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The ancient Sri Lankan 'tank cascades' tackling drought


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Each April, in the village of Maeliya in northwest Sri Lanka, Pinchal Weldurelage Siriwardene gathers his community under the shade of a large banyan tree. The tree overlooks a human-made body of water called a wewa – meaning reservoir or "tank" in Sinhala. The wewa stretches out besides the village's rice paddies for 175-acres (708,200 sq m) and is filled with the rainwater of preceding months.    

Siriwardene, the 76-year-old secretary of the village's agrarian committee, has a tightly-guarded ritual to perform. By boiling coconut milk on an open hearth beside the tank, he will seek blessings for a prosperous harvest from the deities residing in the tree. "It's only after that we open the sluice gate to water the rice fields," he told me when I visited on a scorching mid-April afternoon.



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