Maduru Oya National Park that lies between the Polonnaruwa-Batticaloa road and Mahiyangana-Padiyatalawa road in the districts of Ampara, Badulla and Polonnaruwa is created to protect the catchment area of Maduru Oya Irrigation Reservoir, Ratkinda Reservoir and Ulhitiya reservoir developed under the Mahaweli Development Project in the year 1983. Maduru Oya National Park is one the four Sri Lanka Wildlife Parks designated under the Mahaweli Development Project. The other three are Wasgamuwa (Wasgomuwa) National Park, Flood Plains National Park and Somawathiya National Park. To protect the elephant population of Maduru Oya National Park, it has been proposed to create a corridor linking it to Gal Oya National Park. The elephant corridor would be called Nilgala Jungle corridor (10,360 ha). The concept was as same as those of other modern irrigation projects that necessitated the creation of new Sri Lanka Wildlife Parks: Udawalve reservoir – Udawalave National Park; Senanyake Samudraya – Gal Oya National Park; Lunugamvehera reservoir – Lunugamvehera National Park of Sri Lanka Holidays.
Location of and Access to Maduru Oya National Park
Maduru Oya National Park is located 265km north-east of Colombo, that is when the northern route, the most practical route from Colombo is taken: via Kurunegala, Dambulla, Habarana, Polonnaruwa and Manampitiya.
The gateway to Maduru Oya National Park is Manampitiya on Polonnaruwa – Batticaloa road, 25km north of the entrance to park.
Manampitya can be reached by railway line that runs from Gal Oya to Batticaloa via Kaduruwela, Polonnaruwa of Sri Lanka Holidays. From Manapitiya, a B grade road to the south via Dakukana leads to the village of Aralaganwila. From Aralaganwila onwards a minor road via the villages of Damminna nad Kandegama leads to the park entrance. At the park entrance close to the Maduru Oya modern irrigation reservoir are two circuit bungalows and one dormitory for the tourists.
Maduru Oya National Park can be reached from Maha Oya, arriving from the south too. The route to Maha Oya from Colombo is via Kandy, Mahiyangana and Padiyatalawa.
To the north-west of Maduru Oya National Park is Wasgomuwa (Wasgamuwa) National Park also of Polonnaruwa district and to the south-east is Gal-Oya National Park of Ampara district.
Ulhitiya Campsite facing the Ulhitiya Reservoir at the south of the park is an ideal location for the nature lovers for an overnight stay.
The expanse, climate, terrain and vegetation of Maduru Oya National Park
The low land dry zone park spreading 58850 hectares, features a 8km long rocky range of hills to the south-west of the park. 15% of the park is constituted by water bodies: Maduru Oya, Ulhitiya, Ratkinda, NDK and Henanigala reserviors and tributaries of the Mahaweli and Maduru Oya river systems.
Climatic conditions are influenced by the north-east monsoon during the months spreading from October to January called Maha harvesting season. The north-east monsoon is instrumental in the mean annual rainfall of 1650 mm. Mean annual temperature at the park is 27 degrees Celsius.
The tropical evergreen forest is characterized by Buruta (Sinhala: Satin), Weera, Palu, Divul (Sinhala: Woodapple) and Ehela etc. Open plains are dominated by shrub and grass.
Hot Springs at MahaOya
Maha Oya Hot Water Springs aren’t as crowded as Kanniya Hot Water springs at Trincomalee. Maha Oya Hot Springs located off the Aralaganwila road are protected by the local authorities.
Elephants at Maduru Oya National Park
Maduru Oya National Park is home to about 150-200 elephants. The best hour to witness herds of elephants is at 4-5 pm when sun begins to set over the vast modern man-made irrigation reservoir.
Mammals at Maduru Oya National Park
Apart from the elephants, Maduru Oya National Park is home to Water Buffalo, Sloth Bear, Leopard, Torque Macaque, Purple-faced Leaf Monkey, Jackal, Fishing cat, Spotted Deer and Wild Boar. Nocturnal Slender Loris, a rare specie has been recorded at Maduru Oya National Park. Among the smaller mammals are Porcupine, Black Naped Hare, Indian Pangolin and Squirrels.
Reptiles and Amphibians at Maduru Oya National Park
Among the reptiles at the Maduru Oya National Park are Common Monitor, Water Monitor, Black-tailed Python,K, Common Cobra, Mugger Crocodile and Estuarine Crocodile. Other reptiles associated with aquatic habits are Indian Black Turtle and Indian Flap-shelled Turtle.
Birdlife at Maduru Oya National Park
Among the more than 100 species of birds found at the park are lesser Adjutant, Wooly necked stork, Open Bill, Painted Stork, Racket Tailed Drongo, Yellow Fronted Barbet, Sri Lanka Junglefowl and Spurfowl.
Maduru Oya Modern Irrigation Resevoir
Maduru Oya Reservoir is a major modern reservoir (capacity at FSL: 596 million cubic meters) constructed under the Accelerated Mahaweli Development Programme. It was built by means of a dam 1090 meters in length and 30 meters in height across the River Maduru Oya. The catchment area of the reservoir spreads to an area of 453 sq,km.
