Farmer in front of a ruined field, ruined by the weeds that washed in
I went to Polonnaruwa today to check out the flood damage. On the way up I had a strange, beautiful dream, I saw three elephants climbing a tea steppe, one with bandaged legs. I also had a dream about Batticaloa as some fanciful Tamil wonderland and I woke up expecting to be there. I was a bit disappointed to find myself in Polonnaruwa. That is, to a degree, the district’s place in flood coverage.
If you just drive through Polonnaruwa, everything seems fine. Indeed, the biggest military presence there was for a bicycle race. Off the main road however, the roads disappear. There are literally chunks carved out as if with a giant ice cream scooper. We came first to a bridge that had been properly swept away. And this was a proper bridge, concrete, solid, gone. You can see what remains below.
Bridge across the River Why
Sarath Weerasinghe crossed the new rope bridge, a process which consists of wading through the water and holding the rope. He got out, wearing swimmers and a cloth on h is head. He’s lost the 3 acres that he was cultivating, having already invested Rs. 50,000 there. He was expecting to earn about Rs. 300,000 with the harvest, but that won’t come. He’s effectively fucked for the year.
This is the story of many farmers here and there, especially the small ones. The damage is uneven, sometimes there will be pristine fields on one side and mud on the other. Sometimes there’s mud right next to pristine. In the case above, however, the water has completely swept away a road, meaning that the entire irrigation system is messed up.
In the sad photo at the very top, this man is standing in front of the blight that’s destroyed his hopes for Avurudu. The rising waters swept a marsh weed they called ‘Japan Jarbore’ into the fields. I thought it simply was a field of weeds until they reached down and pulled up some limp, derelict paddy. This has affected 824 hectares of land.
This essentially is the cost of the flood. Not loss of life, but loss of livelihood. These people are now staring down debt for what they’ve invested and no money coming in. Being not wealthy myself, I understand. If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, or harvest to harvest, when one doesn’t come you can slip pretty far. Family relations get strained, people get angry, thing get generally bad. But still, it’s not death, and most media and donors and even government is going to pass this by. Me personally, however, I think they should sell off Mihin Lanka and support the people who form the backbone of our economy and food supply.