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Friday, December 1, 2023
COLOMBO, Jun 9 2014 (IPS) - By now, the tale has become almost mundane: first the rains remain elusive, refusing to quench the parched earth. Then, without warning, they fall in such torrents that they leave scores dead, hundreds injured, and thousands homeless, plus a heavy bill in accrued damages.
This is what climate change looks like in Sri Lanka, where unusual weather patterns have left meteorologists stumped, and the poor bear the brunt of the government’s lack of preparation for the annual monsoon, which hits the southwestern coast between June and October.
By the time the deluge subsided a day later, 24 people were dead, over 120,000 in 13 districts were badly affected, 25,000 were displaced by floodwaters and close to 1,500 houses had been damaged.
As always, the poorest of Sri Lanka’s poor were hardest hit: over 12 percent of the country’s urban population of three million live in slums, most of which are erected on government lands close to lakes and canals and are thus prone to flooding. Other affected populations include impoverished fisher communities who reside in humble dwellings along the coast.
This is not the first time that Sri Lanka’s most marginalised and ill-informed communities have had to bury loved ones and flee their homes as a result of unexpected, torrential downpours.
On Jun. 8, over 60 fishermen from the coastal Kalutara district, 50 km south of the island’s capital Colombo, were killed when they were caught off-guard by the monsoon’s fatal embrace.
Two years earlier, just a month before Christmas, 25 fishermen from the same region perished at sea in fast-moving winds and fierce rain.
Time and again, Sri Lanka’s most impoverished populations suffer in silence, be they slum-dwellers in Colombo, fishermen on the southern coast, farmers in the north-central provinces or war-affected members of the Tamil minority population in the northeastern regions.
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