21 May, 2022


Is Sri Lanka Prepared For Impacts Of Droughts, Floods & Sea Level Rise?

By Vositha Wijenayake

Vositha Wijenayake

Vositha Wijenayake

This week of September is a key week which addresses world’s development agenda and the ways to move forward in addressing the grave impacts of climate change, termed as loss and damage under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. With 2015 being the year for a new legally binding agreement on climate change, and also the year of deciding the sustainable development goals for the global development which does not leave the vulnerable and marginalized behind, understanding the concepts relevant to this discussion, and impacts of slow onset events such as floods, droughts, sea level rise play a key role in developing policies to address these issues.

Climate Action Network South Asia (CANSA) in collaboration with Asian Pacific Network (APN), ActionAid International and Asia Pacific Adaptation Network (APAN) organised a workshop on loss and damage from slow onset events of climate change impacts in Colombo, Sri Lanka on the 22nd and 23rd of September, 2015.

The inauguration and the initial technical sessions of the workshop were held on the 22nd of September, with technical sessions extending to the 23rd. The inaugural ceremony was held with the participation of the Additional Secretary to the Ministry of Disaster Management Dr. S Amalanathan, Mr. Ranga Pallawala CEO Janathakshan (Gt. Ltd.), Ms. Visaka Hidellage Assistant Country Director of UNDP ,Ms. Nilmini Ranasighe Environment Management Officer of Ministry of Environment and Mahaweli Development, Mr. Sarath Ekanayake Board Member of Climate Action Network South Asia, and various stakeholders representing the government, private sector and the academia.

Floods & Sea Level Rise?The workshop focused on the international mechanism to address loss and damage, and discussed the international policy making processes and the development of Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and slow onset events, as well as the emerging nature of the subject and the difficulty in coming to an international consensus on how to address loss and damage.

The health impacts due to slow onset events due to climate change gained a focus in the discussions, in addition to impacts felt to the agriculture sector. This is due to the fact that not having access to clean water, and chemicals being used on agriculture plays a key role in the increase on the number of cases of chronic kidney disease. More the impacts of slow onset events are felt, such as droughts and depletion of water resources, more the number of cases of health will increase. Current policies for development in Sri Lanka and the presidential manifesto of the President highlights health and agriculture as key sectors of focus. If these issues are addressed through policy, communities impacted by health issues, as well as agricultural issues will find solutions to them.

In terms of addressing loss and damage related to climate change, there is a lot of focus on insurance and compensation, as well as risk transfer. This is one of the key discussions that have been prevalent in the international forums in the last few years. Who needs to fund the losses and damages suffered by the victims of climatic impacts. While the developing world points the finger at the developed world, the answer remains yet to be determined.

In order to address impacts of climate change, and the losses and damages due to slow onset events such as droughts and floods it is important to choose options which are planned with the consideration of scientific data. While lack of water resources, impacts on agriculture leads many to migrate to different parts within and outside the original habitat, unplanned adaptation measures will only lead to aggravating the situation. Furthermore it is important that the discussion on the topic takes into consideration the significance of economic and livelihood diversification and building up climate resilience as solutions to impacts on economy and development. However it was noted that scientific data on the hasards, and accurate calculation of damages are missing at the national level.

As steps to move forward in building solutions to address the issues of climate change impacts such as slow onset events and merging them with the development agenda of the country it was suggested that the findings of the consultation be presented to a larger group of stakeholders who will in turn contribute to the mapping of the way forward on the topic at national level, facilitated by the Ministry of Disaster Management Center and the Climate Change Secretariat.

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Latest comments

  • 1

    Did anyone at the workshop point out that by creating more coal fired power plants and going for fossil fuel assisted ‘development’ in Sri Lanka we would be only helping to make the problem worse, for ourselves and the planet ? or were they all ostriches with their heads in the (eroding) sand, ?

    • 1

      The air in Colombo these days smells of petro-chemicals particularly at rush hour when traffic is at its peak due to the smog trapped by clouds.

      When the Colombo port city was under construction the filthy acrid smell was always in the air – petro chemical pollution blown inland and many people had respiratory problem and flues that won’t go away.

      Does the Colombo port city project factor in sea level rise or will it become like the Hambantota Harbour a huge white elephant?

