Drought leaves trail of destruction and despair

By our Vavuniya Correspondent


A severe drought, which has affected parts of the country, has left destruction and despair in its path.

The drought has affected Puttalam, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Mannar, Mullaitivu, Vavuniya and Kandy.

According to the Disaster Management Centre, hundreds have been affected in these areas since late last year.

Lack of sufficient rain or water in the reservoirs has resulted in 2834 hectares of paddy for the Maha Season being completely destroyed in Vavuniya.

Vavuniya District Secretary SomarathnaVithana said that every year in Vavuniya, farmers are able to harvest 19,810 hectares of paddy during the Maha season.

However this year only 12,080 hectares or 60 percent of the paddy could be collected.Of the 12, 080 hectares, 2834 hectares of paddy had been destroyed owing to insufficient rain.

Farmers in Vavuniya affected by the drought said that they are now facing a dire situation.

They urged the Government to grant them the insurance before the upcoming Sinhala and Tamil New Year.

Since late 2016, Sri Lanka has been experiencing a lack of rainfall which has developed into what is believed to be the worst drought in 40 years, with significant impacts on the economic activity, livelihoods and lives of communities.

Despite the Southwest monsoon in late May last year, which triggered flooding and landslides in the country’s southwest provinces, country-wide drought conditions are ongoing with the total affected population reaching over two million people in early September.

In January this year the Disaster Management Centre (DMC) said that as many as 293,764 people remained affected by the drought in five northern districts of the island country.

Agriculture Minister DumindaDissanayake said that rice crops failed for the third consecutive season last year, resulting in a major shortage of rice in the market. He said the north-east monsoon rain had been delayed during the current season.

Rice is the staple food of Sri Lanka, and local farmers depend on monsoon rain for rice cultivation.

In March 2017, one-quarter of households were seriously concerned about access to drinking water with levels of water available for general household use declining.

According to the Department of Agriculture, due to the floods in May and drought impacting the primary and secondary harvests of 2017, the rice production for 2017 was expected to be the lowest paddy production in the last 10 years. The production forecast for 2017 was sufficient for just over 7 months of household consumption. As a result, over 300,000 households were estimated to be food insecure with many households limiting their food intake and in some cases eating just one meal a day.

The inability of farmers to cultivate their land has also caused the availability of agricultural work to decline and consequently in many drought-affected communities, indebtedness was rising. 50% of households surveyed in a World Food Programme assessment reported last year that their debts had almost doubled compared to 2016 due to a lack of agriculture based income. The Treasury had released Rs 1.5 billion to the District Secretaries through the Ministry of Disaster Management in August for the purpose of distributing dry food rations among the drought affected people.

Rs 1.43 billion out of the Rs 1.5 billion provision had been allocated to the relevant tasks while the process of distributing dry food rations among the people in Puttalam, Kurunegala, Kilinochchi, Jaffna, Mullaitivu, Anuradhapura, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Monaragala districts had commenced at that time.

The UN had said last year that the drought was having serious consequences for the health and wellbeing of communities, with several suicides being directly attributed to the effects of the drought.

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