Water crisis in Jaffna Peninsula!

Act now to avoid the Water crisis prevailing in Jaffna peninsula

Today March 22nd is World Water Day is observed internationally as day to inspire people around the world to learn more about water-related issues and to take action to make a difference. Around the globe, a population of 4 billion live in areas that are water-scarce and 844 million don’t have access to drinking water near their homes. According to United Nations by 2025 almost half of global population will not have access to safe water due to disasters fueled by climate change, pollution, political conflicts, over-development, and unsustainable farming, among other factors. One of the United Nations Sustainable Development goal is to ensure by 2030 the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

In the Sri Lankan peninsula of Jaffna, water crisis exist because for drinking, agriculture and for sewage disposal it is groundwater that is used and is contaminated by intensification of agriculture and urbanisation following the end of civil-war in 2009 that people worry about health problems from drinking water. Bottled water imported from mainland is available at a price in par with that of milk and toddy that are locally produced, which majority cannot afford as they are the poor rural folks. If Jaffna people can cut back on agriculture and import all the food they need then there will be no drinking water crisis, yet they cannot abandon agriculture, which has been the mainstay of their economy for a long time, making water the lifeblood of the economy more so after the obliteration of all industries in the civil war. After the civil-war with the availability of electricity and introduction of deep tube wells, people took the only option open to them that to led to an intensification of agriculture resulted in saltwater intrusion due to groundwater over-exploitation and contamination by fertilizers and pesticides. Unless and until less-water consuming industries are established and irrigation methods such as drip irrigation with water use efficient crops introduced to the people in Jaffna, the situation will continue to a water for economy crisis.

Jaffna is a small place and supply and demand of water are highly variable calls for out-of-the box solutions, because water is a social problem in Jaffna with many decisions to be made about the nature of the water problem. In the past leaving experts to find solution has resulted in them treating the problem as a technological issue ignoring the broader economic and socio-cultural issues. Thus many well-conceived projects have ended up in failure and has caused a governance crisis as the water problems in Jaffna are so multi-faceted, complex and intertwined that solving one problem has triggered new problems arising from issues left out in the solution. The case of diverting water from the Iranaimadu Tank in Kilinochchi to provide drinking water to Jaffna city and its environs was one and the latest diverting Mahavali waters to the dry zone that includes feeding Iranaimadu Tank. This increasing water supply to the dry zone project has lead people to modify their behaviour, leading to increased water demand; bound to offset the initial benefits of increased supply is certain to produce new conflict between the people in peninsula and the mainland. Therefore the post-war economic regrowth in Jaffna is severely limited by these complex water problems with the city of Jaffna is facing both a drinking water crisis and a water for sanitation crisis, while the agricultural regions of the peninsula are facing both a depletion of the freshwater resource due to saltwater intrusion and contamination by excessive pesticides and fertilizer application. The situation was further aggravated in Jaffna Peninsula by the gross oil pollution, raises new threat to the island water resource that has experienced pollution due to nutrients, toxic elements and organic pollutants and the poor quality of water have given rise to an array of waterborne diseases.

There is however a wide variation in regional water availability, while in regions where there is water in abundant the people are carelessly wasting this valuable resource. The Disaster Management Centre says that people in over 11 districts been affected by the prevailing drought is taking its toll on the districts of Ampara, Jaffna, Vavuniya, Kilinochchi, Mannar, Mulathivu, Batticaloa, Trincomalee, Polonnaruwa, Anuradhapura and Kurunegala which causes water stress to people in dry zone areas. The National Water Supply and Drainage Board has provided 210 water bowsers and 3470 water tanks for the people in these areas and due to the prevailing weather have requested the public to limit water usage to only what was required for domestic activities. The National Water Supply and Drainage Board explained that water supplies were diminishing rapidly due to the prevailing dry weather and the resulting increase in the consumption of water. The government has commenced a major water resources project in Sri Lanka, as part of its effort to end water scarcity in the Dry Zone, to divert untapped water from the country’s largest river basin Mahaweli River with headwaters in the southern wet zone. This project has its limitations and the National Research Council (NRC) is playing a crucial role as a state funding partner for scientific research to overcome the present water crisis that has become a national scale issue. To ensure that all Sri Lankans share the water resource that is available in abundance in the country a holistic national policy on conservation and management of the water resources in the country is the need of the day.

To read related posts visit Northern Breeze:

  1. Dry zone farmers in Sri Lanka should adopt modern methods to conserve precious water resource @ https://northernbreeze.blog/2017/08/10/dry-zone-farmers-in-sri-lanka-should-adopt-modern-methods-to-conserve-precious-water-resource/
  2. First resolve pollution at Chunnakam to sustain peninsula water resources @ https://northernbreeze.blog/2017/05/13/first-resolve-pollution-at-chunnakam-to-sustain-peninsula-water-resources/
  3. Lack of Drinking Water will prevent development of Jaffna @ https://northernbreeze.blog/2016/10/21/lack-of-drinking-water-will-prevent-development-of-jaffna/
  4. Taking Mahaweli water to the Dry Zones north of the country @ https://northernbreeze.blog/2016/07/28/taking-mahaweli-water-to-the-dry-zones-north-of-the-country/
  5. Need planned  large scale farming @ https://northernbreeze.blog/2016/04/02/need-planned-large-scale-farming/
  6. Water crisis at Jaffna Peninsula! @ https://northernbreeze.blog/2016/03/05/water-crisis-at-jaffna-peninsula/
  7. “FOG” halts water at Chunnakam @ https://northernbreeze.blog/2016/02/23/fog-halts-water-at-chunnakam/