“Uma Diya Janani”: Joint Inauguration of the Uma-Oya Multipurpose Development Project by the Presidents of Iran and Sri Lanka

  • Striving for Enhanced Relations with Iran: President of Sri Lanka.
  • Committed to Strong Partnership with Sri Lanka: President of Iran.

The “Uma Diya Janani” multipurpose development project, marked as a significant irrigation initiative following the Mahaweli movement, was officially handed over to the public (24) by the Presidents of Iran and Sri Lanka. Iranian President Dr. Ibrahim Raisi, attending the event at President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s invitation, received a warm welcome.

During the ceremony, both leaders unveiled a commemorative plaque and inaugurated the project, initiating the operation of electricity generators through digital technology. President Ranil Wickremesinghe expressed gratitude to Iran for their indispensable support, highlighting that without it, Sri Lanka couldn’t have diverted water from Uma Oya to Kirindi Oya. He emphasized Sri Lanka’s commitment to strengthening ties with Iran.

Reflecting on the shared aspirations of the Global South for their unique identity and independence, President Wickremesinghe stressed the importance of solidarity among these nations.

President Ibrahim Raisi of Iran underscored that the project symbolizes not only the friendship between Iran and Sri Lanka but also signifies enhanced cooperation, integration, harmony, and unity among Asian nations.

The President of Iran affirmed Iran’s readiness to foster a strong partnership with Sri Lanka and expressed Iran’s willingness to contribute to Sri Lanka’s progress and development through the provision of technical and engineering services for large-scale projects.

Iran’s President Dr. Ibrahim Raisi, accompanied by Iran’s First Lady Mrs. Jamile Sadat Alamolhoda, arrived in Sri Lanka from the Mattala Airport this morning (24) to attend the inauguration of the Uma Oya Multipurpose Development Project. Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena and other ministers warmly welcomed the Iranian delegation.

President Raisi’s one-day official visit to Sri Lanka, at the special invitation of President Ranil Wickremesinghe, marks the first visit by an Iranian President since Former Iranian President Mohammad Ahmadinejad’s visit in April 2008.

As part of his visit, the Iranian president left a commemorative message in the guest book at the Mattala International Airport.

The Uma Oya Multipurpose Development Project (UOMDP) stands as a flagship initiative of national significance in Sri Lanka. Its primary aim is to divert approximately 145 million cubic meters (MCM) of excess water annually from the Uma Oya basin to the Kirindi Oya basin, addressing the issue of water scarcity in the south-eastern dry zone without adverse effects on the environment or water sources.

This initiative will facilitate irrigation for around 4,500 hectares of new land and 1,500 hectares of existing agricultural land in the Monaragala district. Additionally, it will fulfill the drinking and industrial water requirements of Badulla, Monaragala, and Hambantota areas, providing approximately 39 million cubic meters (MCM) of water annually. Furthermore, the project will contribute to the national electricity supply by generating 290 gigawatt hours (290 GWh) of electrical capacity each year.

Key components of the project include the construction of two reservoirs, Puhulpola and Dyaraba, a 3.98 km connector tunnel linking the reservoirs, a 15.2 km main tunnel, an underground power plant, transmission lines, and associated infrastructure. The project was undertaken by Iran’s FARAB Engineering Company, with a total contract value of USD 514 million and it commenced on March 15, 2010. The Export Development Bank of Iran (EDBI) initially contributed USD 50 million in funding until 2013. However, owing to international sanctions imposed on Iran, the EDBI was unable to continue its financial support for the project. Accordingly, the Government of Sri Lanka opted to advance the project using state funds in collaboration with the respective contractor, FARAB Company.

When the project commenced on March 15, 2010, it was originally slated for completion by March 15, 2015. However, various challenges arose, including technical issues such as unexpected water ingress into the Headrace tunnel, social impacts, financial obstacles, global crises like the Covid-19 pandemic during construction. Consequently, the completion date of the project has been extended to March 31, 2024, along with an extension of the warranty period until March 31, 2025. The basic phase of operations concluded in February and March 2024 while linking the units 01 and 02 to the national grid successfully. Trial operations were commenced on April 1, 2024.

