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Tuesday, 15 February 2011

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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 seasonal rains.

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. See table:

According 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 President.

 


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.

Global scenario

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 imports.

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 recent floods.

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 season.

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

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