Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Disaster warnings ignored in Sri Lanka

IRIN: Lives and livelihoods are being lost unnecessarily in Sri Lanka because local communities are ignoring disaster warnings, according to officials. More than 70 people died in the last two months of 2014 as a result of floods and landslides while the earlier part of the year was marked by a prolonged drought, severely impacting the rice harvest.

“In both instances, the losses could have been avoided if warnings were heeded but unfortunately they weren’t,” Sarath Lal Kumara, assistant director at Sri Lanka’s Disaster Management Centre (DMC), told IRIN.

The government, through the department of agriculture, asked farmers in early 2014 to reduce the amount of land cultivated for rice and to plant more drought resistant crops because of indications that the monsoon rains might fail. Very few responded to the call.

By the time the 10-month long drought began to ease, Sri Lanka’s rice harvest was estimated to be more than 20 percent short of a government target of four million metric tons. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization at the end of 2014 all rice varieties had recorded price increases of between 25 to 50 percent over the previous year.

“What we have here is not a problem of lack of water, but a water management problem,” said Ivan de Silva who served as secretary to the Ministry of Irrigation and Water Management until January this year....

The exposed floor of a reservoir in Sri Lanka, shot by Hasindu2008, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license 

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