Kantale Wewa Reservoir – කන්තලේ වැව

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The Kantale Tank
The Kantale Wewa

Sri Lanka’s reservoir building technology was at its peak during the mid Anuradhapura Kingdom era to  Polonnaruwa Kingdom Era ( 1017-1236) and most of the largest reservoirs in the country was built during this period. The Parakrama Samudraya, is the the largest,  constructed with a 14 kilometer dam encompassing 5 reservoirs within it was built by King Parakramabahu the Great during the 12th century. But some other gigantic tanks such as Minnerya Wewa and Kaudulla Wewa are some of the earlier work belong to early as 3rd Century. Though not as large as the giants, Kanthale Wewa lies on the way to Trincomalee and has been not short of attention from the colonial times.

Kantale was known as Ganthalawa since the days of the kings. Tamils used to write and pronounce it as Kathalai due the lack of letters and sounds in the tamil language.

When the government was attempting to re colonize Gantalawa in the early 1950’s, a team of early settlers had build a campsite inside the jungles had only a small path from the main road to reach their camp. A team leader from that group had put up a small board at the top of this path with the name of “Ganthalawa Camp Road”. A tamil politician called Wanniyasingam who was a MP representing Vavuniya District has seen this piece of board and has insisted that this name board should be removed and the transliterated Tamil name Kantale should be used in the parliament in 1952.02.28 according the Hansard Records. With no one standing against this, the name board was requested to be removed immediately by the government and acted as a prelude to Ganthalawa officially being called Kantale.

Kantale Reservoir
Kantale Reservoir

The great chronicle of Sri Lanka, Mahawamsa records that Kantale Wewa which is referred to as ‘Ganthala Vapi’ was built by King Agbo the II (608-618) and was rehabilitated and further developed by King . It is believed that King Agbo II in fact built over a small reservoir which was already existing by that time. Many rich folklore’s are woven around this ancient reservoir situated in the Trincomalee district. Both the Dutch and English who governed the country before we gained independence are recorded to have carried out reconstruction and rehabilitation work on this reservoir.

The Kantale Wewa covers area of 23 sq km and has a carrying capacity of 140.6 million cubic meters at full capacity. The dam is 16.75 meters high and 2.5 km long.  Next to Kantale Wewa is smaller reservoir which is now called Vendarasan Wewa which also has been subject to a name change in the recent past by the politicians who are feeding the tamil homeland concept. This reservoir has been known as Jayaraja wewa but its history is unknown. The general belief is that that the Jayaraja Reservoir was built by king Wasabha (65-109) and was donated to the Bramin who was meditating in a nearby rock cave for healing his eyes. Today this reservoir is fed by Kantale Wewa through 4 large tubes with a diameter of of 3 meters.

The Kanthale Wewa was built daming the Kantale Oya which begins from Hurulu Forest Reserve and falls on to the sea from Trincomalee.  The reservoir is also fed by waters of Yodha Ela which brings water from the Elahera Amuna to Minneriya Wewa and Kaudulla Wewa .

The ancient Kantale Wewa had 2 bisokotuwa to release water to the fields, one in northern side and one in southern side near the pattini devalaya. A new sluice gate called Montana Gate was built in 1950’s with the re colonize effort of Kantale Valley.  Disaster stuck the Kantale Wewa when its northern bund was breached 20th April 1986 during rains. The breaching of the dam has been attributed to a building of a pump house on the bund weakening its strength.  After this breach a new sluice was Radial sluice gate was installed at the breached sluice.  Today only this sluice and the Montana Sluice are operational.

The 1500 year old breached rock slice-gate has been reconstructed at the top of the dam for the viewing of the public.

The Jayaraja Wewa which as become Vendarasan Tank
The Jayaraja Wewa which as become Vendarasan Wewa
Primary Sources : Sri Lankawe Iparini Wew ha Wari Karmanthaya – Yuraj Padmin Soysa
Deveni Gajaba Niridhunge Kantale Rajadhaniya – Kantale P. L. Sirisena

Also See

Map of  the Kantale Wewa

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Traveling to Kantale Wewa

Route from Colombo to Kantale Wewa

Through : Giriulla – Kurunegala – Habarana
Distance : 225 km
Travel time : 5-6 hours
Driving directions : see on google map

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