Archive for the ‘World Water Day 2014’ Category

Experts warn: Avert conflicts over water-energy-food nexus

April 13, 2014

Water for food is a core issue that can no longer be tackled through a narrow sectorial approach, a major international conference held in Colombo last week was told. Nearly 500 experts from 40 countries participated in the three-day Fifth International Conference on Water Resources and Hydropower Development in Asia at the BMICH.

Addressing the summit, senior minister Dr.Sarath Amunugama said native topography meant that Sri Lanka “was made for hydropower”, which is a vital contributor to economic growth.

Dr Avinash Tyagi, Secretary General of International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage (ICID), focused in his keynote address on reservoir operations during drought conditions – an issue of great relevance to Sri Lanka. He began by underlining the need to recognise the “water-energy-food nexus” and outlined concerns about water security, particularly in the light of climate change.

This has been particularly relevant to Sri Lanka as evident in the severe drought Sri Lanka faced in 2012. There was insufficient water in the reservoirs to be released for farming at height of the drought and it was alleged that the then minister of power and energy had asked officials to use reservoir water stocks to generate hydro-electricity to gain revenue for the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB).

In doing so, the minister managed to bring down the CEB’s power-generating costs which otherwise would have soared with having to resort more to thermal power plants, but in the process the water stocks that should have been kept for irrigation in prolonged drought has been exhausted. This has led to protests by paddy farmers who had to witness their paddy lands dying without water.

This highlights the interlinking of different water usage and the need to carefully manage water stocks among stakeholders, especially for energy and food. In Sri Lanka, water from multipurpose reservoirs been released for various demands which brings to a head the need to manage water wisely to face drought conditions.

The water-energy-food nexus was a highlight of the recently-launched World Water Development report, “Water and Energy”, which said that recognising the many synergies and trade-offs between water and energy use and food production and balancing these trade-offs was central to ensuring water, energy and food security.

In Sri Lanka, the allocation of water for different needs is periodically assessed with major stakeholders such as the CEB, the Irrigation Department, Farmers Association, Water Board and the Mahaweli Authority. The process is handled by the Mahaweli Authority and water releases are supposed to be made in accordance with this plan.

Since there are different departments working toward different needs, it was proposed several years ago that an apex body be set up to manage water resources but this has not materialised. Experts also stressed the need of drawing the Meteorological Department too into the planning stage of water sharing as rainfall patterns grow increasingly unreliable.

Sri Lankan a lead author of elite UN report 

Sri Lankan Achala C. Abeysinghe is a lead author of the latest report by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the main international body for assessing the science related to climate change.

The IPCC, which has won a Nobel Prize for its work, analyses the body of scientific knowledge through three working groups, and its fifth and latest report is a product of Working Group II, which considered climate change in relation to observed impacts and future risks, the potential for and limits to adaptation, and importantly, the vulnerability and exposure of human and natural systems to this change.

A total of 309 co-ordinating lead authors, lead authors, and review editors drawn from 70 countries were selected to produce the latest report. They enlisted the help of 436 contributing authors and 1729 expert and government reviewers.

This elite report consists of 30 chapters and Sri Lankans could be proud that a lead author of its 20th chapter, “Climate-Resilient Pathways: Adaptation, Mitigation, and Sustainable Development” is Dr Abeysinghe, who holds a PhD in international environmental law on climate change.

Her stated interests lie in equity and fairness issues in international climate change negotiations, adaptation to climate change, finance for climate change adaptation and issues related to loss and damage. Dr Abeysinghe works for the respected London-based International Institute for Environment and Development where she is Senior Researcher of the Climate Change Group and Team Leader, Global Climate Change Governance.

She gained her first degree from the University of Colombo and worked as an attorney-at-law in the Supreme Court and was a law lecturer at the Open University of Sri Lanka. As well as contributing significantly to the latest IPCC report, Dr Abeysinghe’s current positions include being legal and technical adviser to the Chair of the Least Developed Countries (LDC) group for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and Head of the European Capacity Building Initiative workshops programme.

