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Climate Change News

Rice paddy fields threatened by climate change
7 Apr 2011

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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 changed.

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.

GHG emissions
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 climate change.

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 the atmosphere.

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.

Adaptation process
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 change adaptation.

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.


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Source: Daily News