Sri Lanka, Apr 7 2016 (IPS) - Sri Lanka is facing the heat
from a scorching sun for the past one month. In recent times, the
country has imposed power cuts after almost a decade. The main reason
was the stoppage at a coal power plant, but engineers at the Ceylon
Electricity Board (CEB) admit that the island’s hydro-power
generation capacity is at such a critical low that without additional
coal, diesel and renewable generation, the country’s full demand
for power cannot be met.
the south of the country, sea water has been seeping into the inland
pumping stations causing degradation of drinking water. The water
board said that parts of the southern province would have to endure
water cuts as pumping stations try to deal with low water levels and
sea water seepage.
minister, Akila Virag Kariyawasam, recently sent out a very unusual
circular: he ordered all government schools to defer outdoor sports
events till end of April or May. The reason given was warm weather
like never experienced before.
that are just days off from April holidays have begun to announce
over public address systems asking students to remain within
enclosures rather than venture outdoors.
is usually a hot month. But this year has been exceptional.
weather prevailing around the country will continue till April, as
the sun would come directly over Sri Lanka. The country’s
temperature has increased by 3 °C during the day and 2 °C during
the night than its normal value,” the government’s main
information portal said.
to the meteorological department, the annual average temperature is
around 28.5C. The city readings were much higher than that with
Anuradhapura 37C, Batticaloa 32C, capital Colombo 33C, Galle 33C,
Jaffna 36C, Kandy 35C, Nuwara Eliya 24C (coldest location in the
island, usually around 18C), Ratnapura 36C, Trincomalee 33C and
Mannar 34C during the second week of March.
experts have been at a loss to give a clear reason for the sharp
rise. “The change in wind direction over the Indian Ocean could be
one reason,” Sarath Premalal, director forecasting at the
meteorological department said. Other contributing factors are the
absence of cloud cover, rising ocean temperature due to El Nino and
the position of the sun directly above the island.
dry weather is likely to change with the onset of the monsoon, due
from mid-May and not before that. Meanwhile, soaring temperatures
impact power, agriculture and related sectors.
the country’s main reservoirs are mostly running below 30 per cent
capacity. The two large reservoirs Victoria and Randenigala, have a
higher storage capacity but the water needs to be conserved as a
back-up for the harvesting season that begins in April.
engineers’ union president, Athula Wanniarachchi, said that the
government should consider a daily power cut of one hour. “This is
the worst drought that we have had in five years, there should be
awareness built among people on how severe the situation is,” he
power cuts are politically controversial. This week, the CEB did in
fact impose three hour cuts only to roll them back when the
government said no and informed that it was decision to be taken at
the cabinet level.
and energy minister, Rajith Siyambalapitiya, said that the situation
was not as dire as some reports suggested. “Right now we need
around 2,400 mega watts per day, if we can bring that down by around
400 mega watts we should be okay,” he told a public gathering in
government is also thinking of buying power from the privates sector
and reviving reliance on diesel power generation. In 2014, Sri Lanka
shifted heavily towards coal power generation which accounted 41 per
cent of the national supply in March, oil accounted for around 38 per
cent and hydro generation about 17 per cent.
is a clear problem in shifting towards thermal oil based power
generation – it costs more. In 2012, when the island faced a
similar situation a third of its foreign exchange payments went for
oil imports for power generation. The prevalent cheap oil prices
could cushion this a bit, but not by a lot, according to
essential commodities have shown price hikes and past experiences
show that any anomaly in rains and the temperature causes harvest to
2014, when there was a minor drought overall paddy output in the
island recorded a 19 per cent drop from 2013 according to the Food
and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations’ analysis. It
was around 3.8 million tonnes, eight per cent below the five year
average yield. Rice prices were 23 per cent higher that year.
Vavuniya, a paddy farmer, Nagarajan Sivakumar, knows what it is to
face such extreme weather. “We lose the harvest and we get into
debt,” he said. In 2013, losses caused him to borrow Rs 500,000
(US$3500) from local lenders. He is yet to repay the loans taken at
Vavuniya, where at least 40 per cent of the population derives their
main income from agriculture, extreme weather can be deadly. In 2014,
when there was a moderate drought, the World Food Programme, ministry
of economic development, ministry of disaster management and other
partners carried out a survey titled “Drought, food security and
livelihoods affected by erratic weather, Sri Lanka –April 2014”.
the affected regions in the northern, eastern and north western
provinces, over 768,000 persons were identified as food insecure,
double the number a year back, the report said. It also said that in
the same regions comprising of 15 districts, 18 per cent of the
households were consuming low-calorie diets.
report recommended authorities take measures to mitigate the impact
of extreme weather events. Such advice, it appears, is yet to reach
those who can affect them.