Photo from the latest flooding by Sandesh Bandara
Rain makes the plants grow, animals eat the plants, humans chase animals, humans populate the world, forget the whole cycle. Until it floods. Rains have flooded Sri Lanka now, twice. In Colombo we notice this as a vague chilly patch with dampness of feet. In the north-central and eastern provinces, however, this is known as calamity. Roads submerged, and scourged of tar. Houses flooded, fridges ruined, classes closed, paddy lost, money gone. I get SMS’s (SMSi?) of statistics which somehow have little or no impact. After the first flood, the media is like, this again? It seems like another personal disaster, just affecting more people. That is, however, still a disaster.
According to one NGO report I got, thousands of families are affected and 95% of paddy land from Kalmunai to Ampara is completely destroyed. I hear other reports that the A11 in Polonnaruwa is under feet of water. Having been there before, I know the general scene. Elevated roads, like those running through paddy, crumble, flake off like birthday cake. Bunds and bridges collapse. I saw a bunch of collapsed bridges last month, I don’t know if there are any more to damage. These are big three or four lane concrete bridges, they must be battered with trees or something.
Across these caverns there are paddy fields, some ruined some not, some redeemable, some completely fucked until the irrigation bunds are fixed. Hanging around there, clutching somewhat pointless paperwork, are people who – while eating now – have no insurance against this sort of thing and a bunch of bad debts. It is the age-old story, natural disaster and loss of harvest. In the past if things got hard our ancestors would move. Later, as they became agrarian, they would still move, or become slaves or something. In Sri Lanka, we generally expected our rulers to mitigate droughts and things by building awesome tanks, with awesome stupas as celestial insurance, but I’m not sure what we did about floods. And I’m not sure what the government is going to do about this.
This latest round of flooding is Part Deux of an already unsexy story that gets scant media attention and token public regard. It is, nonetheless, a disaster. It’s an immediate disaster for the people that lost homes and the thankfully few that lost family. It’s a long-term worry in terms of food supply. This is also a worry for the government in terms of social unrest which, since the days we were apes, stemmed from leaders not putting food on the table, or rock as it were.