Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Policy Challenges in Climate Adaptation in Sri Lanka: Identifying Major Gaps

Athula Senaratne
Research Fellow, IPS 

Being a tropical island located in a disaster prone region, Sri Lanka is vulnerable to impacts of climate change. The 2004 tsunami has indicated that a large extent of densely populated low lying coastal areas is vulnerable to a future rise in the sea level. The country has frequently been experiencing disaster prone weather extremes such as droughts, floods and cyclones.  Predictions by global studies on climate change suggest that both intensity and frequency of such extreme events are likely to increase in the future. As a significant population of the country is directly dependent on weather-reliant livelihoods such as agriculture and fisheries, adverse changes in weather patterns could lead to chaotic conditions. Among the community groups that are more vulnerable to climate change impacts are residents in coastal areas, rain-fed farmers in the dry zone, fishing community, workers in the estate sector and small-scale producers of export crops.

Climate change is a complex challenge and well-designed policies for adaptation are necessary to face the impacts of it.  Adaptation is a dynamic process of adjustment in response to changing conditions of climate. A pragmatic approach towards adaptation policy has to fulfil a few essential steps. They are: identify and evaluate likely impacts of climate change; assess vulnerability/adaptive capacity of key stakeholders; identify major gaps that affect effective actions against impacts; and, appraise alternative strategies for overcoming gaps so that the country can adapt to impacts in a successful manner.