Mahawilachchiya is a farming settlement initiated by the government in 1950s with the repair of Mahawilachchiya reservoir, which was constructed by Prince Saliya, the son of king Dutugemunu (161-131 BC) in the 140 BC. The area had been abandoned for centuries before the settlements were done. There are two huge reservoirs called Mahawilachchiya and Kudawilachchiya, the latter remains unrepaired today. The village, rather the colony of Mahawilachchiya, was recreated around the Mahawilachchiya reservoir.
Mahawilachchiya village is located 40 kilometers away from Anuradhapura city. The village is surrounded by the Wilpattu National Park, the biggest national wildlife park in Sri Lanka. The even land stretches unto the horizon hosting water reservoirs small and large in scale including the Mahawilachchiya reservoir, one of the biggest in Sri Lanka. The flat fertile land provides the population with everything it needs to sustain itself, since farming is the livelihood of the most of the people here and also lush jungle, home to lots of wildlife.
Mahawilachchiya is surrounded by ancient ruins and places of historical significance. Malwathu Oya River, the path which led the Indian prince Vijaya into the country quietly flows across the area. Prince Vijaya later became the first king of Sri Lanka. Vijaya’s team built their villages along the Malvathu Oya and later they either developed as cities or vanished into the history. Anuradhapura is such a village that was converted to the first capital of Sri Lanka. It is full of ancient pagodas, stone Buddha statues and shrines.
In the area surrounding Mahawilachchiya there are a lot of historical artifacts. It bears witness to a large number of ruins including stone statues which had been abandoned for thousands of years. According to some villagers who sneak into the restricted forest, some of them had been badly damaged by treasure hunters. Restoration and excavation in the forest has totally been given up due to the war between Tamil Tigers and the government forces that lasted for several decades. The war ended in 2009 for good still no restoration has been taken place.
The population of Mahawilachchiya is around 20,000 and nearly 8,000 families live in the area. The population is mainly Sinhalese Buddhists though there are few Sinhalese catholic families too. There may be less than 10 Tamil families in the village but Muslims are hard to find in Mahawilachchiya. Majority of the population is farmers but the second and the third generation of the village tend to migrate into cities looking for more comfortable jobs.
Mahawilachchiya has two main police stations, one in central Pemaduwa and the other in central Tantirimale. There are smaller police posts and check points, as well as army bases and training camps, scattered throughout the village. Now that the war has ended, there is no security threat or whatsoever and people live peacefully.
The Tamil Tigers attacked the police, army, Civil Security Force and civilians of the village several times since 1985. However, successful operations carried out by the Sri Lanka forces the terrorists were eliminated by 2009. Before 2008, terrorists have killed several civilians and armed forces members in Mahawilachchiya. But on most occasions the armed forces repulsed the attacks and caused heavy damages to the terrorists.
The economy of the village depends mostly on agriculture. Most villagers do grow rice and some of the villagers do “slash and burn” (chena – clearing the jungle and farming) cultivation too. Villagers either sell the produce to village businessmen or the farmers take their crop to markets in Anuradhapura, Nochchiyagama or Dambulla expecting better prices. A common problem among the villagers is that they have to spend a great deal of money for fertilizer, weedicide and insecticides so they do not get a high return for their labor and expenses. But since the year 2008, the farmers have been able to get good prices due to the rise of food prices globally. Besides fertilizer subsidies introduced by the government also have helped the farmers.
The other main source of income to Mahawilachchiya is the freshwater fish business. Mahawilachchiya is famous for its big freshwater fish produce which comes mainly from the Mahawilachchiya reservoir and other small reservoirs and streams in the village.
Most people in Mahawilachchiya depend on traditional farming methods to provide for their families. However, a few families are moving towards alternative methods of income earning such as poultry farming and dairy farming. There are rice processing mills as well. Outside of agriculture, there are small businesses like making bricks or concrete blocks. There are a number of self-employment ventures too.
The poverty of ideas and the lack of capital hinder the development of a community ripe with opportunities. Tree planting, farming (rice and vegetables and various crops like cow pea, cashew and corns) will ensure a healthy income as the soil around Mahawilachchiya is said to be fine for such crops. Brick making and tile industry, too, stand a fairly sensible investment opportunity.
