ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, January 07, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 32

Lively tour of lifeline of our main rivers

Watery Arteries Of Sri Lanka by W.J. Samuel. Reviewed by Dr. A.C. Visvalingam. A Standford Lake publication

Reading this small book on the Watery Arteries of Sri Lanka took me back to 1946, when I joined Kingswood College, Kandy, and found myself in Form 1 with W.J. Samuel. Within two years, however, we were directed along different academic streams - Arts in Samuel's case, and Science in mine.

I must confess that I envied those in the Arts stream to a certain extent because they got to do Geography under the effervescent and much loved Sydney Perera, who took his students on interesting study trips into the beautiful hills and mountains of the Central Province. Mr. Perera was also noted for his wide knowledge of English Literature, which he taught with great feeling and the same zest as Geography. All this was combined with an extraordinary memory for recalling, with no trace of malice, droll incidents and the frailties of both students and teachers. Thus, by a stroke of good fortune, the interest that Samuel had developed on his own for geographical matters and the natural gift he obviously had for writing simple, unadorned English gained a further impetus in school. .

An almost spiritual and yet poignant attachment to hills, natural springs, streams, waterfalls and rivers is the blood of those born in the hill country. How strongly Samuel felt this bond was hidden from most of us until this book came to be written. Whilst others have dealt with our main rivers, from their diverse points of view, Samuel recently decided to give expression to his love of the tributaries which feed our main rivers, their sources, the drainage basins in which they are located, the ranges of hills which form their watersheds and, not least of all, the numerous beautiful waterfalls with which our country is blessed.

Unlike the usual dry as dust tomes which confront us on technical subjects of this nature, Samuel's book sparkles with interesting little details of some memorable incidents and a few intriguing characters he encountered during the course of his occupational and geographical meanderings. It may well be a good thing to translate this book into Sinhala and Tamil so as to form a stimulating addition to the standard texts followed by those studying Geography in the higher classes in our schools.

Before writing this review, I gave a copy of this book to a man who has himself made many contributions to hydrological studies in Sri Lanka and is hypercritical by nature. He read this book through in one sitting and told me that it was a useful and original contribution to this subject. Praise indeed!

Samuel has employed certain conventions in the diagrams of watersheds and drainage basins which are likely to prove a little mystifying to the lay reader. These require elaboration. Moreover, an experienced proof reader will find a fair number of minor typesetting errors as well as some inconsistencies in the spelling of certain names but the average reader is unlikely to notice these or be distracted by them.

This book is published by Stamford Lake (Pvt) Ltd and costs Rs. 225.

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