When drought walks side by side with deluge...

9 October 2019 12:00 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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They both listened silently to the water, which to them was not just water, but the voice of life, the voice of Being, the voice of perpetual Becoming ― Hermann Hesse

The value of water and paddy farmer continues to be eclipsed from the radar of policy makers as drought-parched fields in the dry zone waited for a drop of water while torrents of rain lashed the wet zone non-stop for nearly two weeks. The flash floods in wet zone are followed by inter-monsoon rains which hit Colombo and suburbs late in the afternoon these days. On the other hand the dry zone continues to remain scorched with the heat of sun.  

With just five weeks to presidential elections farmers and other concerned citizens are waiting to see a candidate who would give water management and paddy cultivation their due place in 
the manifesto.  

It appears that in its haste to follow the sleek western models of development Sri Lanka continues to remain unprepared to face the inevitable effects of climate change. This is despite predictions by climate experts that the country’s dry zone is going to be drier while the wet zone will turn wetter in the years to come. The rains that continue to hit Colombo and suburbs at regular intervals for the past few years, including the last bout that gave a winter look to this region late last month, prove this point. We don’t need a Greta Thunberg to knock on our door to remind this fact. While Colombo and suburbs were inundated by recent rains the Uva and Northern provinces, Kurunegala, Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa districts and even upper Kandy region with Victoria and Randenigala reservoirs remain ravaged by drought.   

It appears that strategic diversion of waters of Kelani and Kalu rivers to dry zone has become a near impossibility for a nation which stunned the world with its irrigation feats accomplished more than one and half millennia ago. It’s indeed quite intriguing as to why successive governments have neglected this crucial factor on which the future food security of the country is largely dependent.  

Political disputes and inconsistency in execution have delayed the construction of the canal that is supposed to take Kalu Ganga waters to North as per Moragahakanda-Kalu Ganga project to hydrate arid northern land. On the other hand the construction of two reservoirs to control flooding along Kelani River and provide drinking water to Colombo has come to a halt due to public protests allegedly backed by local politicians. It’s pathetic that some 5.5 billion cubic metres of water from the Kelani River flows to the sea annually while part of the country is turning drier. Besides after Ambatale not a single reservoir has been built to supply drinking water to Colombo despite the sharp rise in the demand for fresh water.  

Another point that merits the attention of policy planners is the amount of water used in paddy cultivation. With nearly 3,000 litres going into the production of one kilogram of rice Sri Lanka today is among the countries with the highest rate of water utilization for paddy cultivation. According to irrigation experts the inefficient water usage in paddy cultivation has resulted in nearly 60% of the water sent to paddy fields going waste. Sustainable use of water is a must especially with the climatic projections that the ground water in the dry zone is going to be dried up in the years to come.  

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