Growing confidence in climate reports but localised studies crucial

Twelve pots of water from the 12 main hydro reservoirs were brought down to Anuradhapura by special motorcade and, after paying tribute at the Ruwanweliseya, were offered to the sacred Bodhi tree with an appeal to the deities for good rains.

This annual ceremony had added fervency last week with climate change producing little answer to the prolonged drought that will see rice shortages by August, hydropower generation at a record low and a global report warning of increasing suffering from global warming.
The latest report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) confirms that extreme events such as this country’s prolonged drought will be a way of life in the future.

The report, “Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability” by IPCC Working Group 2 in which Sri Lankan environmental law specialist Dr Achala C. Abeysinghe was a lead writer, highlights the impact of climate change on water resources with global rainfall patterns due to be greatly affected.

Climate change is projected to reduce renewable surface water and groundwater resources significantly in many regions.

While years ago UN and other reports on the far-reaching effects of climate change were regarded with caution and even scepticism in some quarters, there is much more confidence in the climate projections now, and also evidence of changes already in place, said leading Sri Lankan climate scientist, Dr Lareef Zubair. He acknowledged that some climate change projections had not been tested but emphasised: “There are serious implications of climate change for Sri Lanka in my judgment”.  

Published on SundayTimes on 13.04.2014 http://www.sundaytimes.lk/140413/news/experts-warn-avert-conflicts-over-energy-food-nexus-92398.html

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Off to Kumamoto to see Japan’s famed cherry blossoms

April 11, 2014

“The Sakura flower is extremely beautiful, but its splendour does not last long. A few days after blossoming, the flower starts to disintegrate, reminding us of the uncertainty of life,” said Nobuko, my Japanese colleague explaining how the Japanese view the cherry blossom season.

The Sakura’s bloom marks the arrival of spring, as the trees bloom only when climatic conditions are right. Missing them in Tokyo, I was lucky to see them in Kumamoto city at the heart of Japan’s southernmost island Kyushu.

Kumamoto is roughly about 40 minutes by domestic flight (six hours from Tokyo by train). Signs of Sakura could be seen as soon as we exited the airport.

Literature says cherry blossom is the flower of any of several trees of genus Prunus, particularly the Japanese Cherry, Prunusserrulata. As my Japanese colleague explained, there are many varieties of Sakura flowers ranging from pink to white. However, white is the most popular Sakura flower among the Japanese. When over 80% of Sakura flowers open up, it is called a ‘Full Bloom’ and the Japanese go out to picnic in parks to enjoy the dawn of spring. The trees in Kumamoto were a few days prior to a full bloom, but were already infested by a swarm of white butterflies. The Sakura trees line the main roads, making it a beautiful sight. Some of the tree branches are bandaged with medicines to prevent them becoming infected with disease – a reminder of how well the Japanese look after these trees.
Kumamoto though offers more than the Sakura. Tasting the cleanest water directly from the source was another experience, the city being famous for its groundwater springs. There are a few hot water springs too in the vicinity and the tour also took us to visit one of the largest active volcanos in the world.

Passing barren mountains that had traces of crystalized lava, we moved toward Mount Aso located about 30 miles away from the city. Disappointing and scary news reached us while on the way that due to high volcanic activity, the public would not be allowed to go to the crater but things had settled by the time we reached there and we were allowed to climb all the way up.

Though having seen many documentaries about volcanoes, I never thought it would be so scary to look at one up close. The volcano was emitting gushing whitish fumes with fury from the heated volcanic lava, the sound captured by the ears more frightening than what has been seen by the eyes. The scent of sulfur was everywhere and announcements were constantly made that asthma sufferers should not go closer.

A tour to Kumamoto is not complete without visiting its most symbolic historic monument; the Kumamoto castle, incidentally the location for the Tom Cruise movie ‘The Last Samurai’. The movie is based on the historic events of the Satsuma Rebellion that took place in 1877 and the final battle between Samurai warriors and the empire’s troops that took place in Kumamoto. Dating back to the 1600s, the Kumamoto Castle is considered a most impregnable fortress with singular features such as its curved stone walls called mushagaeshi and its wooden overhangs, originally designed as protection against the ninja, together with its black and white main towers according to the guides.

