the use of chemical fertilsers increases when there are is not enough water,” said Punchibanda.

Punchibanda queried as to why the government cannot restrict chemical fertilisers that has arsenic, which is the main cause for the deadly kidney disease.

“Two years ago some highly poisonous fertilisers were banned but within few months the ban was lifted. Why? Has the government carried out research on these fertilisers before the ban was lifted? Instead of protecting the people the government had to lift the ban to please the International Monitory Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. Like how the coroners in the Polonnaruwa district have been instructed to give wrong facts in the death certificate, we have now come to know that the same instructions have been given to hospitals not to give accurate details of those who die of kidney disease,” Punchibanda added.
According to Punchibanda, in Polonnaruwa district alone13 to 16 kidney patients die every day.

“The only cause for kidney disease is the use of excess chemical fertilisers. At a time when we cannot use a vehicle with out an Eco Test rating, the government allows the use of poisonous fertiliser that causes greater damage to the entire society. In 2012 some containers that contained highly poisonous fertilisers were seized by the Sri Lanka Customs but on government instructions they were released later. Out of the population of 420, 000 in the Polonnaruwa district, the health reports say there are 66,000 kidney patients. Our leaders do not want these figures to be highlighted and hence instructions have been given to the coroners not to reveal the exact cause of death of those who die of kidney diseases. That is why in most death certificates state the cause of death as either due to high blood pressure or heart attack,” alleged Punchibanda.

Meanwhile Palitha Amarapala a farmer leader in Walasmulla accused the local politicians in the area for emptying the water from Muruttawela reservoir and added that the paddy farmers in Hambantota district are facing a threat of losing their entire crop this Yala season.

“It is the Uruboku Oya that supplies water to the Muruttawela reservoir and if this Oya has enough water why are the Irrigation Officers claiming that the reservoir has dried up due to the prevailing drought. We got to know that the local politicians are behind this move as they are planning to excavate a hidden treasure. Since the farmers are keeping an eye on to the reservoir these local politicians have so far failed to excavate the hidden treasure. As no water is available, paddy farmers in Gonadeniya, Wekanda, D1, D2 and D3 zones are threatened with the loss of their entire crop this season.  Although we have cultivated 4, 500 to 5, 000 acres, two thirds of the entire cultivation has already been destroyed and wonder whether we could save the rest of the cultivation for our survival till the Maha season,” said Amarapala.

Meanwhile Amarapala alleged that it was on the instructions of the Hambantota Government Agent that the water in the Muruttawela reservoir was emptied. “The government officers follow local politician’s instructions. Unless this is bought to the notice of the central government, these politicians will not allow this reservoir to be filled,” added Amarapala.

 

‘No one talks, about our issues’ farmers
Farmer Organisations in Polonnaruwa district meanwhile said that a considerable number of farmers in the Polonnaruwa district who contributed immensely towards the national economy over the years by producing bumper paddy harvests are now begging in the Polonnaruwa sacred city.
“This is the pathetic situation from a farmer’s point of view. Rather than commit suicide to get away from the financial problems they face these farmers have opted to beg in the sacred city,” said Punchibanda.
According to Punchibanda, it was disheartening to note how the drought has left the farmers in a dire state.
“We do not get enough water as there are no parliamentary representatives in our villages. Hence there is no one to talk about our issues and we have to suffer as our crop is getting destroyed every day. Unless drought relief is given to us we too will have to join the farmers who beg in the sacred city to make a living,” said Punchibanda.

1 Comment for “Polonnaruwa Farmers Accuse Irrigation Officials”

  1. Gota the hero

    While people and animals are suffering in this country, the crook is too busy robbing the country through construction projects.

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