Are We Ready for Monsoon?

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It is that time of the year; where torrential rains wreak havoc in the South-Western and Central regions of the country, causing floods, landslides and earth-slips, displacing thousands of people and destroying livelihoods of many.

The South-Western Monsoon, generally activated between May and September, is a yearly occurrence. However, unfortunately for the thousands of people who are affected by the torrential rains and the resulting natural disasters, the authorities wake up only after the disasters strike.

Despite having data on flood and landslide-prone areas, probably running back to decades, the authorities act surprised when disaster hits a certain area in the country, every single year.

However, this year, the monsoon has been activated at a time when the country and its people are already fighting a debilitating economic catastrophe. This time the effects of floods and landslides will be even more pronounced.

One of the highlights of disaster management in times of natural disasters in this country is the community activism. Thousands of people volunteer their time and resources to collect funds and dry rations to distribute them among the affected people. Some even go the extra step to provide cooked food for those languishing in temporary shelters.

However, this time around, a considerable number of such generous people themselves have been severely affected by the unbearable high cost of living, which is aggravated by rising fuel prices. Thousands of people in both the working class and the middle class lost their employments due to the two-year battle with the Covid-19 pandemic. The number of people living below the poverty lines has increased alarmingly over the last couple of years.

On the other hand, a considerable number of people lost their livelihood with the import ban imposed to prevent the dollar outflow. Many who were involved in the business of vehicle imports went bankrupt.

Then, the extended lockdowns and travel bans sounded the death knell for Sri Lanka’s once thriving tourism industry, on one hand considerably reducing the foreign exchange coming into the country and on the other, many involved in tourism-related sectors losing their livelihoods.

The continuously rising food prices is now causing community unrest with a number of incidents being reported from around the country where desperate individuals snatch parcels of groceries from fellow citizens.

Meanwhile, yesterday the Department of Meteorology issued a warning that the prevailing showery and windy weather would intensify during the next few days.

The Department said, there could be showers exceeding 100 mm in Western, Sabaragamuwa, and North-Western Provinces and in Kandy, Nuwara-Eliya, Galle and Matara Districts.

Also, that the showers may occur in the Anuradhapura District and in Ampara and Batticaloa Districts during the evenings.

The general public was advised to take adequate precautionary measures to protect themselves from dangers caused by gusty winds and lightning during thundershowers.

Also, the Disaster Management Centre issued a minor flood warning to the people living in low-lying areas adjoining the Attanagalu Oya, Kelani River, Kalu Ganga, Gin Ganga and Nilwala Ganga.

In a statement, Director of Irrigation (Hydrology) Eng. S.P.C. Sugeeshwara said, the water levels of these rivers have gone up considerably after recent downpours in Sabaragamuwa and Western Provinces and, Galle and Matara Districts. Parts of these areas had received heavy rains above 150mm yesterday.

As the Met Department has already forecast that the rainy condition would prevail in the coming days, several low-lying areas of the aforementioned rivers could be at risk of minor floods, and the residents of low-lying areas of these rivers and motorists driving through these areas have been warned to be vigilant of the adverse weather conditions.

However, the most pertinent question is whether the country’s top administration is ready to face the ill-effects of the impending natural disaster, while they seem to be preoccupied with the task of unravelling the man-made economic disaster the country is currently reeling under.