Mantivu Island and the Forgotten Leprosy Hospital (මාන්තිවූ දූපතේ ලාදුරු රෝහල)

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The Batticaloa lagoon comprises several islands within it, namely Puliyantheevu, Mantheevu, Erumaitheevu (Buffalo Island), Sirayatheevu and Elubutheevu (Bone Island). Of these islands, Puliyantheevu is the most important island as it holds central city of the Batticaloa.

Mantivu Island (Mantheevu Island) covers 0.38 square kilometers (94 acres) having a circumference of 2.5 kms. is situated north of Valayiravu bridge and located between Thimilathivu and Vavunathivu, around 7 km from Batticaloa. It is an island where historically the leprosy patients had been isolated. The island is mostly flat but rises slightly from the beach towards the center.

The island has mangroves surrounding the island Hundreds of various birds nest here, mainly cormorants, but also pelicans..

Before the hospital was built, the Mantivu Island (Mantheevu Island) was covered in paddy fields, coconut groves and other fruit trees. The land is suitable for gardening but lacked water supply during the 4 driest months of the year. The Island is surrounded by deep water even at the driest season of the year. Thus it was realised that it would be more difficult for leprosy patients to escape from this new hospital.

This hospital complex was built in 1910 and commenced operations in November 1921. It was a full fledged hospital with wards, quarters, administrative block, cemetery, all religious centers, a school, a police station with 2 prison cells, and an area for cultivation. It began with a population of 151 patients, 116 male and 35 females from various provinces, though the majority of 122 were from the Eastern Province. There had not been any new admissions since 1983 and only three patients remain to date with no known relatives and life skills to survive outside the island.

A heavy fire had occurred in the island in 2009. There was a deer population at the beginning of the project in 1921 but none are seen at present. The facility had been supervised by the Franciscan sisters for long periods until the state took over the service around 1960.

Today Mantivu (Mantheevu) Hospital is operated under the Batticaloa Teaching Hospital. Most of the buildings are in ruins other than few central buildings. The religious places of worship including the Buddhist temple in the island are destroyed due to disuse.

At first the fishermen were not allowed to fish around this island for the fear of patients escaping using boats. Even now the fishermen do not go close to the island due to the fear of leprosy.

References

  1. Canagaratnam, S.O. (1921) Monograph of the Batticaloa District of the Eastern Province, Ceylon. Colombo, Ceylon: H. R. Cottle.
  2. Www.statistics.gov.lk (no date) Department of Census and Statistics. Available at: http://www.statistics.gov.lk/statistical%20Hbook/2019/Batticaloa/GAsList.pdf (Accessed: 12 May 2023).
  3. Bassett, R.H., Laws, E.J. and Murdoch, K. (1929) Romantic Ceylon : Its History, Legend and Story. London: Palmer.
  4. Woodeson, A. (1930) ‘Mantivu Leper Asylum, Batticaloa, Ceylon ’, Transactions of the Engineering Association of Ceylon, pp. 69–87.

Also See

Map of Mantivu Island (Mantheevu Island) in the Batticaloa Lagoon

Please click on the button below to load the Dynamic Google Map (ගූගල් සිතියම් පහලින්)
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The map above also shows other places of interest within a approximately 20 km radius of the current site. Click on any of the markers and the info box to take you to information of these sites

Zoom out the map to see more surrounding locations using the mouse scroll wheel or map controls.

Travel Directions to Mantivu Island (Mantheevu Island) in the Batticaloa Lagoon

There is no causeway to this island from the mainland. Only access is through a 10 minute ride on a boats which are operating from the lagoon of Batticaloa.

Route from Colombo to Mantivu Island (Mantheevu Island)Route II from Colombo to Mantivu Island (Mantheevu Island)
 Through : Ambepussa – Kandy – Mahiyangana
Distance : 330 km
Travel time : 7 hours
Driving directions : see on google map
Through : Ambepussa – Kandy – Mahiyangana
Distance : 330 km
Travel time : 8 hours
Driving directions : see on google map

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