Drought in NCP continues, relief yet to come
While the drought in the North Central Province continues, the promised programme to compensate affected farmers is not fully in effect yet, Agrarian Services and Wildlife Minister S. M. Chandrasena admitted to the Sunday Times.
Crop damage due to the prevailing drought is worse than before, Agrarian Development Commissioner General Sunil Weerasinghe told the Sunday Times.
“The situation before wasn’t that good to begin with but right now there is colossal damage done to paddy fields because of the drought. About 35,000 acres of paddy have been reduced to nothing with about 150,000 farmers affected,” he said.
The Ministry of Agrarian Services and Wildlife conducted vehi pirith last Tuesday to get the blessings of the deities for rain. About a dozen monks chanted sermons at 400 agrarian service centres on instructions from Buddhist Affairs Presidential Advisor Ven. Watinapaha Somananda Thera, Mr. Weerasinghe said.
“We are calling for applications by advertising in newspapers and farmers can submit their applications to their local officials. We need to assess the damage done to each paddy field before we compensate,” Minister Chandrasena said.
Polonnaruwa District Government Agent Nimal Abeysiri said the local farmers in the region are worse off than before and are doing their utmost to obtain water.
“They have started digging small waterways out of the Parakrama Samudra reservoir, but the water level in the reservoir is below the sluice gate opening so there isn’t enough pressure for the water to flow out despite their efforts,” he said. Mr. Abeysiri said local authorities in the heavily affected Polonnaruwa District are prepared to pay compensation through the
Agrarian Insurance Scheme as soon as the Agrarian Ministry officially notifies them about the compensation details.
At the moment, the farmers are paid through a “Cash for Work” programme, where one farmer from one affected family is paid Rs. 500 per day for 10 days of manual labour performing minor irrigation work.
“These farmers have no income at all right now so Government agencies are benefiting from the drought by using these farmers as labourers to dig canals, repair reservoirs and connected work,” Mr. Abeysiri said.
In Anuradhapura District, where the people still have enough water for drinking purposes, the damage done to about 35,000 paddy acres remains the same, Anuradhapura Government Agent Mahinda Seneviratne said.
“The Mahaweli Regional Development Manager told me last Thursday that when it rains upcountry, more water will be released into the Mahaweli Ganga. We are currently in discussions to decide on it,” Mr. Seneviratne said.
In other measures to improve the dire situation, Minister Chandrasena said Rs. 250 million is set aside to desilt lakes and tanks after successful talks with Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa.”We are in the process of desilting 300 small tanks and 136 large-scale irrigation tanks in Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Puttalam and Kurunegala Districts,” Minister Chandrasena said.
In addition, the Agrarian Ministry is providing free rice seed for cultivation in the next season, the Minister added.
However, no rain is expected in the near future in the North Central or Eastern Provinces, Duty Forecaster Ananda Jayasinghearachhi told the Sunday Times. Only some coastal areas in the south-western quarter experienced showers in the past week, he said.
“The present situation will change and we can expect more rain but only for the south-western areas and not the drought affected areas. We don’t expect rain for those areas anytime soon,” Mr. Jayasinghearrachhi said.
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