Sri Lanka hit by worst drought in decades

Dry spell affects more than a million people, with authorities warning of more water shortages.

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    Sri Lanka is suffering its worst drought in four decades, according to officials, with more than a million people experiencing acute water shortages.

    The lack of rain last year has lowered water levels in rivers in parts of the country. With less water available to drain the sea salt, supplies have been contaminated, especially in the town of Kalutara, south of the capital, Colombo.

    In the village of Kaluganga, more than 200,000 people are affected, as they lack access to clean drinking water.

    With rain not expected for another two to three months, the government is warning of worsening shortages.

    Reservoirs in the country are running low and some are now down to a fifth of their capacity.

    "This drought is affecting both the agricultural and the hydro-power generation," Lalith Chandrapala, director general of the meteorological department, told Al Jazeera.

    "It is one of the worst droughts since the 1970s." 

    Farmers have been badly hit by the dry spell as they have managed to plant only a third of the usual 800,000 hectares of paddy fields - the lowest in 30 years.

    There are disturbing signs that up to half of the crops will fail and the next planting season is also in jeopardy.

    "All our paddy was destroyed," said Rabanda, a farmer. "We don't have a way to survive and now we don't even have water to drink."

    A task force has been set up by the government to deal with food shortages and rising prices as a result of the drought. 

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News


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