Climate change - responding to a global challenge
WINDS OF CHANGE: More frequent torrential downpours causing flash
floods and landslides threatening lives and property could be attributed
to climate change due to Global Warming.
A sea level rise, droughts and a multitude of other changes would
drastically change the worldâ€™s climatic landscape in the future.
In this backdrop, meteorologists, environmentalists, hydrologists,
doctors and experts of various other sectors like agriculture and
industry gathered at the Kukuleganga Holiday Resort, Malkawa in March
and drafted recommendations on adaptation strategies and mitigation
options with regard to agricultural, water resources, health, energy,
industrial sectors and environmental policy issues.
The gathering was the National Conference on Climate Change organized
by the Centre for Climate Change
Consequences of climate change
Studies (CCCS) of the Department of
The National Conference marked the finale of the series of seminars
on climate change organised by the Centre for Climate Change Studies (CCCS)
of the Department of Meteorology.
It was a fitting location in itself, in terms of climate change; In
May 2003, floods that wrecked havoc particularly in the Ratnapura,
Kuruvita and Deniyaya areas at an unprecedented level kept people
guessing as to how it all happened. Some resorted to superstitions
seeking explanations as if it had been the work of some angry god.
â€śThe people here are now replacing their rubber plantations with tea
although the rubber prices were now very good.
But the increase in rainfall in the area was not conducive for rubber
cultivation,â€ť said the pool attendant of the resort who was a resident
of Matugama area. This is tangible evidence of climate change as felt by
the people of the locality who try to adapt to the change.
The location was close to the Sinharaja Tropical Rain Forest. The
resort gives a panoramic view of a mountain range bordering the forest
that also demarcates the Ratnapura and Kalutara Districts.
although the general public was baffled, the meteorologists have a
scientific approach. â€śThe people complained of changes in rainfall
pattern, lack of rain and longer drought, while some areas receive
torrential rain and floods and landslides.
There is a strong possibility that these could be results of climate
changes due to global warming,â€ť Director General of the Meteorological
Department Dr.G.H.P. Dharmarathne in his welcoming address explained.
â€śClimate change is a natural phenomenon. Climate change due to
natural factors is quite a slow process when compared to man- induced
climate change. The catalysts for the human induced climate change were
the burning of fossil fuels such as diesel, petrol, coal and industrial
This has drastically increased emissions of mainly carbon dioxide,
which gives the effect of a Green House, increasing global temperature.
Thus the increase in the global temperature is the cause for the
climate change. Ever since the industrial revolution, Carbon Dioxide
concentration has increased by 31 per cent. The danger is that this
process is irreversible,â€ť he said.
He said that poorer countries, which were less able to adapt to the
changes would suffer the worst from the unavoidable impacts which would
be particularly severe in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The developed
countries contribute the most to global warming.
He pointed out that developing countries like Sri Lanka could not
afford to control or altogether stop the use of fossil fuels, â€śbut we
can explore measures to adopt and mitigate adverse effects of climate
The Secretary to the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights
P.D. Amarasinghe in his keynote address stressed that droughts, longer
and frequent in the recent past, should be one of the main concerns of
the Ministry since nothing new had been added by way of mitigation.
He pointed out that ancient rulers had built a system of canals and
tank complexes to store water to face such disasters.
Although the Ministry had disaster management plans to deal with
floods, no such mitigation plans were available for droughts and such
plans could not have been formulated and implemented by the ministry
alone. He sought the assistance of all stakeholders.
â€śThe global mean temperature is projected to increase by three
degrees Celsius by 2100 and in terms of the latest estimates the average
air temperature too would rise by about 2.5 Celsius by year 2100, which
would have drastic effects on the environment,â€ť Senior Meteorologist
B.R.S.B. Basnayake warned. He added that the global mean sea level too
is projected to rise by 28-43 cm.
Dr. Basnayake illustrated the Green House effect of the gases which
was the cause of global warming.
He explained that the natural concentration of the Green House Gases
had made the planet habitable for humans but since the Industrial
revolution a high concentration of such gases had highly accelerated the
warming process which in turn had been creating many environmental
nightmares. He said that the scientists had been concerned with the
issue as far as the 19th century.
A British scientist Svante Arrhenius published a research publication
on the â€śinfluence of Carbonic acid in the air upon the temperature of
the groundâ€ť in the Philosophical Magazine and Journal of Science in
April, 1896. It talked about the heat absorbing gases and their
influence upon ground.
Director of Meteorology K.R. Abeysinghe Bandara in his presentation
Impacts on Climate Change on Extreme Events explained as to how an
increase in air temperature due to global warming would lead to
increased frequency and intensity of thunder and lightning and the
frequency of tornadoes.