Maduru Oya reservoir is built combining ancient irrigation technology with modern. Remnants of an ancient sluice and a dam were discovered while the surveys were done for the most suitable location for the dam. The ruins are believed to be “Mahadhara Gallaka” ancient irrigation reservoir built by the great builder of reservoirs, King Mahasena (275-301 B.C.), who built a thousand reservoirs including the vast Minneriya Reservoir. The ancient sluice gate and the dam are preserved in commemoration of Maduru Oya’s heritage of the ancient irrigation engineering.
Sri Lanka Aborigines or Vedda of Maduru Oya National Park
A community of Vedda people (Sri Lanka Aborigines) also called Wannila Aththo, the indigenous ethnic group of Sri Lanka lives within the park boundary in Henanigala.
Kuda Sigiriya (Sinhala: small Sigirya) forest reserve in Dehiattakandiya is a biodiversity conservation site of Sri Lanka Holidays. This area is also of significant archaeological importance though unexplored as yet.
Sri Lanka Holidays Cultural Attractions nearby Maduru Oya National Park
An ancient sluice on the old ruptured earthen bund of the Maduru Oya was discovered in the 1980s.The sluice made up of stone slabs and bricks, is about 30 feet (9.1 m) high, 30 feet (9.1 m) wide and 219 feet (67 m) long. The upper sluice was built in two phases, the first of which dates to before the 6th century BC. The lower sluice is believed to be older than that.
Ruins of Buddhist shrines, temples, dagobas, statues, and hermitages are found in Henanigala, Kudawila, Gurukumbura, Ulketangoda, and Werapokuna belonging to various periods of 2553 years of unbroken recorded history of Sri Lanka. Early Brahmi inscriptions from first to third century AD have been discovered in Kandegamakanda.
The discovery of the ruins of ancient dam and sluice at Maduru Oya
Discovery of the ancient earthen dam and the sluice built during the reign of King Mahasena (275-301 B.C.) at the very location surveyed and calculated by the local and foreign irrigation engineering experts to build a dam straddling the river Maduru Oya in the year 1981, took Sri Lankans by storm. Some gasped, chuckled and took it on the stride: modern western engineering has just managed to match the ancient hydraulic engineering of Sri Lanka. Others grinned and bore it: in spite of the inland-sea like man-made made rainwater reservoirs at Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, it was only then, it dawned on them that our ancient Sinhalese Irrigation engineering, the hydraulic civilization of Sri Lanka has been second to none, no matter, ancient or modern. Overnight, Maduru Oya became a house hold name in Sri Lanka in the year 1981.
River Maduru Oya
The River Maduru Oya has its source to the North-east of Central Highlands of Sri Lanka at Uva hills east of Bibile at an elevation of 274 m. (900 ft.) above sea level. It flows north-eastwards covering a distance of about 136 km. and disgorges into the Vandaloos bay near lovely beaches of Kalkudah and Passikudha on the east coast.
The largest Modern Irrigation Project of Sri Lanka
Maduru Oya was the first major project (1978) taken up for construction under the Accelerated Programme of Mahaweli Development. The Accelerated Mahaweli Development Scheme (multi-purpose Mahaweli river diversification scheme) is the largest irrigation project of Sri Lanka ever. The modern experts had the use of intricate surveys, sophisticated instruments, rainfall and river data to make their calculations. Obviously the ancient Sri Lankan engineers were also backed by a knowledge of exact sciences without which such a technological achievement would not have been possible thousands of years ago. The workers who were who were leveling the ground, cutting the trenches, removing the earth had noticed ancient bricks getting unearthed. No matter, chuckled or grin, all had their intuition raised, ante up: there could be easily be an ancient brick structure buried herein: it could be ruins of an ancient Buddhist stupa dagoba or a sluice or embankment of an ancient man-made rainwater. The use of heavy machinery-earth moving equipments- was restrained and manual labour was employed in delicate situations. Ruins of a dam and almost intact sluice, a masterpiece of irrigation construction were unearthed.
Hidden in the sands of time and evergreen forest in the Dry Zone of Sri Lanka
A matted forest canopy had hidden the breached earthen embankment on the very spot that foreign and local engineering experts chose to straddle the river. The remains of the massive ancient embankment on the right bank of the river Maduru Oya, about 23 metres (75.4 ft.) high and pitched with round stones along the upstream slope to break the ripple action amply testified to the magnitude of the ancient man-made rainwater reservoir constructed by our ancient irrigation and hydraulic engineers.
The significance of the ruins of ancient dam and sluice
A technical review committee appointed by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) made a special report to Mr. Gamini Dissanyake, the Minister of Mahaweli Devlopment Project, Sri Lanka: “The upstream portion of the sluice is a masterpiece of construction. Twin conduits with corbeled arches approximately 2.5 m. apart pass through the bund. At the downstream and a carved terracotta relief depositing between the two arches. The dancing figures have been mutilated and the marks of the chisel used can be clearly seen on the carved relief.” The report gushed: “Major irrigation works and water control structures have been constructed throughout the civilized world since the 4th Millennium BC. These works include earth and rock dams, spillways, canals, dykes and embankments – the same structures that modern day engineers design for the same purposes. Some of the structures were advanced in engineering concept, major in scale, and in view of the lack of sophisticated machinery for construction, Herculean in execution. “The sluiceway and old bund at Maduru Oya rank in the forefront of these works. Several unique features of this structure testify to the sophisticated level of engineering practiced by the ancients.