The International Water Management Institute (IWMI) is deeply saddened by the passing of eminent Sri Lankan scientist Dr. Chris Panabokke.
Dr. Panabokke was a renowned soil scientist whose illustrious career spanned over 60 years, during which time he held positions in several national and international organizations.
Following his graduation with a degree in Chemistry in 1949, Dr. Panabokke worked for the Department of Agriculture where he was appointed to the Dry Zone Agricultural Station at Mahailluppallama. He was then awarded the prestigious Colombo Plan Scholarship for a Ph.D in Soil Physics at Waite Agricultural Research Institute affiliated to the University of Adelaide, Australia. Shortly after his return to Sri Lanka, Dr. Panabokke was appointed Head of Mahailluppallama, and subsequently Head of Land and Water Division, Kundasale. During this period, he was instrumental in launching the national soil survey program to classify the soil groups of Sri Lanka, leading him to develop Sri Lanka’s soil map and agro-ecological region map.
Dr. Panabokke was then appointed the very first Secretary General of the National Science Council. After this, he was made Director of Research of the Agriculture Department and in 1979, was appointed Director of Agriculture, a post he held until his retirement in 1982.
During his retirement, Dr. Panabokke continued to provide his expertise through his association with organizations such as the Mahaweli Authority of Sri Lanka and the International Service for National Agricultural Research in the Hague, Netherlands. He also served as Advisor to the Water Resources Board (WRB) and contributed immensely to expanding the groundwater resources mapping, monitoring, and testing programme of the WRB.
He was among the first scientists appointed to the senior staff of the International Irrigation Management Institute (IIMI), as IWMI was then known. Here, he worked as Irrigation Agronomist from 1984 for several years and then as Senior Associate, Sri Lanka Field Operations from 1989 to 2010. At IWMI, Dr. Panabokke is remembered with gratitude and deep respect not only for his expertise and vast body of research, but also for his unwavering willingness to mentor young researchers on issues related to the water and agriculture sector of Sri Lanka.
Dr. Panabokke was awarded the Presidential Award of ‘Vidya Jothi’, the highest national award for a scientist in Sri Lanka, and the ‘Deshamanya’ award in 1998. He served as the Chancellor of Sabaragamuwa University of Sri Lanka.
The IWMI Management Team and staff offer their sincere condolences to the family of Dr. Panabokke.