Friday, March 8, 2013

Peace brings new pressures on water in northern Sri Lanka

Amantha Perera in AlertNet: When she came back to her house almost two-and-a-half years after fleeing it amid intense fighting, Rajina Mary looked desperately for one thing – the well in her garden. It was early 2011, and the 38-year-old war widow had returned to her village with her four children to rebuild a life devastated by Sri Lanka’s prolonged conflict, which ended in 2009.

“When I saw the well covered with weeds, but relatively intact, I was so relieved,” she says. The well, in this parched village in the country’s Northern Province, meant that when one of the region’s frequent droughts sets in, her family would not have to walk miles to look for safe water. That is the fate of thousands of others who returned to find their wells caved in. “When we rebuilt our house, we did not have any water issues, we just used the well,” Mary said.

But as people return to the war-ravaged region, experts are warning that pressures on its water supply are growing and that using water sparingly will be crucial, particularly as climate change brings more weather extremes.

Over 460,000 people have returned to the Northern Province since late 2009. The massive influx of people, coupled with increases in farming, construction and other industries, has caused an enormous increase in water usage, experts say.

The biggest overuse is happening in small agriculture plots that use mechanized pumps. Thousands of such pumps have been distributed among returning civilians and are in daily use. Ravi Vinanithambi, an environment officer with the government’s Emergency Northern Recovery Project, estimates that the pumps extract three times the necessary water requirement.

...Without better water management, the region faces dire water scarcity, experts say....

Sunset over lagoons in Sri Lanka, shot by Indi Samarajiva, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license 

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