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Notes on the Geography of Sri Lanka: Lamesuriyagama

The village of Lamesuriyagama is a two-hour drive east of Kandy. On the Belihul Oya, it's named for Cecil John Reginald Le Mesurier, Assistant Government Agent at Nuwara Eliya, who created the place. In the 1860s, he sided with the Kandyans, who were being evicted to make way for plantations. Le Mesurier couldn't stop the process, but he could and did find a valley where he could build an irrigation system providing a bare livelihood for one set of villagers. Not one to mince words, he also published scathing articles in the British press. In the Manchester Guardian, for example, he wrote that "one hundred and fifty eight villagers died of starvation within the sight of the sanatorium where our Governors resort for health and tennis." The Ceylon Civil List for 1895 says that Le Mesurier is "District Judge, Badulla (on leave)." His name then utterly vanishes from subsequent editions, nor is he listed among retired officers.

See A. Baur & Co., Ltd: 100 Years in Sri Lanka, 1997, p. 14.

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Sri Lanka: Lamesuriyagama picture 1

Here's a perspective that includes most of Lamesuriyagama.  The view is south, towards Badulla,  The stream comes down the valley in the distance and is ponded at a wier just above the cultivated area.  Canals run toward the camera on contours on both sides of the irrigated area, while the stream continues north (toward the camera) along the line marked by trees.

Sri Lanka: Lamesuriyagama picture 2

We'll return to Lamesuriyagama shortly.  Right now, we're approaching it from the west.  Here: an arm of the Victoria Reservoir, part of the Mahaweli Ganga project.

Sri Lanka: Lamesuriyagama picture 3

The uplands have been cleared for chenas, periodically planted to unirrigated crops.

Sri Lanka: Lamesuriyagama picture 4

Some of the old clearings are very steep.

Sri Lanka: Lamesuriyagama picture 5

The Victoria Dam.

Sri Lanka: Lamesuriyagama picture 6

The road continues: it's new and strikingly deserted in comparison to the closely-settled roads west of Kandy.

Sri Lanka: Lamesuriyagama picture 7

A closeup of a chena; vegetables have become very popular here as cash crops.

Sri Lanka: Lamesuriyagama picture 8

A roadside stand.

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Sightings of paddy.

Sri Lanka: Lamesuriyagama picture 10

Shop at Lamesuriyagama.

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Shop contents.

Sri Lanka: Lamesuriyagama picture 12

Shop contents.

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Shop contents.

Sri Lanka: Lamesuriyagama picture 14

A village house.

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Homestead gate.  An upper bar can be drawn across, too.

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House under construction.

Sri Lanka: Lamesuriyagama picture 17

Farmstead gate.

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The sign advertises fertilizer for sale.

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Many village houses are isolated like this one, rather than clustered.

Sri Lanka: Lamesuriyagama picture 20

Village road, almost with electricity.

Sri Lanka: Lamesuriyagama picture 21

Looking down to the village's paddy land.

Sri Lanka: Lamesuriyagama picture 22

The villagers also have vegetable patches.

Sri Lanka: Lamesuriyagama picture 23

Tobacco.

Sri Lanka: Lamesuriyagama picture 24

Path down to the paddy.

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View of paddy and distant chenas.

Sri Lanka: Lamesuriyagama picture 26

Chena and paddy.

Sri Lanka: Lamesuriyagama picture 27

Steep slopes in cultivation.

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Millet.

Sri Lanka: Lamesuriyagama picture 29

Paddy lands.  The huts correspond closely to holdings: one per each.

Sri Lanka: Lamesuriyagama picture 30

The main canal, several miles long.

Sri Lanka: Lamesuriyagama picture 31

Head of a field ditch.

Sri Lanka: Lamesuriyagama picture 32

Canal-bank path, with terraces sloping away from it.

Sri Lanka: Lamesuriyagama picture 33

Terraced paddies.

Sri Lanka: Lamesuriyagama picture 34

Villagers say that Le Mesurier stayed at the house in the grove when he occasionally visited the village.

 

Sri Lanka: Lamesuriyagama picture 35

Terraced chenas in the upper right.

Sri Lanka: Lamesuriyagama picture 36

Looking upstream toward the canal's diversion wier.

Sri Lanka: Lamesuriyagama picture 37

The land grows hillier in that direction.

Sri Lanka: Lamesuriyagama picture 38

The terrace walls, steeper.

Sri Lanka: Lamesuriyagama picture 39

Tenants weeding by hand; they lived five miles away but came here to tend the field, in exchange for half the crop.


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