Climate woes, real and created
By Methmalie Dissanayake
Despite predictions to the contrary, Sri Lanka continues to suffer due to arid weather conditions. Changing weather patterns have given rise to many social issues, which are sometimes less obvious. Last year, parts of the country faced severe floods and some other areas were hit with a major drought. While effects such as loss of homes and destruction of crops become obvious, there are less obvious and long-term implications, for which the country must prepare.
The south-western monsoon brought less than average rainfall this year. Water levels of major reservoirs are decreasing rapidly and there are warnings of possible food shortage and possible power cuts in 2017.
According to the Department of Irrigation, as a result of the arid weather, the average water levels of irrigation tanks and water-ways across the country are between 30-35% at the moment.
The department said the water levels of Parakrama Samudraya, Deduru Oya, Minneriya, Inginimitiya and Lunugamwehera reservoirs remain 50%. Meanwhile, the water levels of the Kawudulla, Kantale, Rajanganaya, Padaviya and Mahakanadarawa tanks are between 30 and 35%, the department noted.
Speaking on the matter, Meteorology Department Director General Lalith Chandrapala said there is no solution to the scarcity of water since less than average rainfall is expected in January and February 2017.
Possible food shortage
The Department of Irrigation also said that cultivation has seen a drop, as a result of the scarcity of water. Only 40 agrarian businesses have taken place in 2016, it added.
Moreover, only 50 to 60% of the total farm lands could be cultivated at the moment. Annually, 800,000 hectares are cultivated during the Maha Season. However, this time around only 250,000 hectares have been cultivated, the department stated.
In areas such as Polonnaruwa, Anuradhapura and Hambantota, cultivation during the Maha season have been limited. Furthermore, of the 190,000 acres of paddy land in the Kurunegala District, only 19,000 acres have been cultivated.
However, in the Ampara District over 90% of the 800,000 acres of paddy lands has been cultivated in this Maha season.
Saman Weerasinghe, the Director General of the Irrigation Department, said usually around 2.2 million acres are cultivated for the Maha season. But, this time, it is only around 1 million acres which would be cultivated, he claimed.
"In a situation like this, prices of rice, fruits and vegetables can increase. There is also a possibility of triggering a food shortage in the near future. It can lead to a situation where people who gain income only by cultivation suffer serious economic problems," Weerasinghe said.
Everyone should be alarmed that the country has to depend on the remaining water levels until next October. Therefore, water should be used very carefully, he added.
Last week, price of 1 kilo of Nadu rice was increased from Rs 90 to Rs 95. The price of Samba rice 1 kilo remains at Rs 95 as well. It is also said that all the other local rice varieties had increased by about 11-14 per cent
In view of the possibility of a serious rice shortage and a price increase, the Cost of Living Committee earlier this month came to the decision of importing 10,000 metric tonnes of rice from South Asian countries. This decision will help to keep prices of rice under check during festive seasons, the committee said. Apart from importing, the committee also decided to buy paddy from the Paddy Marketing Board (PMB).
Due to the increasing prices of rice, the Canteen Owners Association recently announced that it has decided to increase the price of a lunch packet by Rs 10. The organizer of the association Asela Sampath stressed the government has failed to control the price of rice. He pointed out that there is no shortage of rice in the country at present. Several local businessmen have created this situation, he charged.
Meanwhile, the Rice Research and Development Authority warns of a possible shortage of seed-paddy in time for the next Yala season.
Hydro Power at risk
In its latest report, the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL) says a rainfall, based on past trends, cannot be expected until April 2017. Therefore, in order to ensure the availability of hydro reservoirs, the hydro dispatch level for power generation must be kept below the average level, the report states.
According to the report, with this consideration the loss of thermal generation capacity in the system will not lead to power cuts in January. However, due to demand growth, the present thermal generation capacity of 560 MW will reduce to 500 MW in February and further reduce to 350 MW in March.
Moreover, based on predictions based on November hydro condition, there is a daily surplus energy of about 10,000 MW on average on a weekday, the report says. But, if the system loses approximately 420 MW of thermal generation capacity, there will be an energy inadequacy, it adds.
The National Organizer of All Ceylon Peasants Federation, Namal Karunaratne, hit out at the government saying the government should take the entire responsibility for the crisis situation.
Speaking to Ceylon Today, Karunaratne stated there is no rice shortage in the country. The remaining stocks will be sufficient until April. However, behind the 'manipulated' prices of rice varieties there are several private mills. They try to set up a rice shortage with the help of top level MPs of the government. The governments MPs are receiving commission from private mills, he alleged.
Karunaratne also slammed the government's decision to import seed-paddy due to less cultivation. "Even though that fact is true, imported seed-paddy can harm our soil as it is not familiar to the Sri Lankan condition. Therefore, the government must consider a proper plan to distribute seed-paddy stock among farmers," he added.
