This year's drought crisis (for, yes, it is a crisis) didn't suddenly sneak up and pounce on us. It's been there since last year, and has just been growing bigger and bigger. But, I guess we were all too distracted with the floods that hit us last May to realize just how comfortable global warming has made itself in Sri Lanka.
Nearly a million people have been affected to date: the World Food Programme's Initial Rapid Assesment on Drought 2016 puts the number at 915,000 to be precise.
Okay, there'll be a water shortage. What else?
What else? Thirst, starvation, poverty and debt induced death: and I'm not even exaggerating.
- Most of who will be strongly affected aren't those of us in Colombo or people with easy water accessibility (i.e. pipelines). The worst affected will be small scale paddy farmers, agricultural labourers and people making a livelihood off the agri-industry.
- Sri Lanka already has one of the world's highest suicide rates and most of those reported deaths are from the main agricultural districts. Suicide in the farming community is common news, especially when they are unable to yield harvest and pay off debts. As of December 2016, there's less than 50% of the water required for the Maha Cultivation actually available, and our irrigation capacity is at a scary low.
- Food shortage, because of low cultivation. According to a joint WFP and government survey, this is the lowest cultivation we've had over the last 30 years. Think about it: even at the height of war, we were producing more food than we can now. We're also going to be short of rice — shorter than we usually are.
- Our drinking water shortage is terrifying: 22 out of 25 districts are short of drinking water and the National Disaster Relief Management has allocated Rs. 42 million to help face this.
- Hydropower is affected, and we'll probably face power cuts.
- The government rather strangely said they'll issue a circular to control A/C temperatures in governmental offices.
What Can YOU Do?
This is something that's been taught to you throughout primary school, but something we seem to casually ignore as we stumbled into adulthood and thought most rules don't apply to us anymore: use water carefully.
It should be pretty obvious, but I've noticed people pretty much everywhere I go act irresponsibly: especially when near a tap.
- Don't use water continuously when brushing your teeth, washing your hands or the dishes. It may be annoying and inconvenient, but close the tap while you pause to soap.
- Collect dirty laundry and wash a full load in one go.
- Limit watering your lawn to twice or thrice a week. Apparently, 5mms of water is enough for gardens during warm weather.
- Try not to hose your vehicle down every week — it can survive a bit of dust and dirt. Fill a bucket and do a bit of solid wiping.
This is actually a very real problem. Here's a picture of what parts of the Victoria Reservoir currently looks like (hint: NOT like a reservoir). We took this a couple of weeks ago.
So, yeah. Be mindful and conserve.