These diseases generally prevail to the greatest extent during
the dry season. This district is particularly subject to severe
droughts; months pass away without a drop of rain or a cloud upon
the sky. Every pool and tank is dried up; the rivers forsake
their banks, and a trifling stream trickles over the sandy bed.
Thus all the rotten wood, dead leaves and putrid vegetation
brought down by the torrent during the wet season are left upon
the dried bed to infect the air with miasma.
This deadly climate would be an insurmountable obstacle to the
success of estates. Even could managers be found to brave the
danger, one season of sickness and death among the coolies would
give the estate a name which would deprive it of all future
supplies of labor.
Indigo is indigenous to Ceylon, but it is of an inferior quality,
and an experiment made in its cultivation was a total failure.
In fact, nothing will permanently succeed in Ceylon soil without
abundance of manure, with the exception of cinnamon and
cocoa-nuts. Even the native gardens will not produce a tolerable
sample of the common sweet potato without manure, a positive
proof of the general poverty of the soil.
Nevertheless, Ceylon has had a character for fertility.
Bennett, in his work entitled "Ceylon and its Capabilities,"
describes the island in the most florid terms, as "the most
important and valuable of all the insular possessions of the
imperial crown." Again he speaks of "its fertile soil, and
indigenous vegetable productions," etc., etc.