      Recall that the Hambantota harbour had rocks that need to be blasted because the environmental impact assessments that advised against construction were buried?!
      Mahinda Jarapassa’s Chinese projects are costly white elephants in Sri Lanka on 2 fronts – ENvironmentally damaging and financial night mares. Ranil and Pathala Champika need to put the Colombo Port city in arbitration and get out of the contract, because it will later be a HUGE DISASTER, ENVIRONEMNTAL AND FINANCIAL, for Colombo citizens and the cournty.
      Mahinda Rajaoakse and his family who would have got a massive cut on the CHinese Colombo port city must be held accountable for this and his assets ceased to pay for arbitration and to pay off the Chinese company which no doubt is a sleeze filled.

  • 1

    All this UNDP posturing on climate change and disaster risk in natural and man made conflict situations is expensive spin – look at the massive disaster in Syria happening before our eyes, and UN has done what?!
    UNDP disaster risk analysis is a distraction from the REAL disasters that our on our doorstep at this time!
    As long we do not address the fact that the biggest environmental risks and disasters are due to BAD GOVERNANCE, and non-inclusive projects like the China funded port city that is already polluting the air in Colombo, and so-called development projects to enable the rich to get richer in cities like Colombo – like clearing out poor people to build luxury apartments, disasters will continue.

    The Chinese funded Colombo port city is a massive environmental disaster and eyesore in the making. Fact is UNDP wants to be apolitical and NOT address root causes of disasters – here the China factor. This is why UN is itself a massive expensive white elephant today!
    Let us first focus citizen’s attention on the Chinese development disasters in Sri Lanka which promoted Rajaapska’s dicatoraship and massive corruption!

    • 0

      Dil you are quite right! Disaster management is a disaster!

      Today 5 people on an estate in Kotmale died due to a landslide -na natural disaster. The dead included 2 children. This disaster has been happening for years in estate communities. What has UNDP and Disaster Management Ministry done about this?! jack shit!
      Estate line room people are constantly being killed in landslides every year during monsoon season because they do not have safe housing in the plantations where they have slaved for generations.. Nor does this community have the right to life it seems..
      What is the UNDP doing about the LAND RIGHTS and the RIGHT TO DECENT SHELTER and indeed the RIGHT TO LIFE of this marginalized and exploited community which was treated like SLAVES in the tea plantations in Sri Lanka..? Jack shit!
      There needs to be a survey of all the unsafe estate line rooms and alternative housing provided to this community that carries the tea economy on its back.
      Its all hot air… Disaster management is a disaster!

  • 0

    Ranil – I’ll go with the ‘ostrich’ scenario, given the recent pronouncements!

    When will we ever learn??!!!

  • 1

    For god sake get these bloody yahapalana fools to stop this environmental disaster “port city” because when the seal levels rise it will be buried. If they want to find more land area then look for another land area at a suitable location around the island. They could just as well erect a modern city inland with all facilities and have the people moved there, to find the required land around colombo harbour. Anyway for what purpose do we need this type of a port city which will drain meager natural resources like electricity, water, rock, earth, sand, air etc. and valuable human energy and time which would otherwise have been invested in some other worthwhile project. This is a question of prioritizing our needs. There must be a new understanding about preserving our natural resources as they are. We have very limited amount of land mass, earth, sand, granite, water, air, fertilizer, food, fuel etc. and these are the precious gifts of our future generations from who we have borrower to be consumed today. The life styles, attitudes and needs of people must undergo a transformation today so that life on earth would continue into future. Currently we are destroying this earth fast-tracked. We are bound to end human existence on this planet the way we live today. Human race is going to commit suicide. If we destroy this earth where are we going to be born again. The idiot may say there is no hereafter! Then I ask the fucker why the fucking hell then there is genes and DNA, why thoughts, brain, communication faculty so developed as it is today and male and female? This is the mechanism of our reincarnation. This fact is common to all life forms. We are intended to reborn, re-live and evolve. There is no fucking god, heaven or hell as is held by the stupid buffaloes who are mocking around and continue to destroy this precious world. There are no individuals in this human family but a collective human race, collective human mind and consciousness, collective experience, collective sorrow and suffering, collective guilt and responsibility and collective occasional fleeting pleasure. The everlasting drive, urge and pursuit of this mirage of pleasure and the more more more of it is the cause of this. The policy framers of the world must understand this and must act collectively to impose strict rules, disciplines and responsibility on the part of every nation and human being if human race is ever to avoid extinction.

  • 1

    Vositha Wijenayake,

    Thanks for the information.

    Unfortunately we are not yet mature enough to care about our environment. Clean water, air, food etc are not our priorities.

    Who the son of our president meets is apparently more imortant.

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