Hot and cold issues of climate change

A look at Sri Lankan strategic plans and surrounding world politics

By Anuradha Alahakoon
Nuwara Eliya is a city most Europeans love to visit after coming to Sri Lanka. One factor is the historical and cultural richness. The other most important factor is the cool pleasant climate.
This January Nuwara Eliya became cold. The tourists, who came to Kandy, with an intention of visiting Nuwara Eliya, mostly stayed in Kandy because of the unbearable cold at Nuwara Eliya.
One day during January the city of Colombo too became cool and indeed cold at night. The recorded temperature was 18o Celsius. The sudden and extreme deviations of climate are becoming common. Extreme floods and extreme droughts are now becoming a fact of life. Lush fields of rice, reaching its harvest became submerged in a day or two in North Central and Eastern Provinces during recent weeks. The climate is showing its strength over the human power.

Are these events just isolated incidents or are they a part of a large climatic incidence? This is the question many experts now try to answer. The recent events around the world give some indications of a changed climate. The world climatic change because of the global warming is now a known fact to many. Because of the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – largely due to industrialisation – the world temperature is rising. The rising temperature is melting the ice in the north and south poles of the Earth, and as a result the sea level is rising. The sea level rise may entirely submerge some of the islands like Maldives.
Sri Lanka is also in a crucial state being an island which is very sensitive to climatic conditions.

National strategy
Sri Lanka has now drafted a national climate change adaptation strategy from 2011 to 2016, with an expert panel aided by ADB and facilitated by Climate Change Secretariat of Ministry of Environment.
Now the Ministry of Environment is waiting for final Cabinet approval for this. It is important to draw attention to climate change especially before we are too late to take actions and this is a positive initiative taken by the authorities and interested parties.
Climate change and development are not separate issues. When we talk about development, environment issues become a concern and one of the hottest issues of environment today is the climate change.
It is utmost important to incorporate climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies into the country’s development programme. The years ahead are very important for Sri Lanka, to achieve the development goals, especially after the dawn of peace. Therefore, this is the time we should be talking about climate change and development issues.

Why is climate change important for development goals in Sri Lanka? Climate change is an issue which will impact directly on the development goals. Development goals in Sri Lanka heavily depend on sectors such as agriculture, fisheries, water, health and urban development. Also, biodiversity and natural resources play an important role. These very areas are more or less impacted by climate change. Some of the natural resources are presently under threat by human activities and climate change will increase that threat on some of the ecosystems.
Some are of the view that there is a long time before the repercussions of the climate change will be felt. We should understand that some of the climatic conditions in the recent past have given an indication that present climatic conditions are changing, even in Sri Lanka.

One observable phenomenon is the increased frequency and intensity of natural hazards such as droughts, floods and landslides. These natural phenomena are causing much damage to the key economic sectors such as agriculture, fisheries and infrastructure. Also, another observable condition is the vector-borne diseases which are increasing and spreading widely. The changing climatic conditions may create a favourable condition to breed for the vectors such as mosquitoes.

It is a known fact that, in Sri Lanka, though the concept is wide spread about the climate change, it is still not incorporated into environmental and development planning processes. For example, Environment Impact Assessments have still not incorporated the impacts and considerations of climate change. Most development projects do not consider the climate change as a noteworthy issue. In this scenario present awakening shown by the authorities is a positive signal.

Key sectors
The drafted national strategy looks into hotspots of development such as human settlements and urbanisation. The settlements along the coastal line and the infrastructure such as roads and railways are to be considered. It is indeed a key sector to be discussed. Just like the tsunami, the repercussions of climate change will come in one fine day and the impact will be gradual and continuous. The coastal road and railways should be planned keeping in mind about the climate change.

One other economically important sector is the agricultural sector. The rainfall pattern may be affected by the climate change. This will effect the paddy cultivation – which is cultivated according to the traditional rainfall patterns. Yields may be affected by the increase of drought and changes in salinity levels.
Water security for agriculture and other human activities in the face of climate change is one other major issue. Our water resources are still not fully utilised in a sustainable manner. These include the ancient manmade reservoirs. Given this scenario, the water availability will be changed due to the changed climatic conditions. The fresh water quality will also be affected because of saline water intrusion due to the sea level rise.
Climate change will also have an impact on the fisheries industry. How the fisheries sector will be affected is still under study. Fishing community settlements will also get affected due to increased erosion and sea level rise.
The effect on the infrastructure is another important factor. Impacts of climate change are still not considerations when it comes to the construction industry. Some of the coastal infrastructure such as roads and railways are directly under threat by sea level rise.

