Experts warn: Rising sea levels could devastate and submerge lower reaches of Colombo



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by Steve A. Morrell


President, Society for International Development, (SID) Sri Lanka Chapter, Dr. Upananda Vidanapathirana, addressed a gathering of academics last week on ‘Impact of Global Climate Change on Sri Lankan Economy’.


His opening remarks were to introduce keynote speaker, Research Fellow, and Head of Environmental Economic Policy Unit, Institute of policy Studies, Athula Senaratne. Additionally, he filled in background on reasons for accentuating importance on this subject now particularly that dislocation of weather patterns were causing concern in official circles.


Senaratne said that global warming, and rising sea levels were inter-connected and its impact morphed into current weather patterns show looming dangers that could affect Sri Lanka.


Questioned by the media on rising sea levels, he agreed that it was no more a question of if’ the sea level rises, but ‘when’, that would happen. He also conceded this was not of priority importance to the government. Thus, the aspect of global warming should receive urgent attention and some remedial action should be taken.


Rising sea levels will have multi-faceted physical problems to land, agriculture, irrigation and water supply. This includes salination of vast tracts of land that would have drastic effects on agriculture, he noted.


"This will result in challenges to health, involuntary migration and it impacts on the developing world could be severe", he cautioned.


Rising sea levels are already an area that is causing physical problems to coastal areas where the fishing industry has been affected. Migration of fish stock now in an uncertain mode of provocation could cause shortages in the Indian ocean. This was further cause for urgent attention. He however conceded that lack of funds for research and action were lacking.


With information at hand, action could be planned to circumvent disaster. But its physical implementation would need substantial sums in funds assistance or aid for this purpose, Senaratne noted.


Precipitation during the North East Monsoon (NEM), and the South West Monsoon ( SWM), was more or less the same, with minor variances. But, influx of inter monsoonal showers were erratic and unpredictable, he explained.


"Incidence of drought keeps increasing concentrated in the dry zone, rather than the wet zone".


Dr. Vithanapathirana said that resource mobilization was now of crucial importance and should be of strong national importance. However, four major gaps of consequential sequence are information, policy, coordination and resource mobilization.


The end result was that the urgency of what these disasters would hold for Sri Lanka would be quite severe, he said.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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