Climate change rains on Sri Lanka


By Ifham Nizam

Sri Lanka’s weather patterns are changing and this fact was made evident on January 13, this year when temperatures dropped dramatically country wide. Colombo’s temperature went down to 18.8 degrees Celsius, the lowest recorded in 61 years.

The recent floods have been catastrophic and are the worst the country has ever faced. Yet our authorities are least bothered. Even officials at the Climate Change Secretariat are not keen when it comes to climate change adaptation or mitigation, but as usual, are keen to attend overseas trips and in turn do nothing.

Post flood rebuilding took a long time; with the help of relief efforts, families have moved out of their temporary shelters, and are beginning to gain access to food and clean water, and wounds are being healed. The heavy rains have taken a serious toll on the country’s paddy fields and hence Sri Lanka’s food supply.  

Our staple food rice will be drastically affected in the months to come. Moreover, the farmers who cultivate these crops will face a fall in income.

This will cause yet another detrimental impact on their lives. Not only do they have to rebuild all that has been lost, their is till a great deal of uncertainty.

Climate change & the Power Sector

The first half of this year recorded heavy rains. Until June last year, 2146 GWh has flowed from our reservoirs. (In 2010 only 1767 GWh flowed). Further, the year too began with a successful initial storage of 1100 GWh. As a result, our reservoirs were able to produce 2900 GWh in the first half of the year, according Power and Energy Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka.

Generally, from April to the end of July rain comes with the South-West monsoons but this time the rain was less. For instance, when the month of June is considered generally for a 30 year average Castlereagh receives 631mm of rains, but this time it was limited to 230mm. Though Moussakelle usually received 530mm of rains it received only 170mm this year. The Meteorology Department is also of the opinion that generally the Southwest monsoon rain was reduced by around 70 percent.

According to Ranawaka, some questions were raised as to why the CEB couldn’t save water. When considering Laksapana and Mahaweli Complex, the consumption of water is carried out in three ways. First is the drinking water requirement (major source is the Kelani river). The second is agricultural requirement (major source is Mahaweli river). The water is released for hydro power generation only after fulfilling the above requirements.

Further, in the first week of June the Southwest monsoons became active and reservoirs were too prepared for that. What has happened now is that the condition of the monsoon is totally changed. Now it rains in the dry season (January – March) and it is dry in the rainy season (April – July). Similarly, the forest cover which is the natural coverage to protect the water potential is also destroyed.

This is the major factor for water shortage. This irregular nature of rains and drought will be severe in the future. If the country doesn’t plan a long term programme to conserve water and climate change related water stresses.

"We will have to face a severe shortage of water for drinking, agricultural and power generation purposes and also to disasters caused by floods," Ranwaka stressed.

Developed nations far behind Climate Change finance

Developed countries are being far from transparent about the climate-change finance they promised to developing nations at the Copenhagen summit in 2009, according to a scorecard published September 19 by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED).

 The scorecard’s authors urge international negotiators who are gathering for talks under the UN Framework on Climate Change at the end of next week in Panama to set up an independent registry of climate finance that includes project-level information.

 Norway ranked top on the scorecard – but with a score of only 52% — while New Zealand came last with just 26%. The generally low scores mask progress in some areas and show that countries are not consistent in being transparent about all aspects of their funding.

 The scorecard’s authors say the overall lack of transparency hinders efforts to monitor where the money goes and ensure it is spent responsibly. It also means recipient countries may struggle to plan their responses to climate change.

 The scorecard assesses how transparent countries have been in the delivery of US$30 billion of ‘new and additional’ funds, which they agreed to provide to developing countries between 2010 and 2012.

 To evaluate the transparency of these reports, David Ciplet and J. Timmons Roberts at Brown University in the United States, Martin Stadelmann at the Center for Comparative and International Studies, ETH and University of Zurich and Saleemul Huq and Achala Chandani at IIED created a scorecard based on 25 criteria in three groups:

*Is the summary information adequate and clear?

* Are the methods for measuring and allocating climate finance clearly defined?

* Are data presented for individual projects?

 Countries varied greatly across these three groups of criteria: Australia scored 73% for summary information, but 17% for its baseline information and 0% for its project data.

 A transparent system for reporting on climate finance is essential to make sure that funds are adequate, predictable and used responsibly," says David Ciplet. "Greater transparency will be critical to building trust in the international negotiations towards a global agreement on how to tackle climate change."

 The scorecard’s authors call for a comprehensive registry of funds, with a standard format for donor countries to use when reporting on the climate finance they have disbursed.

They say the registry should:

* provide accessible and comprehensive national reporting including an assessment of whether or not funding is new and additional;

* provide detailed project data that allow civil society to verify that funds are delivered and used responsibly; and

* delineate public funds from private and carbon market funds, adaptation funding from other types of funding, and grants from loans.

 "Transparency is as important for taxpayers in the North as it is for climate-vulnerable countries in the South," says Dr Saleemul Huq, senior fellow in the climate change group at IIED. "Transparent reporting is essential to enable recipient countries to plan their responses to climate change and for civil society to hold governments to account on their promises."

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