Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka

Multihazard Risks in Sri Lanka This case study exemplifies a high-resolution assessment of natural hazards, vulnerability to hazards, and disaster risk. Drought, flood, cyclone, and landslide hazards, as well as vulnerability to those hazards, were identified using data from Sri Lankan government agencies. Drought- and flood-prone areas were mapped using rainfall data that were gridded at a resolution of 10 kilometers. Cyclone and landslide hazards were mapped based on long-term historical incidence data. Indexes for regional industrial development, infrastructure development, and agricultural production were estimated on the basis of proxies. An assessment of regional food insecurity from the World Food Programme was used in the analysis. Records of emergency relief were used in estimating a spatial proxy for disaster risk. A multihazard map was developed for Sri Lanka based on the estimates of regional drought, flood, cyclone, and landslide hazards. The hazard estimates for drought, floods, cyclones, and landslides were weighted for their associated disaster risk with proxies for economic losses to provide a risk map or a hotspots map. Principal findings include the following:

  1. Useful hazard and vulnerability analysis can be carried out with the type of data that is available incountry. The hazard estimates for droughts, floods, cyclones, and landslides show marked spatial variability. Vulnerability shows marked spatial variability as well. Thus, the resolution of analysis needs to match the resolution of spatial variations in relief, climate, and other features. Analyses of disasters need higher spatial and temporal resolution for planning and action at the local level.
  2. Multihazard analysis brought out regions of high risk such as the Kegalle and Ratnapura districts in the southwest; the Ampara, Batticaloa, Trincomalee, Mullaitivu, and Killinochchi districts in the northeast; and the districts of Nuwara Eliya, Badulla, Ampara, and Matale, which contain some of the sharpest hill slopes of the central mountain massifs.
  3. There is a distinct seasonality to risks posed by drought, floods, landslides, and cyclones. Whereas the eastern regions have hotspots during the boreal fall and early winter, the western-slopes regions are risk prone in the summer and the early fall. Thus, attention is warranted not only on hotspots but also on “hot seasons.”
  4. Climate data were useful for estimating the degree of hazard in the case of droughts, floods, and cyclones and the risk of flood and landslide. The methodologies used here for hazard analysis of floods and droughts present an explicit link between climate and hazard. This link can be used in conjunction with seasonal climate prediction to provide predictive hazard risk estimates in the future.
  5. Climatic, environmental, and social changes such as deforestation, urbanization, and war affect hazard exposure and vulnerability. It is more difficult to quantify such changes than the baseline conditions. However, climate change is already making parts of the island more prone to drought hazard.

Reference : Natural Disaster Hotspots Case Studies


Agri Culture

Sri Lanka has been traditionally an agricultural country and the majority of its citizenry still depend on it for livelihoods, nutrition and food security. While many thousands of farmers and traders directly benefit from agriculture many millions locally and globally provide demand for agricultural products. The climate is a key factor in agriculture. As we have experienced in Sri Lanka of late, with floods on one hand and droughts on the other stress the agricultural land and plants there is much distress. This distress is found in the many cries of the farmers who depend upon farming as livelihood. There have been tendencies of psychological stress, suicides and more youth foregoing the agricultural craft and livelihoods of their parents which also spell distress to the society. This distress is also found in Governmental expenditure for relief services used for mitigating the effects of such natural disasters. This makes a deeper indent on the country’s financial reserves for food imports. Sri Lanka already has a massive debt based on technology and commercial ventures and along these lines, when the country would also contribute to debt in agriculture, the national debt is deepened. This could lead to political repercussions with the country favouring some products from some countries as mitigation measures where this move is understood as a country going back on the traditional farming industries and substituting it with cheaper produce and neo colonial economic order.



Drought is defined as the absence of an average rainfall over a sustained period of time. Often drought is associated with warmer temperatures – this leads to greater evaporation- leading to loss of water for use and consumption As we all know water is essential for human survival. Throughout human histories humans have made dwellings near water surpluses and when it has been lost there has been threats to societal survival issues such as due to desertification . Drought directly affect availability and access to drinking water. Drinking water is probably the most vital of all the water needs humans and directly affects human health. In its absence there is causes for excessive thirst, dehydration, renal problems and in a final stage the failure of bodily systems. When drought conditions persist there is also the threat of water contamination which may also lead to several health hazards. With the onset of a drought and the lessening of water supplies there is also the social dilemma of relief efforts versus long term implementations. Water is a main ‘ingredient’ in cooking can lead health complications due to inadequate and improper washing and cleaning In households such as in the hills and in remote villages which rely on fetching of water, the drying up of water sources, the failures of water supply scheme and shortage of water can lead to problems of sanitation and hygiene particularly for women and girls who are usually tasked with fetching water in these settings. Climate has a direct role (including through its influence on the water cycle) in transmission of infectious diseases such as Malaria, Dengue, Tuberculosis, and Leptospirosis. In recent times, the rise of the Dengue has also been linked with drought conditions and prolonged temperature increases. The mechanisms behind CKDU kidney disease is under scientific debate – however, it is male farmers in particular who are exposed to extreme heat and undergo larger losses of fluids who have been stricken. The climate link is being sorted out. Drought thus imposes further demands on already over-burdened health services and on people. In particular, It adds to the vulnerability of children, elders and pregnant mothers who come from sheltered environments.