Upon generating electricity, the water is directed through a tunnel to the Alikota ara Reservoir, situated across the Kirindi Oya.

Subsequently, it will be routed to the Handapanagala Reservoir, which has tripled its capacity due to this project, positioned on the left bank of the Uma Oya Reservoir. Additionally, it will flow to the new Kuda Oya Reservoir under construction on the right bank of the Uma Oya, supplying water to areas in the Monaragala district such as Wellawaya, Maharagama, and Thanamalwila. Furthermore, an irrigation system spanning over 60 meters is currently being developed. These irrigation networks are anticipated to irrigate 1500 hectares of existing cultivated land and an additional 4500 hectares of newly developed land in both the Yala and Maha seasons.

The Uma Oya Lower Reservoir Development Project, led by the Irrigation Department, aims to eradicate the longstanding water scarcity issue in the Kirindi Oya river basin. The government has directed officials to implement an integrated agricultural development program, leveraging new technologies to maximize the benefits of the water. Furthermore, the Uma Oya Multipurpose Development Project addresses the challenge of providing water for both drinking and industrial purposes in Bandarawela and Wellawaya areas.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe, speaking further, added:

I express gratitude to the Iranian President for accepting our invitation and participating in handing this project over to the people. It brings our nations closer. This was started by our two predecessors.

It’s worth noting that this project was launched by the previous leaders who were in power before I assumed office. Additionally, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa expressed particular enthusiasm for this initiative aimed at supplying water to this dry zone. Former Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa took on the task of overseeing the completion of this project.

We have to face many challenges when implementing the Uma Oya Multipurpose Development Project. Both our countries have good experience in facing challenges. So we faced them successfully.

Moreover, the Uma Oya project is a great combination of the both countries. It has ancient irrigation practices of both Persia in Iran and Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka. It’s important to note that the transfer of water from Uma Oya to Kirindi Oya is not feasible due to a lack of technical expertise from Iran.

Iran’s technological prowess has spread across all fields. It should also be said that Iran is a country that maintains its own technological development. Therefore, we should strengthen the common points of both countries. We are all countries of the Global South. Such projects are very important at a time when the countries of the Global South are establishing their identity and independence.

The Uma Oya Multipurpose Development Project, spearheaded by Iran, has played a vital role in providing water to the inhabitants of our country’s dry zones. This initiative has instilled a sense of hope among the people for a better future.

Ensuring access to water in dry zones like Giruwapaththu and Magampaththu is essential for the survival and well-being of the communities living in those areas. Today, our efforts are directed towards extending the multipurpose system from Udawalawe to Kirindi, addressing this critical need. Additionally, we are embarking on the establishment of a new investment zone in the Hambanthota district, a venture that includes the approval of a fuel refinery by China’s Sinopec. This strategic move promises to invigorate the economy of the Hambanthota district.

This multipurpose development project aims to empower farmers to cultivate 6000 hectares of land in both Yala and Maha seasons. Notably, the Udawalawa area stands as Sri Lanka’s prime rice-producing area. With our sights set on extending similar endeavours to the Hambanthota area, we anticipate launching an agricultural modernization program in the southern province. Moreover, this endeavour promises substantial contributions to the energy sector.

Furthermore, the project will generate 120 megawatts of hydroelectric power. As developing countries in the Global South, Iran and Sri Lanka have jointly implemented this program. Accordingly, I affirm our commitment to fostering stronger ties between Iran and Sri Lanka, moving forward with purpose.

President of Iran, Dr. Ebrahim Raisi:

I extend my gratitude to Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe for inviting me to participate in this event. It is indeed a tremendous honour to be involved in such a symbol of unity, one that deepens the bond between our nations.

It is worth noting that this project stands as a testimony to the friendship shared between Iran and Sri Lanka. Today marks the official inauguration of this remarkable multipurpose development program. However, I believe that the main point of this is fostering utmost cooperation, integration, harmony, and unity not only between our two countries and among the nations across the Asian region.

