Colombo (AsiaNews) - There's a drought warning in Sri Lanka: the delay of the monsoon rains from the northwest has seriously affected the agricultural sector, and threatens to destroy rice paddies and other crops. Even the reservoirs of the hydroelectric power stations are running out of their provisions, causing power blackouts. On 25 June, President Mahinda Rajapaksa participated in a meeting with representatives of the farmers of Mahaweli and Polonnaruwa, among the areas most at risk. According to Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, the Minister of Agriculture, about 60,700 hectares of arable land are in danger of being destroyed.
The North Central, Northern and North Western Provinces are the most affected areas. "Many reservoir tanks", the minister explained, "have already dried up, and the crops are destroyed. The state will do its utmost to help the poor peasants."
According to officials of the Department for irrigation, farmers in Polonnaruwa have left about 3,000 hectares of land uncultivated; in Mahaweli, 6,000 hectares of paddy fields and 20,250 hectares of other crops are close to destruction. The situation of farmers in Eastern Province, instead, is positive; according Abeywardena, "they have handled their water resources well, dedicating themselves also to alternative crops other than rice, which requires large amounts of water."
Meanwhile, the decrease of water in the hydroelectric tanks has caused an 11.7% drop in the production of energy, to 3.58 GWh. To meet demand, the state is resorting to thermal energy, whose production has risen by 88.3%. According to authorities, this increase in the use of thermal energy risks causing major losses for the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB).
If the rains were to be further delayed, the National Council for water supply and drainage would be forced to increase electricity blackouts and ration drinking water.