Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Drought begins to bite in Sri Lanka

IRIN: Sri Lanka has had six months of drought and could face severe crop losses and electricity shortages if the coming monsoon is as weak as forecasts predict, experts say. “The situation is really, really bad,” said Ranjith Punyawardena, chief climatologist at the Department of Agriculture. “Already there are harvest losses and more are anticipated.”

According to Punyawardena, 5 percent (280,000 tons) of the 2014 rice harvest has already been lost due to the ongoing drought, which stretches back to November 2013. With 200,000 hectares of rice fields (20 percent of the annual cultivated total) planted during the secondary harvesting season already lost, experts say the losses from the drought could be exacerbated by the forecasted weak southwest monsoon, due in May.

Sarath Lal Kumara, deputy director at the Disaster Management Centre (DMC), said the impact of the drought had intensified in the last two months. “We are getting more and more reports of lack of water and harvest losses,” he said, emphasizing that the worst affected regions were the Northern, North Central and Southern Provinces.

By the end of March 2014 over 240,000 families had been affected by diminished water supply and harvest losses, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The Ministry of Disaster Management has so far spent US$2.3 million in assistance. According to the Department of Census and Statistics, at least 32 percent of the country’s labour force of 8.6 million derives its income from agriculture....

An aerial view of Jaffna Peninsula on Sri Lanka, shot by Anuradha Ratnaweera, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

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