Today, Kumamoto Castle also houses a museum which contains palanquins, samurai armour, Japanese swords and other artefacts from the Kato and Hosokawa clans, as well as detailed information on the castle’s remarkable history. It is also an excellent site for cherry blossom viewing,
The friendly people are the most valuable asset of Kumamoto. If you are lost, most would not hesitate to come along to show you the way. I even found a Sri Lankan restaurant in Kumamoto!

Published on SundayTimes http://www.sundaytimes.lk/140406/plus/off-to-kumamoto-to-see-japans-famed-cherry-blossoms-91446.html Photo credit for Cherry Blossoms in ‘Full Bloom’ Chunli Yang.

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Little water for Hydropower, Irrigation and Drinking; CEB pleads deities for rain

April 7, 2014

Country to experience rice shortage by August, and Water Board asks people to use tap water carefully. Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB)’s cost of power generation escalates high as the contribution from hydroelectricity drops around 11%. In this aftermath, the country’s Minister of Power decided to turn to the deities pleading for rain which is long over-due. 

The percentage of expensive thermal power generated by the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) is rising daily as the Government sticks to its “electricity at any cost” policy despite drought in hydro-catchment areas.

On Friday, a massive 88.4 per cent of the country’s energy requirement was met with thermal power, statistics published by the CEB show. Only 11.3 per cent of hydroelectricity was generated. This is an increase from a week ago when 84 per cent of power was generated by thermal power stations while 15.3 per cent came from hydroelectric power stations.

Despite mounting losses to the CEB, the utility is implementing the Government’s policy of providing uninterrupted power supply. There will be no power cuts, said Senajith Dasanayake, CEB Assistant General Manager.

“In the afternoons, the thermal power stations are on and it’s 90 to 100 per cent thermal,” said Mr. Dasanayake, who is also the CEB’s official spokesman. “During peak hours, between 6 pm and 9 pm, we use all the stations, including the most expensive machines in the system. The water in the reservoirs is being used very sparingly because the priority is for drinking and agriculture.”

He urged the public to save electricity, particularly during peak hours. He also said the CEB does not anticipate an increase in its burden during the National Holidays because shops and industries will be closed, thereby reducing consumption. “The load is less,” he explained

Meanwhile, the second unit of the Lakvijaya Thermal Power Plant at Norochcholai is being tested. On one day this week, both units ran at full load, adding 600 megawatts of power to the grid. There is still no date for its official inauguration as CEB engineers want to ensure all aspects of the complicated unit are tested for weaknesses.

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A submerged Buddha Statue that has gone underwater in Maussakele reservoir reappears as water levels recede drastically. Pic By R Kogulan

“There are thousands of systems and our engineers are testing each one,” Mr. Dasanayake said. “While the process is ongoing, the power produced is absorbed to the CEB system.” He added that the existing transmission line from Puttalam to Veyangoda is able to carry the full capacity of the two units.

When the third unit is commissioned, however, the new transmission line to Anuradhapura must be made available. It is currently held up due to environmental and social concerns. The CEB incurred heavy losses in the first three months of this year.

“On the cost side, 85 to 95 per cent goes towards the power we are buying from both CEB stations and independent power producers,” Mr. Dasanayake said. “Costs are higher than revenue.

“We have had dry years and wet years,” he explained. “We nearly made a profit in certain months during 2013 which was a wet year. In January and February 2014, we managed to pay back our arrears to the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation and independent power producers from money collected the previous year.”

Mr. Dasanayake also said both machines of Laxapana Hydro Power Station have been shut down to carry out repairs on an underground tunnel taking water between reservoirs and the plants. Each generates 50 megawatts of electricity.

“The underground tunnel had not been inspected for the past 40 years,” he explained. “But since the 80s we knew that there was a leak.” Repairs were postponed several times but the CEB decided to implement the project this year because of the availability of funds under the World Bank funded Dam Safety and Water Resources Planning Project.

