Drought fury hits Puttalam
BY PANCHAMEE HEWAVISSENTI
The prevailing drought in many parts of the country has forced a large number of people to live under depressive conditions and the situation in Puttalam is no better from the rest of the affected areas.
The drought has hit the Puttalam District with a devastating force with residents hard pressed on several fronts as the water resources have slowly dried up destroying farms, chena cultivations and even inland fishing. Some 95 per cent of the water resources in the Puttalam District have completely dried up as a result of the drought affecting both humans and animals.
There are over 1250 small-scale reservoirs in the Puttalam District and the bulk of them have dried up while the water level has drastically dropped in the two major reservoirs – the Inginimitiya and the Tabbowa Wewa.
The Inginimitiya Reservoir that holds a water volume of acre-feet 58,600 under ordinary conditions has declined to a staggering 7,500 at present.
The Thabbowa Reservoir of which the capacity is an acre feet of 15,800 has dropped to 250 acre-feet.
Puttalam District Secretary N. H. M. Chithrananda told Ceylon Today that approximately 59,000 families or 1,40,000 persons in the Puttalam District have been affected by the drought and the number is steadily on the rise.
As the water in many domestic wells in the district has also dried up the local authorities have initiated the distribution of water to the affected persons.
"We distribute water in 30 bowsers to 38,000 families on a daily basis and this figure is steadily increasing. Although we have adequate transport for this purpose, the issue at hand however is the fast dwindling water resources in the region", Chitrananda said.
Local fishermen engaged in inland fishing told Ceylon Today that a large number of persons engaged in the industry have left the area in search of employment elsewhere.
"The marine life has also dried up owing to the prevailing drought and adding to that the local health authorities have warned against consuming fish that are caught in the reservoirs since the water is contaminated.
"However we have to continue fishing because we need to sustain our families. We have no other option", they said.
According to District Secretary Chitrananda farming including paddy cultivation is currently carried out on a limited basis in areas close to the Rajangana and Nila Bamma Reservoirs for individual consumption and not for commercial purposes.
He added that coconut cultivation has also been badly affected as the tender plants have perished in the scorching heat and the harvest has declined too.
The Puttalam District Secretariat along with the Ministry of Disaster Management has together initiated a programme to bring relief to the affected persons.
Plans are underway to distribute relief aid to the affected persons through the State Sathosa outlets starting from next week, Chitrananda said.
Not only the humans but the animals are also feeling the heat owing to the drought after their traditional water holes have dried and their fodder in the wild has been destroyed.
A large number of animals are known to have died in the Wilpattu Sanctuary as well as in other jungles of the district.
"We need to take care of animals as well. We are planning to set up artificial structures in the jungles and fill them with water along with a cover. This programme is done in collaboration with the Department of Wildlife, and the Army ", Chithrananda said.
Many elders are surprised at the scale of the ongoing drought saying that it is the worst since the early 1970's. "We have experienced similar droughts in 2009, 2012 and 2013 but this is the worst since nearly 100 per cent of the natural water resources have dried up.
This has never been the case on earlier occasions", they told Ceylon Today.
As the domestic wells have dried up desperate people are digging deeper with tube wells in search of ground water while the local authorities make every effort to maintain the water supply to the affected areas. At the end of the day the people in the district are bracing for the worst as they do not expect early rain and this could make their day to day lives even worse.
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