Cabinet sets up ministerial committee on drought

Friday, 5 October 2012 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Cabinet approval has been given to set up a ministerial steering committee to deal with a prolonged drought that has wiped out an estimated 100 000 acres of paddy.

 Cabinet has approved the setting up of the ministerial committee under the chairmanship of Irrigation Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva, Cabinet spokesman and Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella told reporters.

 “There are many problems regarding hydro power generation. The expected rains have not yet arrived and the government has to consider increasing fuel imports to meet thermal power generation demands. The country already spends over 6 billion U.S. dollars on fuel imports,” he said.

On the same day Power and Energy Minister Champika Ranawaka has also renewed pleas to conserve power in the wake of delayed monsoon rains. 

Lack of water has also destroyed an estimated 100 000 acres of paddy, which produce rice- Sri Lanka’s staple dish. Agriculture experts have already warned that loss of such a large stock of rice could cause severe shortages later in the year that would drive up cost of living.

The government has already allocated 2.7 million U.S. dollars (3.7 billion rupees) to assist the drought affected but have come under pressure from farmers that are not seeing any difference on the ground.

Local media reports have repeatedly highlighted stories of farmers pawning their tractors and other agriculture equipment to obtain money to live on after their crops were destroyed by the drought. 

The Central Bank last week downgraded Sri Lanka’s growth target from 7.2 percent to 6.7 percent due to supply issues brought on by the drought.

 However, Finance Ministry Secretary Dr. P.B. Jayasundara in a subsequent interview stated that he expects growth to be as low as 6.5 percent.