ECONOMYNEXT – Up to half-a-million people could be affected as south-west monsoon rains hit Sri Lanka, triggering floods and landslides, with several roads becoming impassable in Colombo and parts of the southern tea growing region.
The June – September southwest monsoon, which has been delayed this year, is important for economies in south Asia, affecting crop cultivation, hydropower generation and transport.
Sri Lankan weather, irrigation and disaster management authorities say they are better prepared this year for monsoon rains that in previous years resulted in loss of life and property and large scale displacement of people.
The Meteorology Department has said this year’s southwest monsoon could be below normal in the first half of the season, based on a consensus by several global weather forecasting agencies, with inter-monsoon rains also lower.
Southwest monsoon conditions will get established over the island during next few days, especially from Monday, 03rd June, with showers or thundershowers in the southern province and Kalutara and Ratnapura districts, some fairly heavy falls of about 100mm.
The Disaster Management Centre (DMC) said it has identified landslide risk in parts of districts in the south and central hills important for tea and rubber cultivation
The island depends on four rainy seasons – two monsoons and two inter-monsoon periods – to fill hydro-power and irrigation reservoirs for power generation and cultivation.
Weather forecasting agencies have said the monsoon has reached the Andaman Sea and southern parts of the Bay of Bengal but is weak.
Disaster management authorities have said they aim to achieve "zero deaths" from anticipated floods and landslides triggered by monsoon rains this year and also reduce damage to property.
Since 2018, DMC has spent 337 million rupees for over 200 flood mitigation projects in 22 districts and 77 million rupees for 41 landslide mitigation works in four districts.
It estimates that over 140,000 families or some 547,200 people could be affected by this year’s monsoon rains with about 35,000 families or over 155,000 people having to be moved to safe locations in 5-6 districts in the south-west of the island.
The number of families evacuated during the monsoon has been coming down in recent years, from 61,588 families in 2016 to 30,190 in 2017 and 27,741 families in 2018.
The DMC has identified several roads that might go underwater in Colombo, and the districts of Kalutara, Galle, Ratnapura and Matara, important for tea and rubber cultivation, as well as in several other districts.
It has also identified several landslide-prone areas on the western slopes of the central massif.
(COLOMBO, 03 June 2019)