Hamilton Canal

Although the Dutch were famed for the use of artificial canal ways as optimal road ways in transporting goods from inland to the coast the wide spread complex of water ways spreading along the near coastal areas of Colombo and Gampaha district the system of canals dates back to the time of King Vira Parakrama Bahu VIII of Kotte Kingdom.
The interconnected canal system links Kelani River with the main sea port of Negambo lagoon, a busy seaport trading with countries as far as China, Burma, Rome and Greece. However the creation of the canals disrupted the delicate fresh water balance and the Muthurajawela, a vast field of paddy were subject to saline intrusion and triggered the end of paddy cultivation, which in turn sparked a rebellion against the king among the farmers.
Yet contradictory to the popular belief Hamilton Canal was not a creation of the King of Kotte or the Dutch but was a later addition by Garvin Hamilton, British Agent of Revenue and Commerce in 1802, who constructed a new canal to the east of the canals created by Sinhalese king and the Dutch. The canal was designed to connect the Dutch canal by a series of parallel canals and was designed to drain the already damaged Muturajawela but caused the opposite to occur as the high tide brought salinity not only from Negambo lagoon but also the Kelani River. An incident which led to the canal been baptised as the Hamilton’s folly or the fool’s canal.
Despite the mishap connected with its birth Hamilton canal was used as a busy water way transporting goods from in and to Negambo in flat bottom boats with removable roofs called ‘padda’ during the last four centuries. However with the end of colonisation and the change of economical centers the use of the canal system decreased and was eventually limited to pleasure rides and fresh water fisherman.
From its glorious past, the Hamilton canal was reduced to a polluted body of water and a breeding ground of mosquitoes when the Sri Lanka Land Reclamation and Development Corporation (SLLRDC) undertook an ambitious project to revive the remaining parts of the canal back to their old glory.
Wide service roads, landscaped footpaths and scenic walkways now stretch parallel to the canals while tranquil water reflects glorious colours of the surroundings.
Moreover the canal and the connected wetlands are home to array of flora and fauna including Varieties of butterflies and over 40 species of fish, including the Golden Raspbora and the Red Barb both of which are now threatened with extinction. Of the winged species Ibis, Purple Coot, Kingfisher, Grebes ,Common Sandpiper and Cormorants are a common site along the rehabilitated Canal.
Today the Hamilton canal reaches up all the way up to Puttlam from Negambo amidst the bust banks of Negambo, fishing huts in Chillaw and a string of prawn farms scattered on its banks a slight throw back to its glorious past.

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