Dry zone small tank revival seen mitigating Sri Lanka drought impact
ECONOMYNEXT – Private sector investments have been encouraged to revive small tank cascade systems in Sri Lanka’s dry zone to mitigate the impact of a severe drought, which has deprived almost a million people of drinking water and cut rice output.
Most long-term recommendations to mitigate the impact of disasters like drought are about overall disaster risk reduction, said Visaka Hidellage, Deputy Country Representative of the United Nations Development Program in Sri Lanka.
The island came out of serious floods in 2016 and then went straight into a drought, she told a forum on drought impact organised by the Asia Pacific Alliance for Disaster Management Sri Lanka (A-PAD Sri Lanka).
“When there are floods, everyone is concerned about getting the water out rather than storing it for a drought,” she said. “There’s a very direct link between drought and floods.”
Disaster risk reduction measures for drought management include the revival of the small tank cascade systems in the dry zone, Hidellage said.
“But rehabilitation of tanks in isolation is not the answer – we need a system-wide approach,” Hidellage said.
A 27 tank cascade system rehabilitated in 2015/16 in Kurunegala had helped farmers continue cultivation of rice and other crops despite the drought, and could be replicated elsewhere.
In Kurunegala. tanks were filled with water so farmers were able to work and cultivation continued into the next season.
“Not just paddy but alternative crops can be looked at. We need to think long term for an effective disaster risk reduction strategy,” Hidellage said.
The work was started in 2015, and by mid-2016, some tanks in the cascade system were completed, so water got filled and despite a failed crop elsewhere, people were able to cultivate.
Investments in tank rehabilitation could be a way of channelling drought relief to farmers, she said.
“The UN wants to start a mapping exercise of all tanks in 12 districts – small tank cascades – to give guidance to those who want to invest in drought risk reduction,” Hidellage said.
(COLOMBO, Feb 24, 2017)