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Wetlands of Colombo: Thalangama Lake

A little way past Battaramulla, Colombo, lies a small, serene reservoir surrounded by a quiet green neighbourhood. Built by King Parakramabahu VI (1412 - 1467 AD) as a bathing spot for his royal elephants, it also functioned as an irrigation reservoir (wæwa) for acres of paddy cultivation downstream - a system that lasts even to this day.

The most commonly used approach route is the obviously-named Lake Road, branching off D.P. Wijesinghe Mawatha in Pelawatta. As you travel down the winding road, you encounter stretches of green paddy fields dotted with cattle and a few domestic buffaloes. Cutting a sharp curve, and passing the sluice outlet, the road opens up and you find yourself moving eastwards along the bund of the reservoir: its calm waters on your right, and a basin of paddy fields down a slope to your left.

Closer to the bund, the lake surface is more or less clear, apart from the occasional raft of lotuses (Nelumbo nucifera) or water lilies (Nymphaea spp). Nestled among them ar…

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