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Sri Lanka floods: ‘We don’t have a harvest’

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Changing weather brings new pressures in flood-hit Sri Lanka. Photo: Amantha Perera/IRIN

Changing weather brings new pressures in flood-hit Sri Lanka. Photo: Amantha Perera/IRIN

Sri Lanka will lose over one million tons from its upcoming paddy harvest due to recent flooding, officials have told IRIN news. “We expected a yield of around 2.75 million metric tons from the harvest due in March to April,” Kulugammanne Karunathileke, secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, told IRIN. “After the heavy rains we will only get around 1.75 million.”

Karunathileke, the highest ranking official at the ministry, said the country had expected a bumper crop – until flooding, which began in January, left some paddy fields under water for up to 11 days. The worst-hit areas are in the eastern districts of Ampara, Batticaloa, Polonnaruwa, Trincomalee and the north-central district of Anuradhapura. Together they account for over 1.2m tons of the harvest. Of the over 700,000 hectares cultivated this season, more than 200,000 have been destroyed, Karunathileke said.

Early this month, over a million Sri Lankans were affected by some of the worst flooding the country has seen in decades, reported AlertNet. Some regions in the country’s east, such as Batticaloa, received over 300 mm of rain within 24 hours, the highest daily rainfall in almost a century. But experts warn that Sri Lankans had better get used to such extreme weather conditions as the island adjusts to changing global climatic conditions.

“Global weather patterns are changing and we have to be aware of that,” warned Gunavi Samarasinghe, the head of the country’s metrological department. Since June 2009, Sri Lanka has dealt with four large floods that have affected over two million people. Among rural villagers like Heenbanda, living almost 250 km from the capital Colombo in the remote Polonnaruwa District, however, there is hardly any knowledge about global climate change or how best to face it.

“We don’t know how it happened. We don’t know why,” Heenbanda said. “We only know that we don’t have a harvest this time.” The raging floods inundated rice paddy land in Sri Lanka’s four eastern districts of Polonnaruwa, Batticaloa, Trincomalee and Ampara, areas that account for over a fifth of the country’s rice production. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, at least 15.5 percent of the main annual rice harvest, due in March and valued at $120 million, could be lost.

Written by makanaka

February 13, 2011 at 22:09