Things are intensifying here at home and also in Sri Lanka, which I've been preparing for for months. In fact it feels like years and in a sense it has, because in 2013 I first became acquainted with the irrigation tanks of Sri Lanka as a curiosity. Later that year it grew into a wide literature search as I spent several weeks in the Tozzer Library at Harvard, and with the help of librarians there started to pull together a base of knowledge and along with it, a bibliography.
I was introduced to the work of Professor Madduma Bandara who I'll be meeting in a few weeks...seems almost miraculous that we've been able to make this contact. And along with him in the field Dr. Abeysingha has agreed to bring students from Rajarata University. So it looks like I'll get the long-awaited (and we'll see if it's an ill-fated plan) scheme to bring a group of researchers to the tank environment. My goal all along has been to see the Sri Lankan landscape through Sri Lankan eyes.
As if all this weren't enough my months-long correspondence with Dr. MUA Tennakoon of the South Asia Partnership has come full circle. Janet and I will only be in Colombo for a couple of days and I wanted to have a face-to-face conversation with him before we head to Anuradhapura. Out of the blue he told me he would pick us up at the airport when we arrive on September 17 so we can start our discussion then and there! He plans to spill over into the 18th and on top of that he asked me to put him in touch with my colleagues at Rajarata University so we could coordinate the site visits we're planning.
I anticipate that one of these will be the village tank at Alisantha, not far from Rajarata University, which SAP SRI has been involved in rehabilitating. Dr. Tennakoon sent me amazing pictures of the perahana (the reed beds) at Alisantha, one of his major areas of focus. The reed beds, which are located close to the catchment area of the tanks, filter sediments out, soften the rush of water into the tank, and harbor a great deal of biodiversity. They are severely threatened and Dr. Tennakoon reports that they are not present in most tanks. So this will be an opportunity to study them close up and Tennakoon has hinted that I may be able to participate in replanting some of the perahana at Alisantha! To get my hands in that on-the-ground level activity will be an amazing opportunity.
Also amazing is the response I've gotten on twitter to my posts about Alisantha. As it turns out SAP SRI partners with the UNDF and the GEF, and folks there have picked up on my excitement about this project. New horizons all around.
So, there's been a lot brewing and lots more to come. I hadn't expected that I would start this early but to meet the end of the dry season, when we have the best chance at seeing the dry tank bottoms, I had to get there before the end of September. Thanks to Ramya Jirasinghe, our Assistant Director at the Fulbright Commission in Colombo, the visa process was sped up and set into action! Now I have to do my part.