‘If we manage river basins we could minimise floods’: National water management policy, need of the day | Page 2 | Sunday Observer

‘If we manage river basins we could minimise floods’: National water management policy, need of the day

PIC: SUDAM GUNASINGHE
PIC: SUDAM GUNASINGHE

Sri Lanka could save billions of rupees each year if a national water management policy is in place to minimise losses to property, livestock and crop from extreme weather which has become the order of the day said panelists at the recently held Colombo Development Dialogues (CDD).

Water resource management experts said floods followed by drought during the past two to three years alone had resulted in colossal losses to the economy which could have been minimised had a national water resource management policy or an apex body to manage water existed.

 Floods followed by drought during the past two to three years alone had resulted in colossal losses to the economy which could have been minimised had a national water resource management policy or an apex body to manage water existed. Long spells of dry weather throughout 2016 and the beginning of January 2017 were the worst in decades ravaging paddy cultivation during Maha

Long spells of dry weather throughout 2016 and the beginning of January 2017 were the worst in decades ravaging paddy cultivation during the Maha season, the main harvesting time for the country which recorded a 63 percent reduction in yield.

An estimated 630,000 people were affected by torrential rains that lashed across the country adversely affecting seven districts in the South while over one million people were left to face a severe drought in other areas of the country last year.

Water experts drew the attention of the panelists on the colossal loss to livelihood and property due to the large scale flooding at the Kelani river basin alone in two consecutive years in 2016 and 2017.The Kelani river received 350 mm of rainfall within three days from May 15 to 17 resulting in the water level at Kelani Hanwella gauge to rise to 10 ft.

Currently the North Central Province faces severe drought with water scarcity becoming acute by the day adversely affecting livelihood and livestock.

Deputy Director of Research Department of Agriculture Dr. P.B. Dharmasena said “Sri Lanka is endowed with rich and sustainable water resources. This country is blessed with plenty of water with an annual rainfall of 2,000 mililetres (131billion cubic metres). We are talking a lot about water because we are not managing it well.

“Around 50 percent of the water we receive from rainfall is left to flow to the sea.

He said some river basins release 60-70 percent water. “Kalu, Ginganga, Kelani rivers release over 60 percent creating floods. Yan Oya, Deduro Oya and Kala Oya release less than 20 percent water to sea leaving large reserves,” Dharmasena said.

Water experts said there are around 10 ministries and 20 departments to manage water in Sri Lanka and yet there is no proper system to regulate water resources in the country.

“There are long dry/wet seasons through the year. Our irrigation systems were built mostly in the 1960s. Rainfall in the hill country is dropping sharply and as a result tea plantations are getting drier.

Sri Lanka is a net food importing country and global food prices are on the rise. We need to recognise the need to ensure food security,” a water expert said.

The need to invest in skills development and capacity building of women was stressed at the forum which brought to light the fact that the involvement of women in agriculture is being severely underreported in Sri Lanka.

Making an observation a Journalist pointed out that quality of arable land and unpredictability of rainfall has lead to climate induced migration especially in the North Central Province and the North and in many areas in India. She also said poor sanitary conditions has widened gender disparity.

Research Group Leader for Water Risk and Disasters, International Water Management Institute, Dr. Giriraj Armarnath said automatic weather stations in India provide data enabling farmers to take informed decisions.

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