Drought Takes Its Toll In Several Areas

by  Ashanthi Warunasuriya

The drought was having a serious impact on several parts of the country, with the North the most affected.

Politicians and civil society said that drinking water was a major concern in the North with little or no supply.

Northern Province Parliamentarian Douglas Devananda told The Sunday Leader that proposals have been made to the government to transport water by train from the South to the North to address the serious issue.

He said that a shortage of drinking water was having a major impact on Jaffna, Vavuniya and Mannar.

The Parliamentarian also said that an oil leak had also affected ground water making it virtually impossible to depend on tube wells.

Over 1 million people have been affected by the drought so far this year, the Disaster Management Centre said.

The North and East are among the worst affected areas while the North Wastern Province is also badly affected.

Disaster Management Minister Anura Priyadharshana Yapa has promised to obtain more funds to address the drinking water issue in the North. Civil society in the North said that farmers who depend on their crops have also been forced to look elsewhere for income as the drought has damaged their crops.

Some farmers are also in debt and have no way of paying back their loans with no means of earning an income. Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna member Ramalingam Chandrasekar said that some people are at a stage of committing suicide as the drought has had a serious impact on their economy. He said that proposals made in the past to ensure there are permanent solutions to the water issue in the North have gone unheard.

Recently the government said it is to take some key decisions as the drought continues to have a serious impact on the country. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said that the economy will need to adapt to the changing environment.

The Prime Minister was speaking to reporters after handing over the keys to water bowsers and tractors to be distributed to drought affected areas. Earlier this month Mullaithivu District Secretary Mrs. Rupavathy Ketheeswaran said that of the 136 Grama Niladhari divisions in Mullaithivu, 135 divisions have been affected by the drought. As a result of the drought, daily activities in Mullaithivu had been affected with farming taking a severe beating.

“Over 34,000 acres of land cannot be used for farming owing to the drought,” she said early this month.

A shortage of drinking water had been reported from the area even then as a result of most wells running dry. Mullaithivu was one of the worst affected areas during the war and the people in the area were seen suffering again as a result of the drought.

Last month the United Nations said the drought followed by floods had slashed agricultural production in Sri Lanka, leaving some 900,000 people facing food insecurity.

Production of rice, the country’s staple food, is forecast to drop almost 40 per cent to 2.7 million tonnes in 2017, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP) said in a report last month. Sri Lanka was hit by the worst drought in four decades last year, with poor rains continuing into 2017, causing many farmers to lose their crops and income, the agencies said.

In May, the situation was exacerbated by the worst torrential rains in 14 years, which triggered floods and landslides in the country’s southwest, killing some 200 people and forcing many from their homes.

But in drought-affected areas in the north, rains were not sufficient to replenish reservoirs, and the second 2017 rice paddy harvest is expected to be at least 24 per cent lower than last year’s, said FAO official Cristina Coslet.

“The level of water in irrigation reservoirs is still well below the average,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Some 225,000 households – or 900,000 people – face food insecurity, and have been forced to eat less and lower quality food, the report said. Unable to grow their own crops, many families have to buy food at local markets where prices have spiked due to the crisis, it said.

FAO and WFP said seeds, equipment, irrigation support, and cash assistance are urgently needed to help farmers in the next planting season starting in September, and to prevent conditions from deteriorating.

“If (the planting season) fails the situation will worsen a lot for the families affected,” Coslet said.

3 Comments for “Drought Takes Its Toll In Several Areas”

  1. raj

    So called religious leaders should speak for social issues more than politics so that people can benefit from the solution. Buddhist, Hindus, and Muslims should speak against any social injustice, and voice for social issues. They all together condemned child labor, sexual violence, barbaric cultural practice that diminish individual rights and justice, and dowry crimes exists among Sri Lankans.

  2. So lets cut more trees and fill up the natural pools and swamps, and mostly pollute the environment so that all this debris will flow in to the see and we will be rid of this stuff. Marine life?, the ocean is vast enough to fill up, so what. Over-fishing of the ocean , no problem, we could set up multiple fishing pens and harvest the it. Until life is extinct on this island the rape appears to be unstoppable. Even the appeals to the Gods seem to go without notice. What a show.

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