COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The Sri Lankan government has launched a $100 million climate resilience programme that government officials say will allow it to adapt better to changing climate patterns.
The four-year programme, funded through a World Bank loan, will invest $90 million to improve infrastructure in three areas – flood and drought management, transport and schools. It will also pay for a $13 million effort to analyze nine main river basins to develop better flood and drought protection strategies.
S.M. Mohamed, head of the Ministry of Disaster Management, said Sri Lanka lacked policies that could help it adapt effectively to changing climate patterns, and the programme was aimed at correcting those shortfalls, at least in part, by making climate resilience part of policy making in a range of areas.
“Evidence shows that mainstreaming disaster management into policy formulation can save lives and reduces millions in damages,” she said.
GROWING THREATS AND LOSSES
In 2010-2011, a major flood in Sri Lanka caused a billion dollars of damage, and the country risks $380 million a year in damages from natural disasters, according to World Bank estimates. Currently parts of the island are suffering from a severe drought which has caused harvest losses of more than 40 percent in affected areas.
The country’s vital rice harvest is expected to fall by at least 17 percent this year to a six year low, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation.
Marc Forni, a World Bank senior disaster risk management specialist, working on the new climate resilience project, said that as
The programme aims, in part, “to look at how economic activity can be better protected” in the face of such threats, he said.
The flood protection programme will spend $47 million improving infrastructure related to drainage and water systems, while another $36 million will be used for similar work related to roads. Another $7 million will go to increasing safety in schools located in disaster prone areas.
Over 750,000 people are expected to benefit from the infrastructure and school programmes, while the flood protection component aims to cover at least 25 percent of the country’s arable land, or a little under 4 percent of its total land.
The $13 million study of the river basins, which will look at flood and drought risks, will be used to help develop a comprehensive investment plan for the basins to lower risks to an expected billion dollars worth of private investment in the areas, Forni said. The study will also be a forerunner for larger survey of a broader area of the country.
Sri Lanka also has signed an agreement with the World Bank that will allow it to draw up to $102 million from a loan facility for disaster assistance within 48 hours of a natural disaster that has been declared a national emergency.
Ivan de Silva, secretary to the Ministry of Irrigation and Water Management, said as extreme weather events increase in frequency and intensity, policy makers are looking at integrating measures to deal with them into mainstream economic and development planning.
For example, de Silva, said, officials were looking at options for increasing water retention in reservoirs close to agriculture areas, while also coordinating water usage for power generation and agriculture.
“It is not productive to let a disaster happen and then manage the aftermath. We need to plan ahead – two, three years ahead, maybe even 10 years ahead,” he said.
Amantha Perera is a freelance writer based in