It’s important to emphasize that the resolve and commitment of the people in both our nations outweigh the completion of this project.

President Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe, I would like to express that the Islamic Republic of Iran stands prepared to share its contemporary technological expertise with Sri Lanka.

Furthermore, we affirm our readiness to impart the knowledge acquired by Iran over the past 45 years to foster the advancement and development of Sri Lanka. I assure you that Iran is eager to forge a strong partnership with Sri Lanka, poised to contribute to its growth and development. Iran stands prepared to offer technical and engineering services for significant development initiatives in Sri Lanka.

Minister of Irrigation, Wildlife and Forest Resources Conservation Pavithra Wanniarachchi:

Today marks a profoundly significant occasion for the Uva province and Hambanthota district. I view today as the dawn of a new era in this area, where 1,500 hectares of fresh farmland are ripe for cultivation. Additionally, a new chapter commences wherein the existing 4,500 hectares of agricultural land can yield harvests in both spring and summer seasons. Today also heralds the resolution of the drinking water crisis for the people of Bandarawela and Wellawaya.

Furthermore, this project will contribute an additional 120 megawatts of electricity capacity to the national grid. In addition to the ‘Alikota ara’ Reservoir, the ‘Handapanagala’ Reservoir, ‘Kuda Oya’ Reservoir, and ‘Kirindi Oya’ tributaries, a vast irrigation system will be established through this initiative. It will be replenished with ample water, moistening the dry lands of Wellasse. Today marks the end of the water scarcity in the Kirindi Oya river basin.

As Sri Lankans, we proudly uphold a rich heritage of irrigation civilization. Today, it is worth noting that the Uma Oya Multipurpose Development Project will introduce new engineering technologies to enrich this civilization even further.

Minister of State for Irrigation Shasheendra Rajapaksa:

I want to extend my heartfelt gratitude to President Ranil Wickremesinghe, along with other ministers, government officials, and engineers who entrusted us with the responsibility to bring this project to fruition and played pivotal roles in its execution.

The residents of Monaragala district and Badulla district endured huge hardship due to water scarcity. Farmer organizations persistently uttered their concerns about the lack of water. While it required considerable time and effort to realize the success of this project, we are immensely thankful to everyone who supported us along the way.

Energy Minister of Ali Akbar Mehrabian:

It is crucial to highlight the significance of this meeting between the Presidents of Iran and Sri Lanka, marking a pivotal moment for both countries. This presents an opportune occasion to formally review the multipurpose development project, which holds paramount importance in bolstering bilateral relations.

Moreover, this project serves as a platform to enhance bilateral ties between our two nations. Iran stands as a frontrunner in constructing high-stakes dams, ranking fifth globally in irrigation network infrastructure, as per ICID. Leveraging Iran’s technical and engineering expertise, we’ve successfully executed 50 such large-scale projects across 20 countries worldwide.

Fostering a stronger bond between Iran and Sri Lanka not only facilitates technical and economic collaboration but also lays the groundwork for continued advancement in the future.

Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, Ministers Nimal Siripala de Silva, Ali Sabry, Mahinda Amaraweera, Kanchana Wijesekera, State Ministers, Tharaka Balasuriya, Vijitha Berugoda, Indika Anuruddha, Siripala Gamlath, D.V. Chanaka, Thenuka Vidanagamage, Uva Provincial Governor of Uva A.J.M. Muzammil, Southern Provincial Governor Willy Gamage, Eastern Provoncial Governor Senthil Thondaman, MPs Chamal Rajapaksa, Rauff Hakeem, Vadivel Suresh, Sudarshana Denipitiya, Tissa Kuttiarachchi, D. Weerasingha, A.L.M. Athaullah, Yadamini Gunawardena, Iran Delegationheaded by Iran Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and Iran Ambassador in Sri Lanka Alireza Delkhosh and number of guests were attend at the event.