Mahawilachchiya is a village in the dry zone of Sri Lanka. It has beautiful environs. The village is surrounded by Wilpattu National Park, a paradise full of wild animals like wild elephants, leopards, bear, deer, and wild boars. Beautiful wild flowers and birds, like the jungle fowl and the peacock are a common sight here. Large musters of peacocks can be seen roaming freely in the plains on either side of the road. Many reservoirs are found in the village of Mahawilachchiya. Poaching takes place in a considerable proportion in various forms like trap guns, traps and night hunting. Hence a mechanism to minimize the danger of some species of animals facing extinction is a need of the hour.
There are two government hospitals in the Mahawilachchiya area. One is in Mahawilachchiya and the other is situated in Tantirimale. The village hospitals are doing a valuable service helping the community with its limited resources. The critical patients who cannot be treated in two government hospitals are sent to Anuradhapura hospital, which is 40km away by ambulances. The community faces the same health problems as most of the remote villages in the dry zone. These health problems could be prevented through better health education and facilities in the area. Luckily, malaria that was a menace in this part of the country some time back has been eradicated totally and Sri Lanka is declared a malaria-free country by the World Health Organization (WHO.) Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) has done some damages to the village farmers but now everybody buys purified water for drinking for .50 cents to 3 LKR (0.0033 USD to 0.0198 USD.)
The most appropriate solution to these problems is therefore not to rush patients to Anuradhapura but to bring the facilities to the village. Therefore the existing rural hospitals, which cater to the needs of more than 20,000 residents of the area, should be upgraded with modern facilities. Mahawilachchiya hospital is being repaired these days.
Electricity fluctuations were quite frequent here and Horizon Lanka was able to provide a backup generator through a donor organization called Lak Saviya Foundation in Australia. They contacted Horizon Lanka after seeing a web post written by the then Horizon Lanka student, Radhika Nilupulee Rajapksha about the need of a generator.
There are some pharmacies and private dispensaries in Mahawilachchiya. Private dispensaries are usually open after 5pm. There are a number of ayurvedic and indigenous medical practitioners in the village. They are specialized in various fields and have won the people’s faith over the centuries as the practice is transferred from generations to generations.
There are 15 public schools in Mahawilachchiya Divisional Secretariat Division and a considerable student population is receiving education in these schools now. Some public schools have computer labs but none of those schools has Internet access. (Horizon Lanka provided free internet access to four of the schools during 2006 – 2011 through its mesh Wi-Fi network.) The facilities in village schools are limited. Most of the teachers are from outstations so when they get transferred students lose the opportunity to study some important subjects like English, ICT, mathematics and science. Hence, sometimes the syllabus will not be covered by the end of the year. Further, for Advanced Level (High School) education only Art and Commerce streams are done in these schools and, therefore the students who wish to do their A/L in science or mathematics streams have to go to the city. The biggest school in Mahawilachchiya is the Siddhartha School
Horizon Academy provides English and ICT education to the enrolled students. There are some private tuition classes in the village for almost all academic subjects. There are several few dhamma schools in Buddhist temples that teach Buddhism on Sundays. There are no private schools in Mahawilachchiya.
15 PUBLIC SCHOOLS IN MAHAWILACHCHIYA DIVISIONAL SECRETARIAT DIVISION
- Sidhdhartha Maha Vidyalaya, Pemaduwa
- Thakshila Maha Vidyalaya, Bogas Handiya
- Saliyamala Maha Vidyalaya, Tract 7
- Gamini Vidyalaya, Tract 3
- Rahula Vidyalaya, Ethdathkalla
- Kashyapa Vidyalaya, Oyamaduwa
- Kuda Thammennawa Vidyalaya, Kadurupitiya
- Dunumandalawa Vidyalaya, Dunumandalawa
- Sirisangabo Vidyalaya, Wanni Helambawewa
- Thambiyawa Vidyalaya, Sandamal Eliya
- Ananda Vidyalaya, Kimbulewa
- Billewa Vidyalaya, Billewa
- Siyambalagaswewa Vidyalaya, Siyambalagaswewa
- Sri Wimalagnana Maha Vidyalaya, Tantirimale
- Seevali Vidyalaya, Pemaduwa