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D.J. Wimalasurendra Memorial Lecture 2019


D.J. Wimalasurendra Memorial Lecture 2019

The 145th  birth anniversary of Late Eng. D J Wimalasurendra was commemorated at the IESL on 18th  September 2019 with a memorial lecture on “Applications of Large Scale Batteries for Utilities and Industrial Purposes” delivered by Eng. D G Rienzie Fernando

The lecture was preceded by the lighting of the traditional Oil Lamp and garlanding of the portrait of the late professor by the Eng. Prof. T M Pallewatta, President of IESL. . Family members of the late professor were also present at the event which was attended by Past Presidents and members of the IESL. 

Brief Introduction …

Eng. Devapura Jayasena Wimalasurendra Born in 1874 in Galle, was educated at Ananda College, Colombo excelling in Science and Mathematics. He joined the Technical College in Colombo in 1893, while serving as an apprentice at the Government Factory and was its first graduate in Civil Engineering. He completed his engineering studies in 1898, by sitting for the examinations conducted in India, by the Institution of Civil Engineers, UK.

Eng. Wimalasurendra worked for some time, as an Assistant Civil Engineer at the then Public Works Department, serving at stations like Diyatalawa, Galle and Norwood.  The Demodara loop was designed and constructed by him in 1901 while being stationed at Diyatalawa. It was during his service at the PWD, that he became interested in hydropower projects.

In 1912, he proceeded to the UK, to specialize in Electrical Engineering and gained Faraday House Diploma in seven months and also gaining Associate membership of Institution of Electrical Engineers in Britain.

Having had his initial proposals on hydropower ignored by Engineering Association of Ceylon he constructed  Ceylon’s first small hydropower station in Blackpool, between Nuwaraeliya and Nanuoya, to supply electricity to the Nuwaraeliya Town.

In 1918 he presented his historic paper titled ‘Economics of Power Utilization in Ceylon’, before the then Engineering Association of Ceylon arguing the case for the development of hydro potential of the country. He also strongly promoted the electrification of the railways as well as the concept of developing a National grid.

He was a Chartered Engineer of both the Institution of Civil Engineers, UK, and the Institution of Electrical Engineers, UK, a somewhat rare achievement at that time. 

He did an in-depth study of the Laxapana Hydro Electric Project which the Government accepted in principle for implementation in 1924. However, it took another 15 years for the Government to decide on its actual implementation.

He was however left out of the project, and left the country on leave to England and returned only on the request of the Colonial secretary.

In 1926 he was appointed as Chief Engineer of PWD. Soon after he began the separation of the electrical section.

With the setting up of the Department of Government Electrical Undertakings, Eng. Wimalasurendra was appointed to the position of Chief Engineer. However, he retired as a frustrated man, at the age of 55 in 1929, with his pet project in abeyance.

In view of promoting his vision and determination to develop hydropower potential of the country Eng. Wimalasurendrra decided to enter National State council and was elected from Rathnapura in 1931, as the member for Ratnapura seat for four and half years and served in the Executive committee of works and communication. He lobbied for the resumption of works on Hydro Power that was uncompleted. As a result, the Lakxapana Hydro Power scheme which had started in 1924 and had been stopped was resumed in 1938 and completed after the war in 1950.

In 1933 he proposed the formation of a Central Electrical authority. In 1935 the  National State Council passed the Electrical Board Establishment ordinance no 38/1935, however, the Board was dissolved in 1937 and the  DGEU reestablished.

During the period from 1931 – 1936, as a Member of the State Council, he continued to advocate strongly, the rapid industrialization of the country, using the cheap source of power; hydroelectricity.

Eng. Wimalasurendra was almost 75 years of age when in 1950 the Laxpana project was finally completed.

Eng. Wimalasurendra the ‘Father of Hydro Electricity in Sri Lanka’, passed away on August 10, 1953.

The Norton powerHouse was named after him in 1974. Prof. C Suntheralingam,  his colleague in the State Council paid the best tribute to him when he said , “Wimalasurendra is not dead. He is a “living light” ‘ LAXAPANA’ a lakh of Light”


Published Date: 2019-10-21 14:33:45