World politics
The most recent event in climate change discussion is the Cancún Summit held in Mexico. There the governments met to negotiate again on cutting down emissions. The situation has not changed much from the past. The main concern of scientists today is how to cut down the carbon dioxide emissions to keep the global warming incidence at a lower level. The industrialised nations are pointing their finger at developing nations such as India and China, forcing them to cut emissions.

What they do not seem to understand is the developed nations are still polluting the environment by increased carbon dioxide emissions. When we calculate the per capita carbon dioxide emissions (carbon dioxide emitted by each person), still the industrialised nations are the highest emitters. For example, the United States has less than 5% of population and account for more than 20% of global carbon dioxide emissions. India with almost 17% of global population, accounts for less than 5% of emissions.
Scientists and experts, especially in the Third World, agree that the historical responsibility lies more with the industrialised countries. Carbon dioxide emitted to the atmosphere lasts for more than 100 years. It is a known fact that the industrialised nations emitted so much carbon dioxide during their rapid phase of development in the 19th century. It is estimated that rich countries account for seven out of 10 tonnes of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Activists and environmentalists from Asia strongly point out that the developing countries must be given a chance to develop while cutting emissions and developed countries must get their emissions cut more than the developing countries. They should invest more in renewable energy sources to get the energy requirements.
Environmentalists such as Sunitha Narayan from Centre of Science and Environment from India blame the US and other developed countries for drafting policies that always favour the rich countries.
Sunitha Narayan, writing to the Indian newspaper The Tribune says, “Despite the talk going on about renewable energy, the rich would remain seriously addicted to the fossil fuels – coal, gas and oil – for its industries and huge fleet of vehicles.” Sunitha’s concern gives voice to the worry of the entire developing world.

In late 1997, in terms the Kyoto Protocol, industrial countries agreed to cut its emissions by just 5.2% – which is below 1990 level – by 2008-2012. The world is still nowhere close to achieving this reduction targets. This is because the industrial world did not keep its promises. The world’s largest polluter – the United States – walked out of this agreement and some European nations are finding it difficult to reach this modest target.
Present-day development models of the countries create emissions. The developed nations got their wealth by emitting huge amounts of gases to the atmosphere, which is still contributing to the climate change. The developing countries will add some more stock to the atmosphere during their development. Already, the nations which are developed must realise that they should cut emissions more to allow the developing countries to reach their goals.

Thinking globally acting locally
Given the nature of the climate change, Sri Lanka being an island nation cannot be in isolation. The climate change is a global phenomenon. We should be aware of world strategies and actions of the peer countries, especially the developing countries should get together to raise their voice cumulatively. Though the larger policies are drafted globally, the local communities have much to do about the mitigation of impacts of climate change. The coastal communities must get an understanding about these phenomena and this will reduce future conflicts. The farmers should look into different systems of cultivation under environmental stress. The researchers should find alternative methods of farming, fishing and alternative energy sources. In other words, now is the time to think globally and act locally.


A Horse’s Fate

By A F Dawood
I was born in a stable and lived with my mother in a cosy stable covered with straw. My mother’s name was Monisa and mine Cotton Hall.
When I reached the age of understanding, I came to know that my mother and I belonged to a wealthy estate owner. I lived there happily for about two years. One day the owner came to see me with another person. I overheard their conversation.
“The little fellow is very much attached to the mother,” the stranger said. “How old is the fellow?” “Only two years and I have named the fellow Cotton Hall.” “What is the mother’s name?” “Monisa. Have you got transport to take Cotton Hall?”

From this conversation I knew they wanted to separate me from my mother. Within the next few minutes a rope was thrown around my neck and I was pushed by some men to a waiting truck. They managed to load me on to the truck and secured the entrance. I cried and screamed in a pitiable manner, but it had no effect.
Life in my new place was as comfortable as it was in my old place. Soon I came to know that my new owner was a gem merchant, Senarath by name, and that he had purchased me for a big sum of money. Whenever I thought of my mother, tears trickled down my face but in the course of time, I gradually got adapted to the new surrounding.

My new owner had a four-wheel box like thing which I later came to know was a horse carriage. He also had a bull which was tied to a cart to transport goods and a huge Alsatian dog which was let loose in the night. Every morning my master took me to Galle Face Green where I was made to run. During those trips my master took a youth with us, and after some days I came to know that he was Muttu, my caretaker.
In about two years time, I grew into a big, beautiful white horse. Muttu tied a leather belt round my body, and later I learnt that it was a seat for him to sit on my back.