Little water for Hydropower, Irrigation and Drinking; CEB pleads deities for rain 

Meanwhile, the minister of Power seek divine intervention to end the drought. Twelve pots of water containing the water from 12 main hydro reservoirs have been brought down to Anuradhapura on a special motercade. After  paying tribute to Ruwanweli Seya, these water was offered to the sacred Bodhi tree Jaya Sri Maha Bodhiya seeking devine blessings to bring the rain to the reservoirs.

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Minister of Power offer water from reservoirs to deities pleading for rain

CEB still manages to provide uninterrupted power supply to the country, but as SundayTimes’ lead story pointed out this week – they have bear a big cost as thermal power is expensive. Hydro power is the cheapest option Sri Lanka is having at present, but its contribution has dropped to generation of 11% of the total power need. So in this scenario Hydro Electricity generates cheaper electricity; the rains are crucial for Sri Lanka.

In spite of this, the ministry of Agriculture too warned that paddy cultivation too has been severely affected by the prevailing dry conditions. The ministry’s secretary R.M.Meegasmulla told media tat maha season harvest has dropped drastically and the Yala season couldn’t be started as water levels in the resoivors are too low to be released for the cultivation. So the agriculture ministry expects 35% of paddy harvest where country may have to experience a shortage of rice at end August which will increase the price.

Even the Water and Drainage board requested the users not to waste the water as the water stocks are going down drastically.

This highlights the interlinks of usages of water and need of carefully managing the water stocks among stake holders. In Sri Lanka mostly the water from multipurpose reservoirs been released for all these demands which brings the need to manage water wisely to face a drought conditions. This Water-Energy-Food Nexus has been one of the highlights of the recently launched World Water Development Report 2014 titled “Water and Energy”.

The report indicates that there are many synergies and trade-offs between water and energy use and food production. Using water to irrigate crops might promote food production but it can also reduce river flows and hydropower potential. Growing bioenergy crops under irrigated agriculture can increase overall water withdrawals and jeopardize food security. Converting surface irrigation into high efficiency pressurized irrigation may save water but may also result in higher energy use. Recognizing these synergies and balancing these trade-offs is central to jointly ensuring water, energy and food security.

Sri Lanka was in drought in 2012 and at the latter parts, there wasn’t enough water in the reservoirs to be released for farming. It was alleged that then Minister of Power had asked the officers to use the stock of water in the reservoirs to generate Hydroelectricy with aim to record profit for the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB). The minister managed to bring down the cost of CEB which otherwise had to be generated by thermal power plants; but in the process the water stocks that should have been kept for irrigation in prolonged drought has been exhausted. This has lead to protests by paddy farmers who had to witness their paddy lands getting die without water.

Participating an international conference on Hydropower that was held in Colombo last month, CEB officers reveal that the percentage of the water for different sectors are being allocated periodically at an informal committee. The CEB, Irrigation Department, Water and Drainage Board and Mahaweli authority with other stakeholders of water sits together to allocate the percentage of water for different sectors. This process is managed by the Mahaweli authority, but the need of a formal establishment is very much evident inorder not to repeat 2012 situation.

http://www.sundaytimes.lk/140406/news/as-drought-continues-ceb-switches-to-88-4-per-cent-thermal-91881.html

UN warns water energy needs coming to crunch- point

March 30, 2014

By Malaka Rodrigo in Tokyo

WWD 2014

the United Nations predicting that the world will need 40 per cent more water and 50 per cent more energy some 15 years from now, World Water Day’s theme of “Water and Energy” Friday was right on target, very much so for Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is hoping to increase its reliance on hydro-power but is facing problems with drought and contesting claims on water resources by farmers and others.

Tokyo yesterday hosted the main international events commemorating this year’s World Water Day, centerpiece of which was a flagship UN report, the 2014 World Water Development Report (WWDR).  Considered an authoritative status report on global freshwater resources, it highlights the need of policies and regulatory frameworks that integrate approaches to water and energy priorities.

Water and energy are closely interconnected and highly interdependent, the UN report says. Choices made and actions taken in one domain can greatly affect the other, positively or negatively. Trade-offs need to be managed to limit negative impacts and foster opportunities for synergy. Water and energy have crucial impacts on poverty alleviation.

