Tank systems as cultural heritage
The ancient water harvesting and management system of Sri Lanka is a unique example of a rich cultural heritage. The World Heritage site of Anuradhapura and its hinterland are considered as the epicentre of what is also identified as the hydraulic (vapi) civilization nurtured by the ancient water harvesting and management system of Sri Lanka.
Over the centuries, regionally specific governance structures developed, including legal frameworks and particular rituals for the system’s use and maintenance. Until today the use of such water management systems is often sustained by a broad local knowledge base. Consequently, these systems represent a substantial part of tangible and intangible cultural heritage.
Traditional water harvesting, storage and distribution systems are now endangered as modern solutions (e.g. groundwater pumping) successively replace traditional techniques and historic systems fall in disrepair. Rural-urban migration affects such systems since labour for maintenance work becomes scarce and the knowledge required to operate and maintain these systems is gradually lost. Furthermore, local water management systems are designed for specific environmental conditions and might be affected by climate change when system thresholds are exceeded.
The importance of traditional water management for sustainable development remains largely unexplored. It is our strong conviction that the preservation of such systems and their integration into modern needs has great potential for future sustainable development.