24 October, 2017

Tribute To Water Resources Engineer K. Suntharalingam

By Sivaguru Ganesan

Kumaraswamy Suntharalingam Chief Engineer and Head of Environmental Engineering Consultants(pvt) Ltd passed away in Colombo on April 3. After early studies at Jaffna Hindu College, Suntharalingam entered the Faculty of Engineering, University of Ceylon and graduated in civil engineering in 1964. In the University, he stood out socially among his classmates with his quiet and charming manners, and showed unique leadership qualities when he was elected as the President of the Engineering Students Union in 1962.

Kumaraswamy Suntharalingam

Upon graduation, he joined the Department of Water Supply and Drainage. During his service in the public sector, he also served as the Secretary of the Public Service Engineers Union, actively participated in negotiations with the Government and won many concessions for his fellow engineers. In 1978, he resigned from the public sector and launched  Environmental Engineering Consultants (EEC), specializing in water resources management, design of water supply, drainage and sewerage schemes, surface and ground water assessment, Environment Impact Assessment, and  related infrastructure. This was a period of increasing investments in developing and managing water resources, their distribution and drainage, and within the next 15 years, Suntha functioning as Chief Engineer had built up EEC into a most   respected design agency for water resources .

Till now, EEC has undertaken designs for over 100 projects, ranging in estimated individual project value from some millions  to billions of rupees. EEC has undertaken projects in the public and private sectors   on their own or in collaboration with international consultants or other specialists. EEC has been an active partner with the Government for projects funded by international agencies like the ADB, World Bank etc. The sample of projects below will illustrate the work that EEC has been involved in. Kalmunai Water Supply( Rs.300 million); Jaffna Water Supply(Rs 175 million); Sewage Treatment at Niwala, Akuressa( Rs.75 million); Water Resources Management for Kelaniya –Ambathale Region ( Rs.1.5 billion ); Greater Dambulla Water Supply ( Rs.11 billion) ; Aluthgama to Agalawatte Water Supply( Rs.20 billion);  and Waste Water Disposal for Ratmalana to Ekala region ( Rs.7 billion ). There can be no doubt that EEC has developed a capacity that reduces our dependency on foreign design firms. Suntha was also able to train a number of new graduates in related skills in his firm.

Suntharalingam   married Dr. Rajambikai Karalasingam in 1977, and they have a daughter Suganthi. There can be little doubt that marital bliss has been a positive influence on his impressive achievements. A high point in his life was when he attended Suganthi’s Master’s Degree convocation at the University of Birmingham in 2006. Two decades earlier, Suntha himself received a Masters degree from the same University. Suntha maintained an affectionate relationship with his siblings and relatives who all will warmly remember him.

His professional colleagues and friends will remember him for his cordial and pleasing mannerisms and his solid achievements in any endeavour he ventured into. Senior Engineers have described his demise as “a great loss” to our engineering sector.

May his soul rest in peace!

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    I had the opportunity to work with Sunda for a few years at the Hantane New Town Development project in the 80’s.I thank my stars for this as I realised afterwards I have indeed met a great man.

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