It’s wet and hot | Daily News


It’s wet and hot

Picture by Rukmal Gamage
Picture by Rukmal Gamage

We have experienced pouring rain in some parts of the country and drinking water shortages in other parts simultaneously. This article takes a 360% view of issues and options.

Sri Lanka has a total land area of 65,610 km2. Thirty species of marine mammals in monsoon scrub jungle in the northwest and southeast, monsoon forest and grassland, inter monsoon forest, rain forests and grasslands below 3,000 feet, between 3,000-5,000 feet and above 5,000 feet. 4% of the country’s land area is covered by water, 103 distinct natural rivers and over 10,000 man-made lakes and canals countrywide.

We have 21 Acts, Ordinances and other forms of Enactments for development, allocation, regulation, usage and management of water resources, soil and forest conservation.


Water sources for our main rivers are above 5,000 feet where forest cover is reducing. Downstream water retention is poor, flowing into the sea. Trapping water requires reservoirs.

Our rain fall has not decreased but occurs for shorter periods with longer droughts increasing consumption by 1.5. Sri Lanka does not have ground water mapping system done for most of the rich aquifers in the country, with planners and developers in dark. About 75%-85% of the developed water is withdrawn for irrigation with more than half of the water diverted for agriculture not reaching farms due to conveyance losses. Inappropriate application methods and poor on farm management practices wastes further, contributing to water logging, salinity and low productivity.

Power generation - Most of the natural flow sites for hydropower have been fully developed, changing the flow domain of the rivers spatially and temporally, impacting habitats, forest, wild life and loss of fertile land. Thermally modified return flows from power plants changes river life and flow regime downstream, causing damages to ecosystem and flora fauna, changing the climatic and land use pattern in the catchments area with adverse effects in the future.

Measures for water security

Reviewing, revising and reinforcing legislations already in place providing irrigation facilities, water supply, power generation, support for industries and environmental protection to maximize the water use efficiency, effectiveness and reliability, developing a comprehensive watershed management mechanism to enhance and ensure the water bearing capacity of both surface and subsurface aquifers, tanks, lakes and ponds, developing policy guidelines for improved erosion control, catchment protection and restoring by forest covers and wetlands, regulating withdrawals from surface and sub-surface storages within the permissible limits that the aquifer could provide, regulating pollution control mechanism.

Sri Lanka has an abundance of wealth in the Institutions addressing Biodiversity Conservation and climate change issues in Ministries, Line Agencies, Government Corporations, Private Sector, INGOs, NGOs and others.

We have knowledge, institutions and options. It’s also true we are not doing enough. The issues highlighted have also become a source for leisurely projects, foreign trips, consultancies, reports, meetings and a whole lot more of hot air. A cynical exploitation of serious issues affecting the country.


Key solutions

Every country has relevant experiences to share and new things to learn. Co-operation between countries in the Global South is playing a growing role in generating and sharing new ideas, knowledge, and technologies, and investment, and is greatly valued by developing countries in areas such as;

* Reducing the impact of sea level rise

* Mitigating the possibility of flooding due to intense rainfall

* Strengthening our food supply resilience as climate change could cause crop failure and supply disruptions

* Leveraging Science and Technology to address National needs- Nations of the world are facing a common challenge - to convert an economy sustained by carbon-intensive energy sources, to one based on low-carbon, sustainable sources of energy.

* Supporting and translating research outputs into energy, water and land solutions.

Energy transformation and innovation on a national scale cannot be realised without the efforts of all stakeholders, and a clear long-term vision and strategy for the government, private sector and academic must be worked out and for us to work together at it.

Enhanced energy efficiency will play a key role in our efforts to manage emissions. We should promote the adoption of more efficient industrial and power generation technologies, and encourage the use of more energy efficient buildings, transportation, and household appliances.


Climate and mitigation

Private Public investment promotion incentives for - greater coordination, clean energy research and development, green transportation sector, lower-emission transportation sectors, conservation programmes and research work, capacitating local communities with early warning and knowledge to enable resilient communities, climate change resilience measures for coastal areas susceptible to sea level rise, insurance programmes, use of climate resilient seed varieties, growing crops for relief, local production of relief items with foreign collaboration, scientific water management, reforesting areas of wildfires, recreating/strengthening mangroves and eco systems, greening areas around rivers (103 nos) and water ways (10,000+nos ) ground water recharging, green households and reducing of carbon footprint of commercial sector.


Advice for risk reduction in Sri Lanka

Raise overall awareness on natural disasters affecting Sri Lanka/ecological empowerment; Increase local community/Civic society involvement in environmental management; Regenerate natural protective barriers along the coast and other fragile systems.

Preparedness and mitigation-

* A quick, simple mapping from published reports on where -Landslides sufficient to cause displacement, damage to property or harm to lives have taken place in 2017/16 /15? The advice of NBRO in relation to same.

* A quick simple mapping from published reports – on where flooding causing displacement, damage to property or harm to lives have taken place in 2017/16 /15? The advice of mandated agencies or plans to remedy.

* A database of householders affected is known or could be assembled including those who could face risks in the future.

* Produce location and context specific DRR information in leaflets for use by each household identified above? It’s unlikely to rise above 100,000 -125,000 households and target households with timely SMS’s if and when a disaster is foreseen in the future? 

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