The UN predicts that by 2030 the world’s population will need 35 per cent more food, 40 per cent more water and half again as much energy as it consumes today. In stark contrast to these projected requirements, already 768 million people lack access to improved water sources, 2.5 billion people lack proper sanitation and 1.3bn people cannot access electricity. These issues need urgent attention, the report released yesterday says.

There is increased stress on the supplies of groundwater, the report says. In many countries, aquifers are reaching their limits. Energy currently accounts for 15 per cent of freshwater withdrawals and this is set to rise by 20-25 per cent by 2035.

Published on SundayTImes – Sri Lankahttp://www.sundaytimes.lk/140323/news/un-warns-water-energy-needs-coming-to-crunch-point-90171.html

World Water Day – Day04 (Kumamoto City)

March 29, 2014

Kumamoto City council arranged a field visit to see how they utilize the ground water resources. The attractions of the Kumamoto Prefecture including the Kumamoto castle and mount Aso which is one of the largest active volcano of the world has been visited. At the Shirakawa Fountain head; we found cleanest water that was so refreshing. The Sakura trees in Kumamoto started blooming let us know that the city is getting ready for the spring..!!

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World Water Day – Day02

March 27, 2014

On the 2nd day, the official event to commemorate the World Water Day 2014 were held at UN University Conference Hall. The morning session include general speeches about the World Water Day 2014 and its theme “Water and Energy Nexus”. The occasion is also marked with the launch of World Water Development Report 2014 and presenting the ‘Water for Life’ award. The afternoon session has been participated by the Crown Prince Naruhito and lots of high level Japanese officials giving lot of weight for the event. At the end, a wrap-up session for all those who participated the World Water Day workshop has been held. A reception at the night concluded the official World Water Day 2014 event.

Here are few photographs showcasing the day’s activities..!!

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 The participants of World Water Day Workshop

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World Water Day – Day01

March 20, 2014

The theme of the World Water Day (22nd of March) this year is ‘Water and Energy’. With the aim of raising awareness on the subject, a 2 day workshop has been organized inline with World Water Day (WWD) official celebrations that is being held in Tokyo, Japan. The following has been captured during this WWD workshop.

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War for water in Kithulgala

March 20, 2014
Rafters protest hydro project that dams their livelihood 
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Kithulgala is Sri Lanka’s premier white-water rafting location but a hydro-power project threatens the future of this tourist attraction. The Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) is building the Broadland Hydropower Project on the Kelani River as a run-of-river (ROR) type power plant.

ROR plants need little or no water storage but under this project the Maskeli Oya and Kehelgamu Oya, the main tributaries providing water to the Kelani, will be blocked by dams to divert water through a 3km tunnel 5.4m in diameter to a plant to run an electricity-generating turbine. Water will then be released back to the river downstream.

Protestors marching against the power plant

Last week, the White Water Rafters’ Association (WWRA) – whose members fear a loss of livelihood if the project goes ahead – staged a protest, parading with rubber dinghies and calling out slogans such as: “Should water be used for power or sports?”, “Does the Broadland Hydropower Project say ‘goodbye’ to white-water rafting?”.WWRA secretary Priyantha Pushpakumara complains that the project will dam water about 5km above the main stretch of white-water rafting activity. “This stretch has 18 rapids that can be used for rafting but this diversion will destroy 13 of the rapids,” wept Priyantha.

White-water rafting at Kithulgala was started in 1995. There were only a few operators in the business initially, but that number has grown with the demand, said Channa Perera, one of the pioneers. For thrill-seekers there used to be just the Kithulgala Resthouse providing accommodation but now there are 38 hotels in Kithulgala serving local and foreign tourists. It is estimated that nearly 100,000 tourists visit Kithulgala annually for white-water rafting.

More than 200 people are directly employed by about 10 rafting operators and the business provides another 400-odd indirect jobs, creating the backbone of a livelihood for the Kithulgala villagers. “Kithulgala village evolved around the white-water rafting industry, and if the main attraction is affected the number of tourists will decrease, leading to a string of economic as well as social problems,” warned Priyantha.

