Sri Lanka: Heat wave melts records
Last year was the hottest year of the decade for some parts of Sri Lanka, while it was the second hottest year after 2016 for most of other parts of the country. The annual mean temperatures calculated from the data taken from 22 weather stations across the country show that 2019 was the hottest year of the decade for nine areas covered by those stations, namely Mannar, Vavuniya, Puttalam, Kurunegala, Katugastota, Ratmalana, Badulla, Moneragala and Polonnaruwa.
Last year Sri Lanka faced a long spell of dry weather following below-average rains in the first half of 2019. The country was hit by dry and moderate drought conditions in pockets of the North, North Western, North Central, Uva and Eastern Provinces. As of September 25 last year, more than 780,000 people were affected by drought according to the Disaster Management Centre (DMC). The Northern and Eastern Provinces saw the highest number of affected people. At that time, we were just recovering from a severe drought in 2016 – 2017, that affected over a million people and was said to be the worst in 40 years.
When it comes to thunder and lightning, Wijemannage said there has been an increase of thunder days over the years, but the fatalities and property damage have been brought down as people are now more aware of the precautions to be taken. The data showed that the number of thunder days in 2019 had increased in 13 areas covered by the 22 weather stations in comparison to 2010, while this number showed a decrease in the remaining nine areas.
The temperature is rising, rainy days are decreasing, and drought periods, intense rainfalls, weather-related disasters, and even thunder are increasing, to recap a few realities. It is time we focussed on environmental conservation and disaster resilience on top of all other matters. In this context, the need for more officers, or rather citizens, like Gampaha District Forest Officer Devani Jayatillake is felt more than ever. Harken to her plea, “we need oxygen, we need more trees”, or face the consequences which are plain to see.