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Source: Daily FT

The current drought in Sri Lanka is considered as the worst since the 1970s.

In Sri Lanka, drought is looming into a larger issue as one-third of the population is engaged in agriculture-related activities. According to the Department of Agriculture, 1.8 million farming households across the island are engaged in paddy cultivation. The prevailing drought has affected majority of these households spread across 13 districts. As a result, thousands of acres of paddy cultivation are on the verge of being destroyed due to lack of sufficient water. 

The prevailing drought has caused water scarcity, food shortages and a potential threat of spreading diseases. Despite intermittent rain showers, the public has been advised to save power, water and to prepare for consuming supplementary food.

According to the situation report issues by the Disaster Management Centre (22 Jan 2017) a total number of 1,072,392 people have been affected by the drought with several districts deprived of drinking water. These include 39,824 people in Puttalam, 12,908 people in Anuradhapura, 38,828 people in Moneragla, 2,593 people in Badulla, 302,005 people in Batticaloa and 186,199 people in Kalutara.

With the capacity of hydropower reservoirs at 32.8% and water levels at all reservoirs below 50%, providing water for drinking and for farmers to protect their crops would take precedence over releasing water for electricity generation.   Sri Lanka’s current peak hour electricity demand is about 2300 megawatts and if drought conditions worsen the Electricity Board expects a shortfall of 600-700 MW.  As per the officials, purchasing emergency power, coupled with additional fuel costs would cost the State as much as Rs. 50 billion for six months. 

“These are obvious results of the climatic change and global warming” said Saman Weerasingha, the Director General of the Irrigation Department. “Global warming started in 1975 and its gearing up. Natural disasters are going in extremes due to the climate change and sea level rising, huge thunder showers and severe droughts are examples for extremes” he explained.

Day by day news on ravaged farmlands and crops are reported throughout the country. At the same time, the price of essential dry provisions including rice and coconut are reportedly increasing. Concerns remain for the rural poor during the long dry spell.

Food security conditions are expected to deteriorate on expectations of significant cereal production losses for the ongoing Maha season, which follows a reduced Yala harvest in 2017. Subsistence farm households, particularly in the North Western, North Central, Uva and Southern provinces, will likely be most affected and require some humanitarian and emergency recovery assistance. According to the Disaster Management Centre, almost 1 million people in 23 out of 25 districts have been negatively affected by drought conditions. Record prices of rice negatively affect food access and further stress the food security situation of the most vulnerable populations.

LEADS as a National NGO and being present in 13 districts is gearing up to serve the communities in need by participating in the District Disaster Management Committee Meetings together with other stakeholders in order to mitigate the effects of the drought.

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