Socioeconomic and institutional characteristics

Poverty remains a problem in Sri Lanka, especially in the rural areas. While average GDP per capita for Sri Lanka was US$850 in 2000, it is estimated that this was about US$600 for Walawe. However, the main part of this GDP originates from subsistence

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Fig. 10.2. Population growth and distribution between rural and urban areas. (Source: United Nations Population Division, http://www.un.org/esa/population/unpop.htm)

farming and average monthly household income is only US$50. Sri Lanka has a government-organized food and economic support system, from which nation-wide 39% of households benefit, while this percentage is 60% for Walawe.

A recent study from the World Bank (Anonymous, 2000) shows that poverty, expressed as household income, has been reduced in the period 1985-1990, but an increase in poverty was observed in the last decade. Only poverty of the urban population is reducing slowly. However, only 24% of Sri Lankans live in urban areas (UNFPA, 2002) (Fig. 10.2). Some key conclusions from the World Bank report are:

. . . while Sri Lanka's per capita income remains higher than that of most of its South Asian neighbors, it lags far behind countries such as Singapore and Korea which had the same level of per capita income in the 1960s. (p. 5)

. . . missed opportunities for higher economic growth and poverty reduction are linked to Sri Lanka's failure to address priority issues including the ongoing civil conflict, inefficient government institutions, and constrained labor and land markets. (p. 7)

A substantial number of agencies are responsible for water management in the basin. It is estimated that about 40 agencies deal with water at different levels, ranging from national to local. There are sectoral agencies dealing with domestic water supply, health and sanitation, agricultural and irrigation services, hydropower generation, groundwater development and ecosystem management. In addition, Provincial Councils are devolved with water-related functions. The Chief Secretary of the Province, District Secretary and Divisional Secretary are the key Government officials who make decisions regarding water resources management at their respective levels. At the district level, decisions on water are made by institutions such as the District Coordinating Committee, District Agricultural Committee and Project Management Committee.

Such a multitude of institutions calls for effective coordination at different levels. At the national level, the Central Coordinating Committee on Irrigation Management provides a forum for policy issues in irrigation management. A similar forum is the Steering Committee on Water Supply and Sanitation. The recent formation of Water Resources Council (WRC) addresses the need for coordination of water resources issues. Moreover, the formation of proposed River Basin Committees would address the existing inadequacy in addressing integrated water resources management issues.

The previously mentioned World Bank report (Anonymous, 2000) also urges that there is a need for major changes in the public sector:

. . . growth in the number and size of Sri Lanka's public institutions is a major constraint to their efficiency. Today, politicization of recruitment by successive governments has been well established. Financial accountability has weakened due to insufficient Parliamentary oversight and poor institutional structures and watchdog bodies. The administrative apparatus remains very centralized. (p. 9)

In terms of legislation it is estimated that over 50 Acts deal with the management of water resources. Implementing authority for these enactments is with a large number of agencies, dealing with different aspects such as irrigation, water supply, sanitation, industries and environment, as explained in the previous section. Public investment in water resources development concentrated on irrigation from 1950 until the 1980s, followed by a shift towards investments in rehabilitation and water management. However, in 2000 national investment in agriculture and irrigation was still about 8.5% of the total capital expenditure. The corresponding figures for energy and water supply sectors were about 16.5%.

The main investors in urban water supply and sanitation are the public sector, including Central Government, National Water Supply and Drainage Board (NWSDB), Provincial Councils and Local Authorities. Investments by community-

based organizations and private individuals are significant in rural areas. Besides these national investments, a substantial number of irrigation and water-supply projects are still foreign-funded. Major irrigation rehabilitation projects and comprehensive groundwater assessment projects are funded by donors.

There were several attempts to recover the costs of operation and maintenance of irrigation services, which did not succeed. However, the ongoing programme of turnover of irrigation systems to the beneficiaries for management has enabled a substantial contribution from farmers to the system's management. The cost recovery mechanism for urban water supply focuses on operation and maintenance costs of the services. The level of recovery is lower in the water supply schemes managed by local authorities. The private investment at the family level in the construction of protected wells and latrines is considerable.

After a series of experiments from the late 1970s onwards, Sri Lanka adopted participatory management (in irrigated agriculture) as a state policy in 1988. A programme to turnover the management of irrigation systems to farmer organizations is ongoing. Although completely turned-over irrigation systems do not exist, there has been a significant improvement in the opportunities for farmers to participate in the management of irrigation systems in the last two decades. Most of the major irrigation systems in the basin are partially turned over, and minor irrigation systems (affecting an area less than 80 ha) traditionally have been managed by farmers.

The subject of climate change is virtually absent, at least explicitly, from policies prepared by the Government. This may be due to the fact that the phenomenon became widely appreciated only recently, and even then it failed to get attention since it was felt that it would mainly affect the industrialized nations.

Under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), an Initial National Communication (INC) was made by the Ministry of Forestry and Environment, giving due recognition to the climate change phenomenon. The INC identified the issues arising from climate changes and proposed strategies to counter or mitigate the impacts. INC states that policy will have to focus on two aspects: reduction of emissions and mechanisms to mitigate impacts by following suitable adaptation strategies. Even though measures to cut down emissions are proposed, because the island is not a significant source of greenhouse gases (GHGs) such measures may not have an impact globally. In addition, INC recommends that the existing policies consider the impacts of climate change, when they are revised, and all new policy formulations allow for climate change impacts.

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