clock December 24,2023
Heatwaves and Dry Spell Warnings but no Remedial Alternatives - EDITORIAL

Heatwaves and Dry Spell Warnings but no Remedial Alternatives - EDITORIAL

Sri Lanka is presently caught up in the middle of a heatwave. The Department of Meteorology had forecast the present spell of dry weather some months earlier. As is usual in our country, other than a few media outlets making passing mention of the forecast, neither the government nor the private sector has made plans to mitigate or counter the effects of the present spell of dry weather.Even worse, the Meteorology Department authorities too are sending out mixed signals regarding the effects of the ‘heatwave’. On one hand, it warns the public to take protective measures by limiting exposure to the sun, recommends greater intake of liquids (water), etc, while at the same time claiming present conditions are merely statistics on a Heat Index.   

Whatever the technicalities, the fact remains – the heat is getting to us all. Despite no particular statistics being available (at the time of writing) of the extent the heat has taken its toll, many citizens complain of various ailments associated with the prevailing over-heated conditions. The public is also being advised of a variety of fruits and vegetables which help cool the body. What is sad however is that a large percentage of working people in our country can no longer even afford to provide their families with two square meals of food a day – leave aside purchasing fruits and vegetables to cool their children’s bodies down.The London-based charity, ‘Save the Children’ reports half of the families in our country are forced to reduce the amount they feed their children. The reports adds while half of Sri Lankan households are cutting their children’s food intake, 27 percent of more than 2,300 households in the survey it conducted reported adults skipping meals to feed their children. Meanwhile, the ‘Ceylon Teachers Union (CTU) has warned the dropout rates among children from marginalized sections of the community are on the rise due to poverty.

Making a bad situation worse is the fact that this present spell of dry weather is taking its toll of the reservoirs in the country. Irrigation Department officials recently announced water levels of tanks and reservoirs were dropping at an alarming rate due to the prevailing dry weather.   Being a natural resource dependent production process, Agriculture is the most vulnerable to changes in climate. Some vegetables such as radish, kohlrabi, chillies, beetroot and capsicum chillies require water twice a day. In other words farmers will need to use kerosene or diesel to power the motors of water pumps to irrigate the fields. The cost of fuel is high and will lead to further price increases. Tea production is a major foreign exchange earner in this country. Drought is the single main constraint in any given year on tea yields. Drought affects both the quantity and quality of tea, leading to a considerable loss of export earnings. 

Therefore systematic measures need be taken to reduce the drought impact. Mulching is one method which comes to mind. Coir and paddy husks are easily available ingredients which can be used for mulching purposes. The raw material is available country-wide. Can we not devise a method to collect these materials to serve the purpose?Despite 76 years of independence we have not been able to conserve rain water which is plentifully available during the monsoon periods to meet a shortfall of this precious resource during times of extended dry weather.In East Asian in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Oman, Iran, etc., large acres of desert have been converted into orchards and vegetable gardens by tapping into underground aquifers. Sadly our governments have as yet not been able to even harvest the rainfall which is plentifully available during the two monsoonal seasons.If the desert can be made to bloom via underground aquifers, surely we should be able to use resources plentifully available on the surface of our land to overcome the periodic spells of dry weather this country faces.What we need to do is get out of our comfort zones, think out of the box, innovate and create solutions rather than blaming the Weather Gods 
or governments. 

( Source : Daily Mirror)

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