The water crisis and the lack of safe drinking water causes a high risk to public health in Sri Lanka.
Many situations of poverty, suffering,
disease of the population are linked to the issue of water scarcity and
pollution is the alarm raised, in an interview with Fides, by Fr.
Nayagam Roy Clarence, Director of the National Commission for the Laity,
within the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Sri Lanka.
In the village of Puhudiwula and other villages in the district of
Anuradhapura (in central northern Sri Lanka), many have renounced to
using wells, as they cannot use the water present in aquifers or for
drinking or for cooking food. The use of that water causes a deadly
chronic kidney disease which has become an epidemic in the region. "It
is a very difficult water crisis to deal with", observes Fr. Clarence.
The area is very dry, since the soil is clayish. This year, to save
their rice harvest, trucks with water had to irrigate the fields.
Climate change in these areas have caused drier climate, and higher
temperatures, and the need for water has increased. The villages in this
area, which for thirty years were the "front line" in the civil war,
being on the border with the north of the island, of Tamil majority, are
experiencing uncertainty. "Seven years after the end of the conflict,
we need a lifeline", notes the priest.
In 2016, Sri Lanka was one of the first countries in the world to obtain
a contribution of the Green Climate Fund. The Ministry of Development
and Environment, with the help of the United Nations Development
Programme (UNDP), received 38.1 million dollars to help communities deal
with the consequences of climate change. Over the next few years, it is
estimated that 770.500 people in the arid area, including the
inhabitants of Puhudiwula, will experience the direct benefits of this
"This program will help local populations if people adopt precautionary
measures to protect health and lives", notes Fr. Clarence. People will
have to be convinced to stop using water from wells and to buy water to
The widespread kidney disease, known as "Chronic kidney disease of
unknown etiology" (CKDu), has been reported in many countries, but
remains little known. According to existing studies, it is apparently
caused by water contaminated with chemicals.
The fact that men are more
at risk has led researchers to consider the role dehydration and
agricultural work plays, although it is likely that there is a
combination of many factors.
According to government figures, there are
over 400 thousand victims of the disease across the country, and the
mortality rate is about 1,400 people per year.
"In the face of this tragedy answers are urgently needed, and to provide
clean water seems to be the first solution, the most obvious", says the
priest. In rural societies, women are responsible for the supply of
water for the family and household, and now they are forced to move far
to find water.
"In this arid area of the country, the population is used to struggling
to find enough water. The government, NGOs and the Church in Sri Lanka
have to work together to address these issues and ensure safe drinking
water to the population, improving their living conditions", said Fr.