Subscriptions: RSSEmail

Ancient water tanks of Sri Lanka to adapt to a changing climate

The Ministry of Disaster Management of the Government of Sri Lanka with the support of UNDP is working to adapt to the new climatic conditions.

Over 2400 years ago, the ancient kings of Sri Lanka built a sophisticated network of small tanks connected by canals to large reservoirs to collect and redistribute every single drop of rain the land received. The tanks were built in cascading systems, using the natural inclination and topography of the land, full of small watersheds. They kept the natural cycle of water through soil, vegetation and atmosphere. The main goal of the system was to save and re-use water, allowing cultivation of rice in the dry zone. Tanks, paddy fields, watersheds, canals and natural ecosystems were perfectly interlaced. 

The cascade system was perfectly adapted to cope with Sri Lanka’s climate, characterized by recurrent droughts and floods. The tanks were equipped with features to prevent floods, preserve water and control evaporation. For this reason, the Government of Sri Lanka and UNDP are rehabilitating 33 tanks that were in disrepair and need upgrading given the new climate change realities. In doing so, the Government and UNDP will also reintroduce ancient elements that have been forgotten over the centuries.

Rehabilitating tanks will make communities more self-sufficient, allowing them to produce a surplus of crops from home gardens and rice, which Sri Lanka’s farmers associate to their very own cultural identity. 


  • Themes:Critical Infrastructure, Cultural Heritage, Water
  • Hazards:Drought, Flood
  • Countries/Regions:Sri Lanka

  • Short URL:http://preventionweb.net/go/52478

Email this page


Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030

Documents, tools and processes