On the 4th of July 2017, Lanka Rain Water Harvesting Forum hosted its Rain Talks, the first of a series of talks to mark our 20th year celebration. Honoured guest speaker, Deshabandu Surath Wickramasinghe spoke on “New Trends in Rainwater Harvesting” and gave an overview of how some countries are coping with the effects of climate change, with particular reference to water security. Having a background in engineering, he shared his interest in a solution to the flooding in the Western province while diverting the excess water to drought prone areas in the North and East.
Given that the relief costs for the drought and floods come to approximately 3 million USD, he proposed that these funds could be allocated to disaster mitigation strategies to preserve the 75% of floodwater which was pumped into the sea alternatively diverted to drought prone areas.
Mr. Wickramasinghe emphasized the reactionary nature of Sri Lanka with regards to natural disasters wherein “We wait until it happens and then look for a solution”. He stressed that more expensive solutions such as Wildlife overpasses for our highways and underground cisterns for storage and floodwater diversion might have an immense initial cost but there are “economic and social gains in the long run”. In his opinion, the rapid unplanned urbanization of low lying areas and the construction of the expressway without overpasses to ensure there would be no ecological and social disruption are key issues that have not been addressed.
Citing examples from Japan, Malaysia and Israel, he applauded their water conscious cultures as “They use the water to the maximum by a system of meticulous water management”, that is to minimize usage, allocation of water per household, reusing/recycling greywater and sewer water. He further highlighted the lack of education and awareness of water conservation in Sri Lanka as the national water conservation policy is obscure and unavailable to the layperson. “We must have an integrated network for water, for proper resource allocation” stating the need for cooperation between water management authorities and relevant organizations.