He sat on this leather seat and tickled the rear of my body to incite me to run fast. Soon I learnt to run faster. He looked after me well; he gave me exercise; he made me run over hurdles and after balls which he threw. He brushed my coat daily and fed me – with boiled grams and carrots which I relished very much.
One day I noticed my caretaker was making my stable bigger. That night he brought a beautiful mare to my stable. When I saw the mare my joy knew no bounds. I lived with her for about two weeks and during this period I was not taken out or given any exercise. I was very happy to stay with the mare but at the end of two weeks, she was taken away.

Once again I was given the usual routine – running round, running after balls and jumping over hurdles. One day the master came to the stable with Muttu. He pointed at me. “Muttu, now this fellow is big and strong.” “Yes, sir.” “Tomorrow, we must tie Cotton Hall to the carriage; also tie a bell round its neck.” “Yes, Sir. Are you going in the carriage, sir?” “Yes, we can go to Galle Face in the horse carriage.”
On the following day Muttu tied a bell around my neck. For the first time, I was harnessed to a carriage. This was a puzzle to me. My master sat in the carriage and Muttu commanded me to run; then I ran gracefully emanating a musical sound, the bells in the carriage and on my neck made a jingling sound mingling with the clip clop sound of the hooves of my feet.

I heard the master’s voice amidst this sound. “This fellow is running well; we must allow this fellow to take part in races.” “Yes, sir. Cotton Hall can run well; it’s a good idea.” Muttu replied.
One day I took part in a horse race. There were about eight horses of different colours on the starting line. With the click of the starter’s gun, I accelerated. To my great surprise I won the race; thereafter I heard voices in the air, “Come on Cotton Hall, come on Cotton Hall.” Subsequently, on all occasions I won the races, so that ‘Cotton Hall’ was in everyone’s lips. Stakeholders had confidence in me so that they bet my name in every race. After I became a champion runner, I was given royal treatment by my master.

But one day misfortune overtook me. I fell in the race and broke my front leg; I was unable to walk or trot; I became a physically handicapped horse. I lay in the stable, groaning in pain. Nobody liked me; nobody came to cheer me; I was like a discarded coin. Only the two other animals in the stable had felt for me. The Alsatian dog that was let loose in the night instead of roaming about in the garden, sat close to my stable and continuously growled. I think it was expressing its sympathy. The bull too that was in the manger adjoining my stable expressed its sorrow by bellowing in the night. This went on every night till my doom’s day.
A week after the accident, the master came to see me with Muttu, “Sir, what can we do with this horse?”
“Now, it’s no use to me.” “Sir, can’t we treat Cotton Hell?”
“The doctors told me the animal has broken its front leg and sustained a fracture in one of the rear legs.” Then the master looked at me and sighed in a way feeling sorry for me.
“Now this animal is a burden to him and a burden to me.”
“Sir, what have you decided to do?”
“There’s no use spending money for this horse on food and maintenance.”
“Then what’re you going to do, sir?”
“What else to do other that to shoot the fellow.”
I knew what fate is going to fall on me. Tears trickled down my face. Then I saw my master coming toward me with a gun.


Yoland Aluvihare colours Celeb Chat

She was born Yolanda, as the eldest in the Kotelawala family. An early marriage at 17 years to Tissa Aluvihare and she was blessed with a son Aslisa and a daughter Nisadevi. With tons of free time on her hands she began dabbling in the batik business – drawing and designing, creating and colouring, and turning out pieces of batik.
Word went around and the orders came pouring in.
A hit during the 1976 Non-Aligned Conference, Yoland Batiks were then to dazzle foreign buyers and conquer overseas markets. There were lots of awards – both local and international. There was no turning back. Success trails her even to this day.
Yoland Aluvihare-Holm is still as simple and unassuming... as the naïve and inexperienced entrepreneur she once was. A practicing and very devout Buddhist, she’s neither the ‘party-girl’ nor the ‘cocktail-lady’ of Colombo society, but would rather sit on her balcony with husband Veinert Holm and gaze at the changing colours of the sunset.
She has just been selected as one of the nominees for the Fashion Asia Awards to be held in Beijing – China, on March 18, 2011 for the ‘Top Asian Selling Brand of The Year.’
Join Yoland as she explodes on screen with her success story... on Prime TV’s Celeb Chat at 9:30 pm on Monday February 7, 2011.