September 30, 2022
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    Climate diplomacy and water security

    December 30, 2019

    Melting glaciers in the Himalayas or the Andes, more frequent storms in the Caribbean or Oceania, changing weather patterns in Africa or the Middle East: the challenges posed by climate change are enormous. The repercussions raise geopolitical questions, have implications for livelihoods and development, and require a strategic response to ensure sustainable development. They raise questions lying at the heart of international politics – sovereignty, territorial integrity, and access to resources, such as water, food, and energy.

    Over the coming decades, climate change has the potential to cause significant and highly uncertain impacts on societies, undermining human security and increasing the risks of conflict and instability. Regions prioritise different aspects of climate diplomacy and view it from different Angles. Geopolitical questions, livelihood and development issues, and a sustainable, green economy can play a key role, and their relevance as well as their ability to contribute to the solution vary according to the context. This approach demands thorough debates with regional organisations, civil society and expert communities from diverse regions through informal consultations, side-events at international conferences, workshops, briefings and various outreach activities.

    Impact in South Asia

    South Asia extends across Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka. The region – in particular the glacial areas of the Himalayas – will be significantly affected by climate change. Decreased availability of natural resources and an increasing number and intensity of natural disasters will be the main challenges.

    In the Himalayan sub-region, food, energy and water are closely interlinked. The sub-region is most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, in particular due to the effects on wetlands. If these crucial elements of the overall regional ecosystem are damaged, a vital link in flood warning and protection against floods may be lost.

    Environmental management and protection should be an integral part of economic development and regional integration for sustainable development. This includes the use of sustainable trans boundary natural resource management (TBNRM) as an opportunity for regional economic development and integration.

    Cooperation in wildlife and Bio diversity management by establishing trans boundary parks, to mountain conservation areas, to integrated management frameworks for shared marine ecosystems, to spatial development initiatives is a must. Countries of the region will face problems for want of water, food, and energy to meet the needs of their people. The world is replete with examples of sub-regional action. We must be wise and smart in acting for the future in consort with regional hands. Bhutan being a shining light in this field.

    Action back at home

    Sri Lanka is blessed with rich environmental assets. We are currently squandering opportunities to nurture them. The water ways for example in the Wanni have been destroyed unknown to most of us. If Jaffna is facing issues around water, the fate of the Wanni will be similar soon. We have an abundance of rain this year. Water sources for our main rivers are above 5000 ft where forest cover is reducing. Downstream water retention is poor, flowing into the sea. Trapping water requires reservoirs. We must revive our waterways and increase our catchment and water holding facilities and ensure what we receive naturally is stored and what we use is recycled through ground water recharging.

    Establishment of Water Security Council

    Growing population, increased economic activities and improved standards of living demands, limited fresh water resources. A healthy terrestrial ecosystem in the upstream area of basins is important for rainwater infiltration, ground water recharge and lively river flow regimes.

    We have 21 Acts, Ordinances and other forms of Enactments for development, allocation, regulation, usage and management of water resources, soil and forest conservation.

    All these issues were looked at in depth and Cabinet paper prepared to constitute a Water Security Council.

    Government established the National Water Resources Secretariat in 1996, in order to prepare the National Water Resources Policy, approved by the Government in March 2000.

    Due to public criticism this policy document was revised in November 2001 and went no further. Considering the critical status of the water a fresh attempt has been made in the recent past, a Cabinet Memorandum 09/2015 awaiting submission for approval.

    Present competent water users and the status

    Water Resources and Allocation Policies - About 75%-85% of the developed water is withdrawn for irrigation with more than half of the water diverted for agriculture not reaching farms due conveyance losses. Inappropriate application methods and poor on farm management practices wastes further, contributing to water logging, salinity and low productivity.

    Adverse impacts of Irrigated Agriculture - sound and efficient water use and conservation practices are required for irrigated and rain-fed agriculture, livestock, inland fisheries and agro forestry, compounded by soil erosion and overexploitation of natural resources. Unplanned ground water withdrawal from many aquifers in the country in a haphazard manner has caused depletion of ground water table and saline water intrusion in to the aquifers.

    Water Supply & Sanitation - Clean water must be accessible to each and every one irrespective of their social and economic status and place of living.

    National Water Supply & Drainage Board (NWS&DB) has a customer base of nearly 1.6 million, with a service coverage of about 46.5% with intent to increase up to 60% by 2020. Currently National Water Supply and Drainage board draws 640 MCM per year from the natural water system of the country to provide drinking water facilities to the public and this needs to be enhanced by another 500 MCM in order to cater for the increasing demand due to population expansion as well as to cater for the marginalized groups. Sri Lanka does not have ground water mapping system done for most of the rich aquifers in the country, with planners and developers in dark.

    Power Generation - Most of the natural flow sites for hydropower have been fully developed, changing the flow domain of the rivers spatially and temporally, impacting habitats, forest, wild life and loss of fertile land. Thermally modified return flows from power plants changes river life and flow regime downstream, causing damages to ecosystem and flora fauna, changing the climatic and land use pattern in the catchments area with adverse effects in the future.

    Industry - uses water for consuming, cooling, and cleaning. Local Authorities are empowered with the responsibility of implementing regulatory measures to ensure safe discharge of industry effluents to the environment.

    Environmental needs - Ecosystems are water dependent for building matter, nutrient carrier and cooler.

    The Need for Water Pollution Abatement - Water pollution affects fresh and ground water sources and the entire ecosystem. Therefore, abatement of water pollution becomes of fundamental importance requiring a radically improved approach.

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    Proposed Institutional Mechanism and Objectives of Water Security Council

    Under the purview of the President, reporting to Parliament.

    Key solutions sought include - Reviewing, revising and reinforcing legislations already in place providing irrigation facilities, water supply, power generation, support for industries and environmental protection to maximize the water use efficiency, effectiveness and reliability, Developing a comprehensive watershed management mechanism to enhance and ensure the water bearing capacity of both surface and subsurface aquifers, tanks, lakes and ponds, Developing policy guidelines for improved erosion control, catchment protection and restoring by forest covers and wetlands, regulating withdrawals from surface and sub-surface storages within the permissible limits that the aquifer could provide, regulating pollution control mechanism. Functions and Responsibilities of the Council - facilitation of soil conservation, Mahaweli Catchment area development, addressing climate change, issuing permits for project that are bulk water consuming commercial entities, authority to guide, facilitate and monitor watershed management and protection programs, implementation of innovative strategies, pollution control, environmental protection at centre, province and local authority bodies for a uniform water use policy regime across the entire country. The Provincial River Basins does not fall under the ambit of the Council.

     

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