The Restoration of the Ancient System of Tank Irrigation in Ceylon


A WORK apparently pregnant with the largest and most beneficent results to the native population of Ceylon is in process of being carried out by the Colonial Government of that island. More than a thousand years ago a system of irrigation, the most complete and remarkable that the world has ever seen was in successful operation in the Low Country, and the object which the Government has in view is to restore to something like its pristine fertility a large proportion of the immense tracts of land—many hundreds of thousands of acres in extent—that for want of water have fallen into a condition of the most utter sterility. Sir Emerson Tennant, writing twenty years ago on this subject, says, “The difficulties attendant on any attempt to bring back cultivation by the repair of the tanks are too apparent to escape notice. The system to be restored was the growth of 1,000 years of freedom, which a brief interval of anarchy sufficed to destroy, and it would require the lapse of long periods to reproduce the population and recreate the wealth in cattle and manual labour essential to realise again the agricultural prosperity which prevailed under the Singhalese dynasties. But the experiment is worthy of the beneficent rule of the British Crown under whose auspices the ancient organisation may be restored amongst the native Singhalese.”

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

ABBAY, R. The Restoration of the Ancient System of Tank Irrigation in Ceylon . Nature 16, 509–512 (1877).

Download citation

Further reading


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.