This section handles the above topic as well as exposure and deals with the general and specific underlying risks of the economy, communities, infrastructure and networks from household to national scales.

Exposure and Vulnerability

The Exposures to these situation refers to the environment that is affected with the drought conditions. exposure also makes vulnerability as when there is no measure taken to prevent same there is also the danger of being severely affected.


Population: The population of Sri Lanka was 19.2 Million in 1998 (293 persons per sq km) with an uneven distribution . 55% of the population is concentrated in 20% of the land area (Department of Census and Statistics, 2002). 30% of the population resides in urban areas. The least populated districts covering 40% of the island host 10% of the population. In these Districts, population density ranges from 35 to 100 per sq km, which is still high by global standards (De Silva, 1997). The highest population is in the Colombo, Gampaha and Kalutara districts of the Western Province. There is a secondary population center in the Kandy District in the Central province and in the Galle District along the Southern coast. The high density of people in the wet parts of the island increases the number of people who are vulnerable to floods and landslides.Impoverishment and mortality are direct consequences of, as well as contributors to, natural disasters. In this context, food security measures a community’s ability to withstand hazards as well as its resilience to the hazard. Food security calculated by WFP Sri Lanka office in 2002, is based on availability of food, access to food and utilization of food, based on generally accepted food insecurity models. Based on this study, 93 DS Divisions out of 323 were categorized as ‘Most Vulnerable’, 82 as ‘Less Vulnerable’ and 148 as ‘Least/Not Vulnerable’ (World Food Programme, 2002). The spatial variability of the Least Vulnerable category shows two contiguous regions and some scattered areas. One region is the western coastal region, which has higher rainfall, better infrastructure facilities and industry. The higher food insecurity in the Northern and Eastern areas is due to a combination of war and dry climatic conditions punctuated by cyclones and heavy rainfall. Northern and Eastern areas is due to a combination of war and dry climatic conditions punctuated by cyclones and heavy rainfall.

Economic Activity

The disruption in agriculture and industry due to due to natural disasters is addressed below along with descriptions of the salient features of these elements in relation hazards.The Western province had the largest provincial GDP with 180 billion rupees (3.4 billion USD) with the Central province second with 46 billion rupees (0.88 billion USD) at constant 1990 prices (UNDP, 1998). Agriculture: The primary food crop is paddy. The main Maha cropping season commences with the heavy rainfall starting in late September and ends in March. A secondary season, Yala, extends from May to early September and only half of the agricultural land is cultivated due to limitations of water. The major cash-crops are tea, rubber, coconut and spices and their cultivation is largely in the wet regions The agrarian economy is thus susceptible to disruption through drought and floods. Our previous work has shown a link between rainfall variations and agricultural production (Zubair, 2002). Note, that there is an extensive irrigation network that modulates the spatial distribution of vulnerability. Industry: The major industries are textile & apparel, food & beverage processing, chemical & rubber and mining & minerals. Industry is heavily concentrated in Colombo, Gampaha and Kalutara in the Western Province. Industrial production has shifted from heavy industries for domestic consumption to textile and other processing for export in the last two decades. Industry is concentrated in a few regions in western Sri Lanka that are particularly prone to flooding. Drought in the Central Highlands can affect Industry drastically through deficits in hydropower production. A quarter of the manufactured products are from processing of agricultural products (tea, rubber and tobacco). Thus these industries could be affected by hazards affecting agricultural production.


Infrastructure development too reflects a pattern of heavy development in the Western Province with subsidiary development in the metropolitan districts of Kandy and Galle. Roads: Sri Lanka has an extensive road network with a better density and coverage compared to most third world countries (Jayaweera, 2001).Electricity Generation and Distribution: As of 1995, 53% of the households had access to electricity. However, the spatial distribution of electricity availability ranges from over 90% in Colombo and Gampaha to less than 40% for Districts in the North and East (Gunaratne, 2002). Of the total national electricity generation approximately 60% comes from hydropower, putting it at high risk during drought periods. The drought in 1995/96 and 2000/01 resulted in rolling blackouts for the whole country. The use of off-grid micro-hydro and solar has been increasing with 28,000 households. (Gunaratne 2002). Telephones: The density of telephones is low with 41 mainlines and 23 cellular phones per 1000 persons in 2000 (UNDP, 1998). The spatial distribution of access indicates Colombo having more than 50% of landlines. The services have been disrupted in the war areas of the North. Separate indices for roads, electricity and telephone densities were analyzed to develop an infrastructure density index. The road index was constructed by normalizing the length of different categories of roads (class A, B and C) per district. The telephone and electricity indices were constructed as the number of households that have access to these facilities in each District. These three indices were evenly normalized and aggregated to create an infrastructure index. There is a high concentration of infrastructure facilities in the District of Colombo. This skewness is largely due to the heavy concentration of telecommunication facilities in Colombo. Electricity and telephone facilities have been severely disrupted in the Northern Province due to the war, and there are no estimates of recent conditions. Thus interpretation of the infrastructure index for these areas needs to be tempered with caution. Infrastructure elements that at risk from natural hazards include the road network (floods and landslides), electrical distribution system (floods, landslides and cyclones), electricity generation (drought) and telephones (floods, landslides and cyclones).