Climate change adaptation in Sri Lanka - disaster risk reduction and catchment conservation
By Ranjith Ratnayake Former Director Water Resources Development - Ministry of Irrigation
Source area protection was a key element in ensuing the availability of adequate and sustainable water resources for livelihood needs in ancient times and an integral component in Sri Lanka’s ancient hydraulic civilization dating over 2500 years.
Gradual encroachment into the hill country catchments due to plantation agriculture and increasing population pressures in catchments of other river basins leading to encroachments and land degradation due to deforestation. This compounded by political compulsions and lack of integrated planning, management and regulation of the natural resources/water sector has exacerbated the consequences resulting in many closed basins due to lack of perennial water flow.
Floods, droughts and now landslides are of increasing concern with the impacts of climate change resulting in heavy social and economic costs with the increasing frequency of water related disasters. A single intense rainfall event and rivers are in spate with the heavy runoff carrying loads of silt as reflected in the muddy waters an indicator of increasingly eroded and degraded catchments.
Though integrated catchment management is part of integrated water resources management or IWRM now increasingly accepted to overcome the quantity/quality divide as well as issues of increasing competing uses and population and livelihood shifts,our colonial inherited administrative and at most sub sector/sector based initiatives as responses have not been successful.