Rain delayed: Threat to food, hydro – power

By Sandun A. Jayasekera

Sri Lanka’s food production and hydro power generation can be badly affected if the prevailing dry weather conditions continue for another two or three weeks, officials said yesterday.

Meteorology Department Acting Director General S.H. Kariyawasam said the second inter-monsoonal rain had been delayed and the forecasting of rains was not possible.

“The weather pattern over Sri Lanka shows no signs of heavy rains at least till November. We last had heavy rains in April this year,” Mr. Kariyawasam said.

Hector Kobbekaduwa Agrarian Research Institute Director Lalith Jayasekara said this year’s rainfall was the lowest in 30 years.

“We have not had  continuous  rain after February when flash floods destroyed nearly 200,000 hectares of paddy lands. The prevailing dry weather and the lack of rain will definitely affect the paddy production and other food crops,” Mr. Jayasekera said.

Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) System Control General Manager T.D. Handagama said the water levels in major reservoirs had come down to 35 per cent and the hydro power generation had been reduced to 20 per cent. Mr. Handagama said the amount of water in the Castlereagh stood at 30 per cent, Maussakele 47 per cent, Kotmale 42 per cent, Victoria 37 per cent, Randenigala 21 per cent and Samanalawewa 19 per cent. This is half of last year’s water capacity in October.

Irrigation and Water Management Director, H.M. Jayatilaka said the country’s irrigation tanks are filled only up to 1/3 their full capacity and the situation would worsen if there was no rain in the next few weeks.

According to Irrigation Department data, the water capacity in irrigation tanks district-wise was as follows 27 per cent in Ampara 24 per cent in Badulla, 27 per cent in Batticaloa, 40 per cent in Hambantota, 21 per cent in Matale, 24 per cent in Kurunegala, 46 per cent in Monaragala, 19 per cent in Polonnaruwa, 17 per cent in Puttalam, 18 in Trincomalee, 10 per cent in Vavuniya and 30 per cent in Mannar as at yesterday.

Meanwhile Agriculture Minister Mahinda Yapa Abeywardana said almost all the tanks that provide water for cultivation in the main agricultural districts have dried up and the country would face a serious scarcity of water unless there was rain soon.

“We do not have a proper water management system as we are concerned only about surface water. It is about time to draw our attention to ground water management system and restrict setting up of tube wells and pumping of ground water using heavy machinery. The pumping out of ground water in a haphazard manner affects the water bodies like tanks, rivers, streams and other water resources on the ground making them dry,” Minister Abeywardana said.

Minister Yapa said what was urgently required was an attitudinal change among the people to save water and power as indiscriminate use of these precious resource would result in serious problems. It is interesting to note that Sri Lanka recorded a surplus of 200,000 metric tons of paddy this year and hopes to export rice to Africa after collecting a harvest of 3.8 million metric tons at the Yala and Maha season. This is despite the destructive floods in the North-East, North-Central and Central provinces in early this year. 

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