Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Sri Lanka offers lessons on how not to manage water

IRIN: Angry paddy farmers blocked major roads in the Minneriya and Girithale areas in Sri Lanka’s North Eastern Polonnaruwa region last month, complaining the government had not released enough water for their rice to grow; they claimed they had lost 50,000 hectares of crops, or 1.75 million kg.

Ananda Edirisuriya, who took part in the protests, accused the Irrigation Department of failing to notify farmers of impending water shortages. “We need to know in advance if there is going to be a drought and how wide the impact is. Right now what we get is that when the drought is at its worst, the officials come and tell us that there is no water,” he told IRIN. “By then it is too late, we have already planted our crops.”

R M P Karunaratane, deputy director of the Polonnaruwa Irrigation Department, admitted weak rainfall was partially to blame, but passed the buck to reservoir releases, claiming the water shortage was caused when no water was released from the main reservoirs that feed the local reservoirs over which his office has control.

“We also don’t know much about impending droughts because we also don’t get detailed forecasts,” Karunaratane added, explaining that the daily bulletins he receives by fax from the central Department of Irrigation and the Meteorological Department often contain insufficient information to accurately inform farmers about water availability.

Edirisuriya said the bureaucratic hurdles are compounded by hotels in the area using large amounts of water. The exasperated farmer added: “If there is a drought, then there needs to be priorities, and agriculture should be the top priority.”...

When building the Victoria Dam in Sri Lanka the Teldeniya city was submerged. This is the sumbmerged old Teldeniya city seen during a drought period the reservior water level abrupty dropped in 2012. Shot by Hasindu2008, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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