Shortage of Water in Western Megapolis by 2030?

A seminar on Flood Control and Disaster Responsiveness in Proposed Western Megapolis was convened on 21 March 2017, at Renuka City Hotel. This seminar organized by the Chamber of Construction Industry Sri Lanka was sponsored by Janashakthi General Insurance Ltd and the Asia Pacific Alliance for Disaster Management Sri Lanka (A-PAD SL) supported the Chamber in facilitating arrangements to make the event a success. The event was attended by over 100 participants and Hon. Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, Minister of Disaster Management graced the event as the Chief Guest.

Due to the several disasters faced in Sri Lanka and the severe devastation that was caused by the floods and landslides in May 2016, the CCI decided it was their social national responsibility to highlight the issues risen and thereafter, invited an expert panel of international and local distinguished speakers to address the concerns to members of the audience. Ar/Plnr Deshabandu Dr. Surath Wickramasinghe, President/CCI, informed that Colombo experienced 256mm of rain during the floods and 60% to 70% of the water was dispersed into the sea. Few months after the floods, drought conditions are been experienced and there is a scarcity of water in the Country. Therefore, to address these concerns and initiate discussions on necessary solutions to conserve water during the flash floods, the CCI decided to host the Seminar.

Hon. Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa extended his great pleasure in attending the seminar and stated that in Sri Lanka, the most frequent disasters are floods, drought and landslides accounting to 95% of the natural disasters experienced in the country. In mitigating the impact of floods, the intensity of rainfall and the necessity of improving the primary canal system was also discussed. Hon. Minister further mentioned that the increase in natural disasters are mainly due to climate change and the situation will deteriorate further in the future.

The seminar was organized on themes that covered flood mitigation, management and conservation. The discussion highlighted the “water demand for drinking and irrigation purposes in Sri Lanka by 2030” by Eng. Dr. Kitsiri Weligepolage, Director (Water Resources Planning), and a presentation on “Water Resource Management & Flood Control in Western Megapolis with examples from other Asian Countries” was discussed by Eng. S. P. C. Sugeeshwara, Chief Engineer for Drainage and Flood Systems, from the Department of Irrigation respectively.

Mr. Timothy Hannan, Team Leader of the Climate Resilience Project of World Bank, highlighted the importance of climate change and climate resilience to flood control, provided structural flood mitigation options, and the strategies proposed to mitigating the floods in Kelani Ganga. An informative presentation on the main characteristics of the Kelani and Kalu Ganga flood protection system was denoted by Eng. Upali Delpachithre, a Consultant to Western Region Megapolis Planning Project.

Opening the second session, Mr. Firzan Hashim, Country Director of Asia Pacific Alliance for Disaster Management in Sri Lanka provided a different perspective, underlining the disasters nationally and globally, the impact of urban flooding, and emphasized on the importance of responding to disaster in accordance to the Humanitarian Charter & Minimum Standards in Disaster Responses. He further explained the variance in responding to disasters in the rural areas in comparison to urban areas and informed of solutions to the drought situation through Rain Water Harvesting Tanks.

“An Insurer’s Perspective on Flood Damage” by Mrs. Dayalanie Abeygunawardane, COO of Janashakthi General Insurance Ltd, informed of a necessary elaborative view on the insurance cover for floods, warranties imposed by insurers, and the risk mitigation initiatives implemented by her Organisation. Mrs. Dayalanie Abeygunawardane stated that the entire insurance industry had to pay Rs. 15.0 billion on claims.

The final expertise for the evening was provided by Mr. Hiroki Hashimoto, representative in Sri Lanka, at Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The Government of Japan initiated development in Sri Lanka during the Colombo Plan in 1954. Mr. Hiroki Hashimoto explained the development by JICA since inception and deliberated the strategy for JICA’s Disaster Risk Reduction in Sri Lanka, while providing concepts that have been implemented in Japan.

The first and second sessions of the Seminar was followed by a question and answer session with the members of audience that inferred further clarifications and provided suggestions to be brought forward. The expertise provided from the presentations were reiterated by Eng. Maj. Ranjith Gunatilleke, President Elect/ CCI, and Eng. Nissanka N. Wijeratne, Secretary General/CEO of CCI. A key outcome of this seminar is that the reservoirs identified in several studies on upstream of Kelani Ganga & Kalu Ganga, to regulate & divert flow are not constructed not only floods will recur in addition it will be not possible to supply drinking water to Western Megapolis in 2030. Key outcomes were brought forward from the Seminar and hope to create collaborative efforts in the development and implementation of required solutions to be initiated by relevant stakeholders.