During the past few decades several countries have gone to war to gain control of dwindling oil and natural gas resources. The Soviet Union’s shameful invasion of Afghanistan and the wars by the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq were obviously meant to gain control of the vast energy resources.
Economic analysts have warned that in this decade or the next the world is likely to see similar full-scale wars to gain control of the dwindling fresh-water resources.
Sri Lanka has been blessed with several major rivers and we need to be vigilant because attempts are being made by trans-national companies acting on behalf of rich countries to gain control of our fresh-water resources.
While being cautious of such subtle moves, we also need to take practical steps to preserve and protect our fresh-water resources. Sri Lanka’s legendary King Parakramabhahu, had advised our people that every drop of pure rain water should be used without allowing it to go waste.
He and other wise leaders built thousands of wewas, which were marvels of engineering of our ancient people, but unfortunately we are now inviting foreign experts and paying them huge salaries in foreign exchange to advise on irrigation management.
In the past three decades Sri Lanka has faced another crisis over our water resources. Most experts believe that largely due to the excessive use of imported fertilisers and pesticides, the ground water resources have been polluted mainly in the North Central and Uva Provinces.
As a result, tens thousands of people, mainly farmers in those areas, are suffering from renal failure. Hundreds are undergoing regular dialysis, while others are waiting for agonising or expensive kidney transplants. Experts have advised the Government that urgent and effective steps need to be taken to encourage the farmer community to switch to organic or bio farming.
We will reap a multi-faceted positive harvest from this. Ground water pollution could be stopped or curbed, the food we eat will not be polluted or poisoned and the country could save millions of dollars in foreign exchange by significantly reducing the import of chemical fertilisers and pesticides.
As part of the gradual switch to organic farming, the Government also needs to give priority to the restoration of thousands of wewas. The JVP when it was in the UPFA Government after 2004, launched a widely-acclaimed plan to restore the wewas, but it ended up in a mud hole when the JVP quit the Government. Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa has again launched schemes to restore the wewas, but we also hear of counter-productive action such as the case where a former Chief Minister is accused of defrauding more than hundred million rupees which had been allocated for the restoration of wewas.
Individually we all need to take practical steps to save fresh water not just to reduce our water bills, but as an act of undiluted patriotism.