"This crisis situation occurred mainly due to poor water management, not due to less rainfall. The authorities do not consider repairing large-scale reservoirs.
These reservoirs should be repaired as they haven't been restored in many years. For example, Padaviya Wewa in the Anuradhapura District has not been repaired since the 1950s. The situation of other reservoirs is also the same. Because of this, silt has deposited on the beds of the reservoirs such as Kala Wewa, Nuwara Wewa and Minneriya Wewa, which have reduced their full capacity.
So they cannot contain the water level they used to in earlier days. Therefore, the lakes begin to spill over after two or three bouts of rain," he stated.
Meanwhile, he also said there are certain allegations that when the Mahaweli reservoirs were spilling over, lakes of Rajarata area were not filled with that much water surplus. The Mahaweli Development Authority has its priorities. Using water for cultivation comes last according to them, after using for hydro power, drinking water and industrial activities. If the authorities have taken steps to manage the water belonging to the Mahaweli reservoirs properly, this situation would not have been occurred, Karunaratne stressed.
- China to provide 90 water bowsers worth Rs 1b 2098
- Wag the Dog 2124
- A brief look at FARC’s origins in Colombia 2065
- ‘Panama Papers’ bags Pulitzer 2076
- SAITM will cooperate with Govt 2088
- dead man was near fashion mall 2120
- Japanese MPs back Lanka’s development 2088
- CB Bond earnings whitewashed – JVP 2099
- Talks to extend Lanka’s Continental Shelf 2088
- Ex-DIG and son re-remanded 2100
- Government can be sent home 2633
- GMOA flogging SAITM for Mahinda– Rajitha 2098
- Ranil invites Japan to invest in S. Asia 2084
- Somali Pirates’ Captives Back Home 2087
- Customs in Rs 8 M bust 2090
- May Day Rally …or the Boot ! 2061
- Auspicious Times presented to President 2067
- Johnston sacked SLFP reshuffles K’gala 2890
- Singapore in the crossfire 2962
- Park impeachment and SK foreign policy 2916
- Filipino Oconer wins overall title 1726
- Unsporty conduct by Joes 1760
- Bertie Wijesinghe, pre-Test era Sri Lankan cricketer, dies aged 96 1744
- CEAT revs up for 2017 1728
- Palace shock Arsenal 1724
- Argentina fire coach Bauza 1734
- BCCI postpones SGM to 18 April 1725
- Murray returns from injury 1721
- New mum Azarenka to return to WTA 1713
- Galle win by 188 runs 1710
- Kapugedera ton boosts Kandy 1689
- Pakistan charges Jamshed in spot-fixing case 1686
- IAAF clears seven more Russians to compete 1685
- Game evenly poised 1682
- Saumy Zainab wins Championship 1731
- Keeping Cool 1732
- Do the right thing and do it now! 1732
- Ravi Jayewardene Pious son of a political giant 2303
- Minorities’ frustration a powder keg – VIDURA 2070
- Administrative powers a must for the Plantation Tamils –Radhakrishnan 1324
- Rajapaksa sought advice from McGuinness– Indika Perera 2419
- SilkAir launches direct flights to Colombo 1760
- Rupee falls on thin volumes 1725
- SriLankan, Japan Airlines add new routes 1747
- Colombo Port box volume up 5.6-pct in Jan 1727
- Private sector to transform into main domestic growth engine 1747
- Oil eases from 5-week top, rising US production weighs 1718
- Tight fiscal and monetary policies constrain SL’s growth 1734
- Shell admits dealing with money launderer 1734
- Toshiba may sell chip business to Foxconn for $27bn 1722
- Asian shares pressured by geopolitical risks; Nikkei down 0.25% 1725
- SLIM launches Certificate in Digital Marketing 1730
- Microsoft Hosts Second ‘Device Day’ in Sri Lanka 1725
- Emirates named Best Airline in the World 1724
- Turkish Airlines and social media assist Somalia 1725
- Brain cell therapy ‘promising’ for Parkinson’s disease 1727
- Trump pushed into bombing Syria 1771
- Thailand discovers Power of Women Travellers 1735
- Economics of gambling 1598
- Trans National Aural Identity 3298
- Queen Anula The Shadow of Cleopatra 3320
- Poetry and its possibilities Part 2 3345
- The Enigma of Labyrinths 3447
- From Couture to Kutir 3317
- Hybrid Sources 4721
- With a festive bang! 948
- Easter Fun 946
- Arrogance and crowing is the way of the doomed 965
- Avurudu on the streets 980
- Tick control 948
- Sunny Sunday on the beach 959
- It’s time to save the world 1027
- From viewer to YouTuber! 1019
- Expert skincare and makeup 1035
- Avurudu at Induruwa 1002
- Exo 1025
- Remembering our fallen heroes 2107