Jun 25, Colombo: Severe drought brought about by the delay in the north- west monsoon rains has severely affected Sri Lanka's agricultural sector threatening to destroy the paddy, vegetable and other food crop cultivations while the receding water levels in hydropower reservoirs have reduced power generation leading to possible power cuts.
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa Monday (25) held a discussion at the Temple Trees with the representatives of the Mahaweli farmers on the measures need to be taken to cover the losses of their crops.
Ministers Maithripala Sirisena whose Polonnaruwa electorate is one the worst affected district, Nimal Siripala de Silva, Basil Rajapaksa, Mahinda Amaraweera, Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, Tissa Karalliyadde, S.M. Chandrasena, Chief Minister of North Central Province Berty Premalal Dissanayake, Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga and the Treasury Secretary Dr. P.B. Jayasundera also participated in the discussions.
According to Sri Lanka's Minister of Agriculture Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena about 150,000 acres of cultivation lands are in danger of getting destroyed due to the drought in certain parts of the country, especially in the North Central, North and North Western provinces.
The drought has severely affected the areas nurtured by the Kothmale and Polgolla reservoirs, the Minister has informed.
Many small reservoirs in these provinces have gone dry and the cultivations have been destroyed leaving the destitute farmers to seek government help to recover their losses.
Irrigation Department officials have said that the water levels of reservoirs and tanks in these areas are receding rapidly.
According to the Officials of the Irrigation Department 7,500 acres in the Elahera project of Polonnaruwa have been abandoned without any cultivation while 15,000 hectares of paddy and about 50,000 hectares of additional crops in the Mahaweli 'H' zone are in danger of destruction.
Minister Abeywardena has said that the government, being aware of possible drought conditions well in advance, had advised the farmers to cultivate alternative crops but the farmers had ignored the government's request and cultivated paddy which requires an excessive amount of water and now they are left with destroyed paddy cultivations.
The Minister has said that the farmers in the Eastern Province have been successful in avoiding the effects of drought due to proper water management and suitable crop cultivation.
Minister Abeywardena pointed out that the eastern farmers had cultivated 75 percent of their lands with paddy and other 25 percent with alternative crops for the Yala season. He also credited the success in Eastern Province to the renovated irrigation system following the disastrous floods in late 2010 and early 2011.
However, the Minister has said that the government will provide maximum assistance to the farming community affected by the drought.
Meanwhile, the receding water levels in hydropower reservoirs have dropped power generation down to 11.7 percent to 3.58 GWh and the thermal power generation has been increased up to 88.3 percent to meet the demand, the country's power authority, Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) said.
With the increase in thermal energy, the CEB is incurring heavy losses and the authority said it may be forced to impose power cuts soon if there is no rain to generate hydropower.
The National Water Supply and Drainage Board also has said that it would be forced to impose water cuts, if no rains in the coming weeks and asked the public to use water sparingly without watering plants and washing vehicles at this stage.
(Photos by Nalin Hewapathirana)