Ranjith Ratnayake, Country Co-ordinator, Sri Lanka Water Partnership, plants a tree at the Biodiversity Study Park in Talawatugoda (photo: Renuka Jeya Raj/IWMI).
SLWP celebrates World Environment Day with tree planting campaigns
The Sri Lanka Water Partnership (SLWP) celebrated World Environment Day 2015 on Friday 5 June with a tree planting ceremony at the Biodiversity Study Park in Talawatugoda.
About 15 fruit trees including mango, kumbuk and mee, were planted as an initial step. SLWP was partnered by the Sri Lanka Land Reclamation and Development Corporation in this event, in which IWMI also participated. “We strongly support catchment and river bank conservation. World Environment Day gave us the opportunity to actively promote this commitment,” said Ranjith Ratnayake, Country Coordinator, SLWP.
Building the bund of a tank in Idaikaddu, Mullaitivu (photo: FAO).
FAO gives new lease of life to villagers in Killinochchi and Mullaitivu
Just three years ago the districts of Killinochchi and Mullaitivu in the North Western province of Sri Lanka were in a parlous state. Empty war- ravaged buildings gaped at passers-by in a lonely landscape scattered with headless palm trees. On either side of the rutted road, paddy fields had been abandoned and become choked with scrub. The districts were among those most affected by the country’s prolonged civil war. The coastal town of Mullaitivu was particularly hard hit by the twin onslaughts of the tsunami as well as civil war. Many households are now headed by women, having lost male members during the war.
But today the districts are thriving. Fields of vegetables, pulses and paddy abound, irrigated by the flowing waters of nearby tanks in which cattle and buffaloes wallow.
The transformation is in part due to a massive rehabilitation program that restored tanks and canals and helped build capacity. The Integrated Irrigation & Agricultural Livelihood Development project to the Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu districts, introduced by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and supported financially by the European Union (EU) is the cause of this transformation. The project took 35 months to complete at a cost of EUR 3,330,000 (about Rs. 550 million) and helped restore minor tanks and lands to about 170,000 people or 17,200 farming families.
A partnership to progress
FAO partnered with government organizations in the two districts. Ninety field officers were appointed to construct the irrigation infrastructure. Agricultural extension staff were trained in cultivation, water management and maintenance of the irrigation systems.
Man working in a farm irrigated by sprinklers in Jaffna (photo: Hamish John Appleby/IWMI).
Achieving water sustainability in Jaffna
Groundwater is the only reliable source of fresh water for most residents of the Jaffna Peninsula. Yet, as mentioned in a recent Lindha Langa article, this vital resource is currently undergoing rapid contamination from oil, sewage, and agrochemical dumping. Saltwater intrusion has also increased due to a higher rate of groundwater extraction as indicated by the International Water Management Institute’s (IWMI) 2013 aquifer characterization study in Jaffna. The resulting damage to the aquifer is very difficult to reverse, and any efforts to do so would take many years. Immediate action is necessary to ensure the sustainability of Jaffna’s groundwater resources for future generations.
Several strategies have been proposed to accomplish this goal. None can do the entire job alone, however. According to Herath Manthrithilake, Head, Sri Lanka Development Initiative, IWMI, a combination of approaches is needed to establish a more sustainable and equitable water management system in the Jaffna region. Five feasible strategies are outlined below; the first two are current government projects in development while the final three are potentially viable approaches based on IWMI analysis.
Jaffna’s wells may not provide a year-round supply of clean water, but a mix of short and long-term options could provide communities with all the clean water they need,
says Dharshani Weerasekera
Has water replaced peace as the key to Jaffna’s progress? In the Jaffna Peninsula, in the northernmost part of Sri Lanka, the only source of fresh water for most of the year is that drawn from underground reservoirs. However, human activities are threatening these fragile and precious aquifers with contamination. Damage to this limited and irreplaceable resource would be extremely difficult or impossible to reverse. How can we ensure this does not happen?
The answer lies in how stakeholders address two major concerns. The first is groundwater contamination from the dumping of oil, sewage, agrochemicals and garbage into the ground. The second is the seawater intrusion of Jaffna’s limestone aquifers due to over-extraction of groundwater for domestic, agricultural and industrial purposes.
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