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 Post subject: Water crisis is real: Lanka Wake up
 Post Posted: Sun Jan 29, 2006 6:29 pm 
Water crisis is real: Lanka Wake up

Written By: Nimashi Fernando
29Jan2006 / @TWS

Recently, a professor of Chemistry at the Colombo University, quite appropriately remarked: "Because of the western influence we are very worried about matters like global warming…and ozone depletion. But did you ever stop to think that during every eight seconds, somewhere in the world; a person dies of a water related disease? And the majority of them are in the developing world? Believe me, there's no direct evidence that anybody has died due to global warming. May be you have by-hearted the chain reactions which led to ozone depletion. But what do you know about the impending water crisis and being a citizen of a typical third world country at the centre of it?"

How true and remarkable! Why, we could be wiped out by the little talked about water related crisis well before the much hyped about global warming or ozone depletion can take its toll.

According to the United Nations, at present 1.1 billion people worldwide are without access to clean drinking water. And in 2025, this figure is expected to reach 2.7 billion. Needless to mention however, this crisis is more pronounced in the developing world, particularly in the African and Asian regions.

Accordingly, Sri Lanka has her own quota of woes. Her water resources are being depleted dauntingly mainly ascribed to unprecedented pollution. This problem is more relevant in the Western province. The western province's fresh water related resources, incorporate two major rivers viz., Kelani and Kalu, their associated ecosystems and wetlands. The water within is extracted to meet the needs of a population of 5 million, plus agriculture and a variety of industries. However unfortunately, such water bodies have become susceptible to extreme pollution due to the implementation of crude and improper urbanization strategies, the release of untreated industrial effluents and of course the inappropriate domestic usage.

In most cases, household waste water is quite conveniently diverted in to the network of urban drains designed to carry rainwater. In some cases, even the sewage is illicitly diverted into such networks. Also, ascribed to many reasons, a sizeable number of city dwellers are compelled to live in poor sanitary environments, often in shanties. In the city of Colombo for instance, about 51% of the total population of 700,000 live under unhygienic environments, while most of them reside in lowland areas close to various water bodies. Most such dwellers have resorted to discharge their waste water and sewage in to water bodies, thereby causing a high degree of pollution.

The industrial sector on the other hand, to a certain extent, has adopted the practice of treating effluents before releasing them to the water bodies. Yet however, another sector continues to refrain from this practice and discharge untreated effluents to water bodies and wetlands.

According to surveys conducted by the National Building Research Organization and the Sri Lanka Land Reclamation and Development Corporation, the quality of water in many water bodies in the city of Colombo and its immediate proximity, has deteriorated to unacceptable standards and is worsening. On the other hand, the garbage crisis is only contributing to exacerbate the prevailing circumstances. Due to the lack of proper disposal facilities, the local authorities have resorted to dump garbage in many ecologically sensitive habitats and mainly in wetlands. Often garbage dumped into canals by unscrupulous employees of local authorities are daily washed back onto the beaches on the Western province sea board on a daily basis. The successive governments had, however failed to do any thing concrete to tackle the menace for over ten years. Certain moves were made to demarcate dumping grounds in Wattala, Padukka, Mahara…etc, but such moves rendered futile, due to the vehement public protests backed by various environment organizations. For instance, the garbage of the Colombo city and its suburbs, is being dumped in marshy lands reserved for controlling floods in the city. Moreover, taking into consideration the following figures of garbage output per day, one could easily perceive, that incidence of garbage-induced water resource depletion, by all means is no simple matter.

In the circumstances, it is crucial for relevant authorities to pay heed to these related crises, and bring about proper remedial measures to protect the already much depleted water resources.

Many countries worldwide, have realized the magnitude of the impending water crisis, and therefore are devising and implementing strategies, to mitigate its impact. But, as for us, - we don't even have a proper water management policy! Even if there is one, it is not being implemented.

However, it is important and timely to implement water management programmes, particularly in highly congested and abused regions like the Western province. It is also essential to survey on a regional basis, the extent of water resources quantitatively and qualitatively, the current levels of consumption and the expected levels of future consumption, and also to identify the respective sources of pollution and arrest them.

Moreover, it is crucial to discourage the practice of dumping garbage in open lowland areas in the western province. Since the western province receives a high annual rainfall, it is possible for the ground and surface water bodies to get contaminated by leakage and surface run-off, which in turn carry high concentrations of soluble products derived from garbage.

Written By: Nimashi Fernando

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