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Recent national assessments have shown that thousands of hectares of paddy lands
are threatened due to climate change.
Climate is the bliss that enabled life
on the earth. And it is man, who developed planet earth into an advanced
civilization. But now it seems that man’s actions has endangered life of earth
by contributing to the ‘Climate Change’ throughout the world. Climate change is
turning out to be the greatest challenge in the 21st Century.
Climate change is a result of Global warming, the increase of earth’s average
temperature. Global warming causes the climate of a particular region to be
The main reason for the global warming is the increased emission of ‘Green House
Gases’ (GHGs) to the atmosphere by human activities. There are three main GHGs,
carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide.
Global warming has caused significant changes in Sri Lanka’s climate. Increasing
the temperature, rainfall variability, drought and Saline intrusion caused by
sea level rise are some of them.
The Sri Lankan paddy sector faces a serious threat from climate change.
Saline intrusion affects inland rivers flowing to the sea and this could degrade
arable coastal paddy fields, causing them to be abandoned. Over 30 percent of
all rice paddies in the country are rain-fed paddies which could be affected by
rainfall variability. As nearly 70 percent of the paddy cultivated is in the dry
zone, this trend of an increasing number of consecutive dry days can adversely
affect paddy yield. Rise in temperature causes grain sterility. Heat stress,
increased crop respiration and transpiration can ultimately reduce the paddy
yield. It has been estimated that approximately 352,000 ha of paddy lands of the
country are highly or moderately vulnerable for drought exposure while 139,000
ha are highly or moderately vulnerable for flood exposure due to the effects of
There are two approaches to face climate change challenge. One is reducing the
causes of global warming, that is reducing GHG emissions. Especially, paddy
cultivation is seen as the cause for the release of huge amounts of methane to
However, the contribution of GHG emissions by Sri Lanka is not that significant.
Sri Lanka has emitted 26.1 megatons of GHGs which is 0.06 percent of the total
global GHG emissions in 2005. The most important, reliable approach is adapting
to the inevitable effects of climate change. A number of initiatives have been
taken regarding climate change.
The Agriculture Department has already developed a number of paddy varieties
which will be adaptable to climate change. Varieties such as At 354 and At 401
are saline tolerant and Bg 250 is suitable for areas with flash flood.
Research has recommended number of adaptation measures. On-farm rainwater
harvesting, saturated soil culture zero tillage practices are some of them.
Further, farmer-led trials have been carried out to investigate the potential of
using traditional rice varieties and the indigenous knowledge for the climate
Ultimately, it is the farmers who should adopt the appropriate practices which
would be conducive to the climate. However it is the responsibility of all who
are involved in the paddy sector to support the farmers by creating a suitable
political, social and economic environment for the adaptation process. And these
efforts to secure our paddy cultivation will be worthwhile since, rice means a
lot more than a mere food crop to Sri Lankans.