He pointed out that more and more tornados had been reported in Sri
Lanka recently. He also warned that an increase in temperature would
also increase the possibility of Cyclonic storm development at places
prone to cyclonic storms like Bay of Bengal where more frequent and
intense storms would develop.
â€śAlthough the number of cyclones that actually cross Sri Lanka is
low, heavy rains and strong winds would be experienced in Sri Lanka. As
a result severe floods and landslides could increase resulting in life
and property damage and the sea too would encroach on land,â€ť he said.
He also said that El Nino events which could cause dry weather
conditions would prevail over the Sri Lanka and neighboring countries
when the sea surface temperature in the eastern Pacific rises above
Dr. B.V.R. Punyawardane. Senior Scientist of the Natural Resources
Management Centre of the Department of Agriculture in his presentation
Impacts and Adaptation of Climate Change in Agriculture explained as to
how it would affect the sector and discussed possible adaptation and
He cautioned that the both quality and the quantity of the crop would
decrease due to global warming and the consequent changes in the
rainfall and availability of water.
The need for a policy for the exploitation of ground water was
stressed since the tremendous over- exploitation of ground water would
lead to many environmental hazards like earthslips, landslides, drought
He called for some sort of limitation on ground water extraction was.
Dr. Punyawardane pointed out that generally around 10 per cent of the
rain water would penetrate into the ground while extraction was much
greater thus creating an anomaly that would adversely affect the ground
Dr. Nihal Abeysinghe pointed out that there was a clear link between
the local climate and occurrence or the severity of some diseases.
Certain serious diseases appear only in warm areas and also the warm
temperatures can increase air and water pollution.
A World Health Organisation study had showed that global climate
change had a direct bearing on increased rates of malaria, malnutrition
and diarrhoea and contributed to the 150,00 deaths and five million sick
persons each year.
It was also pointed out that death rates increase during extremely
hot days particularly among the very old and the very young people
living in cities.
Three technical sessions were followed by a breakout group discussion
in four groups namely the agriculture, health, energy and industry and
At the plenary session each of the four groups came with their
recommendations for the adaptation strategies, mitigation options and
policy Formulations. Intercropping, mulching(covering), planting of
trees to provide shade and wind screening were put forward as draft
adaptation strategies for the agricultural and plantation sectors.
Breed varieties of high temperature tolerance was also suggested for
the agricultural sector to cope with the increase in the temperature.
While breeding drought tolerant varieties, changing the cropping
calendar according to the changing rain patterns (response farming),
change of cropping patterns from chena cultivation to crops such as
papaya with irrigation, â€śManavari cultivation,â€ť preparing lands with
rain water, reuse of water from the farms and minimising the conveyance
loses of water were the adaptation measures suggested against the change
of rainfall patterns in the Agriculture sector while rain water
harvesting, micro irrigation options, use of soil and moisture
conservation methods, use of rain guards for rubber and improvement of
new tapping systems, addition of organic manure, revising fertilizer
recommendations specially with regard to Potassium were among the some
of the recommendations suggested for the plantation crops.
Facilitating energy efficiency measures to reduce consumption was
given a prominent place among the recommendations for the Energy
The promotion of Solar energy for households in identified remote
areas where the national grid cannot reach at any time in the future was
also discussed in addition to the promotion of off grid village
community electrification with renewable sources such as Hydro, biomass,
wind and biogas.
The use of nature based architectural designs in new building designs
with special focus on natural lighting and ventilation, the
implementation of the Government policy of generating ten per cent of
electricity through new renewable resources, promotion of energy
efficient technologies among industries and commercial establishments,
discouraging the use of high potential Green House Gases in industrial
applications, raising public awareness on energy conservation and
climate change, government involvement in media programmes on climate
change and energy efficiency/alternative energy resources were some of
the other recommendations that were suggested in connection with the
Energy and Industry Sector.
Desilting tanks, catchment area management to reduce erosion, the
construction of tanks with narrow spread and greater depth, growing
trees on banks around tanks were the adaptation strategies against the
temperature increase with regard to water resources. These draft
recommendations will be presented to policy makers, secretaries of the
The recommendations would also be submitted to the funding agency,
the Asia Pacific Network (APN) for Global Change Research of Japan.
The CCCS had organised a series of seminars to create awareness on
climate change among district level administrators, Government officers,
university students, school teachers and members of NGOs. The project
was funded by the Asia Pacific Network for Global Change Research under
the CAPaBLE Programme.