Sri Lanka still depends on hydro power primarily for about 40% of its electricity generation. Its over-extended electric system is critically dependent on the hydropower systems to meet peak night time demands for electricity. By monitoring and anticipating drought, water allocation may be done to preserve water for peak demands. Alternative sources of energy generation may be seasonally prioritized – e.g. maintenance may be rescheduled or additional fuel stockpiles pre-positioned. Climate directly affects streamflow primarily through rainfall and indirectly through evaporation and evapotranspiration. Drought leads to drop in electricity generation. Note that the climate across Sri Lanka can vary – we may have more rain for example on the Eastern slopes in some seasons while having drought elsewhere.


The Social and Economic Impact of Drought on Electricity Planning

With the country becoming more industrial and service oriented, hydro-electricity facilitated the supply over the years to even 84% of the national electricity needs 25 years back. As the electricity demands have risen, , the prospects of viable new medium to large scale hydropower generation plants have become nearly exhausted. When there is shortage of water there is the prospect of low electricity generation and load shedding. The harmful impacts flow from the family level right to the national level. . When electricity shortages aThis can account for loss of GDP and income while also making the acute problem of unemployment severe. results it may also affect livelihoods based on certain industries. There can be a shortfall of electricity for essential services such as hospitals. to emergency services Drought directly affects the extent of hydropower generation. Hydropower at present while only meeting about 40% of the needs however is essential to meet the current demands due to overstressed systems and the constant breakdowns at the Coal Power Plant at Norochcholai. In particular, it is relied on to store “energy” and to meet the night time peak loads – which are extremely expensive to meet in other ways.


Energy Policy and Climate

Overall though the electric grid is only a fraction of energy generation – the larger contributors are the direct use of solar radiation and biomass. These too are directly affected by the climate – though in different ways than hydropower generation. A “smart grid” can make use of this. The biggest low-hanging fruit for Sri Lanka is trying to reduce waste and losses of energy. Energy conservation measures in government and private organizations can reduce losses by about 50% or more. The electric transmission lines of the Ceylon Electricity Board loses 20% of the energy generated – which is excessive. Systematic energy audits, monitoring, education and enforcement and awareness and citizen action can reduce the need for electricity. Much use can be still made of alternative energy sources – directly the sun and biomass – rather than moving too quickly and easily to use of the grid. For example, through traditionally inspired housing designs can reduce the need for air-conditioning which is often the biggest component of electric load. More open designs can reduce the need for artificial lighting. Trees and curtains can substantially cut down on electric needs for ventilation and cooling. In addition, renewable sources of energy such as solar capture, wind energy, and mini-hydropower plants are making a small but growing contribution at present. All of these are sources for the future.


The Consequences of Drought on Energy Politics

Energy shortfalls induces political pressure on the governments into facilitating coal and thermal fuel power plants. This measure along pollution, allocations of vast land and unethical land acquisitions, marine, inland aquatic and atmospheric pollution which in turn also provide more communal distress than it provides relief. The coal power power plants that we have already initiated have faced severe criticism from environmental groups who have even questioned the professional opinions of ‘experts’ who have even miscalculated the direction of the wind! This raises eyebrows as these natural disasters are even politicized while the affected people yearn only for that what is needed for survival.



In maps, drought is often marked with bright red and brown which gives a disfigured impression of the opposite of green or blue. In reality it is exactly what happens to our surrounding when there a long period water absence.

Flora: There is more reason for trees and plants which are not agricultural to suffer even succumb to the effects. This makes forest cover disappear and the possibility of fires which could be intentional or natural.

Wildlife: Wildlife similarly to humans depend on water for existence. There could be competition for water sources, disappearance of some animal species as well as conflicts with humans. While the majestic elephant is symbol of Sri Lankan pride such is not the scene in areas there they are not able to nourish themselves and they almost at most times entangle themselves in village supplies of food and water. This has also made way to somewhat unethical and brutal suffering of animals. On the other hand many lives and stock has also been destroyed by these animals who struggle to survive. Drought targets water sources naturally and when water sources home many species of fish and aquatic animals their survival also is jeopardized.

Coastal Impacts: There could also be oceanic impact particularly on the coastal ecosystem – drought affects when sandbars break (e.g. in Batticaloa) affecting the lagoon and its livelihoods. It affects saltwater intrusion into the rivers. Often drought is associated with warmer temperatures. Warmer sea temperatures can lead to impacts on the coastal ecosystem such as on corals. Coral bleaching has become exacerbated due to both the seasonal to inter-annual variability on top of the warming Arabian seas.