Was the nip in the air early this Christmas? Many people in Colombo felt so as the capital has experienced incessant rain and chilly mornings and during the day since the second half of November. Normally this kind of feeling – nip in the air and a cold spell – is seen starting from the [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Chilly in Colombo, warm in Nuwara Eliya


Was the nip in the air early this Christmas? Many people in Colombo felt so as the capital has experienced incessant rain and chilly mornings and during the day since the second half of November.

Normally this kind of feeling – nip in the air and a cold spell – is seen starting from the first or second week of December just as celebrations for Christmas and the New Year get underway.

This year however the weather has been different but this shouldn’t come as a surprise to climate change and global warming specialists.
For instance , world-renowned environmental Prof. Mohan Munasinghe was the first Sri Lankan scientist to predict changing weather patterns where, in a series of interviews with the Sunday Times in 2007 – nearly eight years ago-, he painted a rather, bizarre picture of what the country would look like. And that is happening right now. His analysis was to some extent unbelievable and some readers felt may have been ludicrous if not for the fact that this was coming from an internationally-recognised expert!

Prof. Munasinghe himself acknowledged that no one was listening to these climate change warnings. In an April 29, 2007 interview published in the Sunday Times, he spoke of thunderstorms, rain and floods at unusual times of the year and government troops and the LTTE (at the time) fighting over land in the north and the east that may not even exist in the future.

He was quoted as saying sea levels are rising by half a metre, dry areas are getting drier and wet areas becoming wetter, leading to floods in the wet zone and droughts in the dry zone. Higher temperatures in the atmosphere were resulting in less water and that impact on agriculture saw paddy output fall by 20-30 per cent. He also predicted that, based on scientific conclusions, the health of the nation would worsen when hotter areas (Colombo) force mosquitoes to hilly regions (Nuwara Eliya) causing malaria, dengue and chikungunya.

Parts of Jaffna and the northern and eastern coastline would get submerged by a rise in the sea level in about 30 years as global warming and greenhouse gases lead to serious climatic change and manifest through crises like water issues, health problems and lower output, he warned.
“No one takes it (global warming) seriously because it is something that does not happen today or tomorrow. The biggest culprits are the rich countries…so it’s difficult to take action,” he was quoted as saying in 2007.

The growing incidence of landslides and earthslips in the hilly regions in recent times including the Meeriyabedda tragedy where an entire village was submerged causing many deaths is a reflection of changing weather and environmental patterns. The 2004 tsunami is also said to have shaken the inner-soil and earth layers in many countries where the disaster occurred. In Sri Lanka, experts have warned that the tsunami may have caused ruptures in the earth and on mountainsides … posing a danger to communities, particularly plantation workers, whose houses are on hillsides.

So in the coming year, if Colombo is unusually cold and Nuwara Eliya disturbingly warm, don’t be surprised as experts like Prof. Munasinghe have given adequate warnings to be prepared.

Road rage in a lawless society

As an always-busy, always-rushing-around motorist in the city, have you ever wondered why you (and many others) happily violate road rules? People criticise politicians and their henchmen for corruption, governance and blatant violation of the rule of law … little realising that they have also equally committed some little crime!

For example, do motorists drive on clearly-marked lanes in Colombo? Do motorists wait patiently at traffic lights for it to turn green or rev the engine and keep tooting at the vehicle in front (to get out of the way)? How many laws do we violate while driving daily as we rush to work or on an errand, expecting others – pedestrians, slow (and careful) motorists included – to make way for us? How often have we argued with cops (sometimes pleading, sometimes dropping the name of an ‘important person’ we know) to let us go for breaking a rule?

And we criticise the politicians for their wrongdoing not realising or rather not prepared to accept that conformity to rules begins at home! Road behaviour is a reasonable way to assess how a so-called intelligent society behaves. There are many other yardsticks which should also be taken into consideration like orderly formation of queues (without breaking it); disposing of garbage on another’s street (a common phenomenon by affluent people) and many other common behavioural patterns (some bordering on arrogance) that affluent society has come to accept, acknowledge and practice.

Rather than throwing stones from glass houses, Sri Lankan society needs to look inwards on conformity to laws particularly during the presidential elections where many of these issues are discussed.

While there is a huge responsibility on the presidential candidates to deliver on their promises, particularly the opposition’s Maithripala Sirisena, there is a greater need to seriously change behavioural patterns and ensure conformity. Rather than blaming others, Sri Lankans need to reform themselves with the help of state mechanisms (equal treatment of the law and ensuring the rights of every citizen without bias or discrimination).
While President Mahinda Rajapaksa speaks of the need for continuity to see further infrastructure development and economic progress, his main opponent (Sirisena) is campaigning on a platform of an end to dictatorial presidential rule, lack of governance, corruption and mismanagement, freedom and equality for all.

Equally important (for both) is shaping the nation to a society that follows the rules of public conduct without flaunting one’s arrogance and wealth to be given preferential treatment.

This, to a greater extent, is the formidable challenge facing the opposing presidential candidates if Sri Lanka is to become, not only, a developed nation with prosperity for all but one of good behaviour, good values and following the rules diligently.

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