The 35MW Broadland project expects to add 126GWh of electrical energy annually to the national grid. Hydropower is the cheapest energy source for Sri Lanka as thermal-based electricity generation is growing increasingly expensive with rising oil prices. This project is important, a CEB spokesperson said. The CEB also gave assurances that it would continue releasing water during the daytime so that there would be enough water to continue white-water rafting. The board said the WWRA’s fears were baseless.

“We understand that the country needs energy and we are not against using water to generate the energy but we are not clear on how the water can be made available during the daytime for rafting activities as promised by the CEB. Our request to explain the mechanism of how this could be done has not been answered,” the rafters’ association responded.

Construction work on the power plant has already started and construction work is scheduled for completion in four years. The Broadlands Hydropower Project (BHP) is to be implemented with loans borrowed from Industrial & Commercial Bank of China and the Hatton National Bank.

Protesting with their rafts on top of 3-wheelers

Clean energy vs biodiversityHydro electricity is tagged as one of the cleanest energy sources, and the cheapest. But Sri Lanka has now tapped all the major rivers blocking them to generate energy. So now the country is turning to small hydro-power plants or mini hydro-power. The small hydro industry is typically characterized by hydro power projects with capacities less than 10MW.The Director-General of the Sustainable Development Authority (SDA), Dr. Thusitha Sugathapala, said there were more than 100 mini hydro projects in operation in Sri Lanka, generating about 250MW at present, and a recent study suggested the country has potential of about 800MW from mini-hydros.Due to environmental factors and other limitations, however, the potential from mini-hydro projects was only about 550MW. Dr. Sugathapala said there was an approval process to make certain mini-hydro projects do not damage the environment; if a project area is within a protected area the authorities did not hesitate to reject the project at once.Environmentalists oppose most of the small-scale and mini-hydro projects. These locations might not be in a designated protected area but their environmental impact is significant, environmentalists say. Recent examples include the Warathenna plant that is in one of the last remaining habitats of the critically endangered species, Labeo fisheri (Gadaya). There were also recent attempts to build a hydro power plant blocking the Aberdeen waterfall and the scenic Eli Hatha waterfalls near the Peak Wilderness.“Freshwater fish will be the worst affected due to these mini-hydro projects. Their impact can be worse than that of the large hydro projects as mini-hydro projects block smaller streams that are rich habitats for many endemic freshwater fish,” pointed out Madura de Silva, president of the Wildlife Conservation Society of Galle which conducts an island-wide fish survey.

Blocking a river can change the speed of flow of water and its depth, and this will change the micro habitats that these fish need for survival. Furthermore some fish such as gobis and eels migrate up and down rivers or migrate to the sea for breeding. Any dams will block their movements and their population will be affected.

“It is true that mini-hydro projects can have local environmental effects but compared with coal it is still a better option both economically and environmentally as coal emits a lot of greenhouse gases that lead to global warming,” said Asoka Abeygunawardana, Executive Director of Sri Lanka Energy Forum. “But,” he added, “often there are opportunities to reduce environmental damage when establishing mini-hydro plants, and this is an area where Sri Lanka needs to improve.”

Mr. Abeygunawardana, a former adviser to the Power and Energy Ministry, said he did not view the Broadland Hydropower Plant in Kithulgala as having a large adverse impact

“Water and Energy” is the theme of this year’s World Water Day

Water and energy are closely interlinked and interdependent. Energy generation requires utilization of water resources, particularly for hydroelectricity. Generating cleaner/cheaper energy is essential for country’s development, but as issues linked to Kithulgala dam highlights, water resources needs to be tapped carefully for Energy Generation. So the World Water Day that is fallen this week on 22nd of March selected “Water and Energy” as the theme to collectively bring the attention to the water-energy nexus.

Coincidently, 14th March has been the International Day of Action for Rivers and Against Dams. 

Published on SundayTimes http://www.sundaytimes.lk/140316/news/war-for-water-in-kithulgala-89392.html