Socio-economic impact of recent natural disasters:
Rapid appraisal essential
People inconvenienced by recent floods. File photo
More than one million people have been displaced by the recent
flooding, killing over 50 people caused by ‘La Nina’ phenomenon
propagated North East Monsoon rains that were heavier than usual
These heavy rains have caused unprecedented scale of floods and
landslides, during the second week of January 2011 and fourth week of
January to the second week of February particularly causing devastating
impacts in 16 districts of Northern, Eastern, Central, North Central,
North Western, Sabaragamuwa, Uva Provinces etc.
Also the country has recorded the lowest ever temperatures for the
past 60 years during this period. This is the biggest ever flood
disaster recorded in the history of this country and its impact was
second only to that of the tsunami of 2004. However from the spatial
perspective, this has affected more geographical area than in Tsunami.
to the official sources the displaced people have been accommodated at
591 temporary relief camps in January and 744 camps in February and the
material loses to the property and the infrastructure is over Rs 40 and
Rs 50 billion respectively in the months of January and February.
The government has taken effective measures to rescue the victims of
the floods and the landslides and to extend the relief to the affected,
while mobilizing the Government officials, Armed Forces, Police and the
political authorities to the affected areas under the directions of the
Prof Krishan Deheragoda
Further, the President had warned the Cabinet of Ministers on January
14, 2010, that the country should brace itself for a food shortage, as
over 123,740 ha of paddy land or 40 percent of the total harvested
(269,000 ha), have been devastated by the floods.
This situation will be more serious when taking into account the
devastations caused during the latest flooding and landslides
experienced the country since the fourth week of January to the second
week of February 2011.
This time around 230,000 ha of harvested lands were inundated and
crops were destroyed, over 400 tanks and irrigation works have been
damaged while thousands of cattle and poultry were killed.
The cumulative impact of these devastations on the agricultural,
animal husbandry and inland fisheries production and thereby on the food
security of the country will be very serious.
Due to the current extreme weather conditions induced floods and crop
failures including prolonged droughts in the countries across Asia,
Pacific, Australia, Europe and the two American Continents and Africa,
there is overwhelming, undeniable evidence that the world will run out
of food during this year.
When this happens, the resulting triple digit food inflation will
lead panicking Central Banks around the world to dump their foreign
reserves to appreciate their currencies and lower the cost of food
According to the latest predictions of FAO the rising food prices and
shortages could cause instability in many countries as the cost of
staple foods and vegetables reached their highest levels in two years,
with scientists predicting further widespread droughts and floods.
Sri Lanka: Meeting the challenge
If not ourselves get prepared to face the challenge of current flood
prone devastations in the country from the perspective of ensuring
livelihood and food security, rapidly and systematically, we may have to
face serious economic, social and political repercussions.
It is a fact that due to the Statesmanship of the President, Sri
Lanka has launched a massive campaign since 2005 to increase the
agricultural production and making Sri Lanka self sufficient in food.
As a result Sri Lanka’s economy was not adversely affected and was
very much resilient to the global financial and food crisis during
2007-2010 period, despite mobilizing heavy financial investments for the
full-scale humanitarian operation to liberate the country from the
clutches of the LTTE terrorism.
The pro-poor and pro-farmer and producer agricultural policies as
well as the measures adopted to ensure food security by the Government
of Sri Lanka has definitely gave dividends to safeguard the country
during the above global crisis.
However, the scenario is different at present; the very basis of our
own agricultural production, including most of the brand new physical
infrastructure built during the Post-Conflict period under the patronage
of Northern and Eastern Revival Programs have been devastated by the
This would not only bring huge setback to the day-to-day life in
these areas, but also invariably lead to a massive crop failure in this
Substantial amount of time and resources will be necessary for their
rehabilitation and reconstruction, particularly the irrigation, water
supply and electricity infrastructure and the other essential services.
To be continued