Water can be contaminated due to natural phenomena
There is a rich diversity of ecosystems in Sri Lanka, which includes
wetlands, natural forests, marine and coastal ecosystems. Sri Lanka is
considered as one of the world's twenty five 'Biodiversity Hotspots'.
Overall, there are three Biosphere reserves, one World Heritage site,
and 41 wetland sites included in the Asian Wetland Directory. Coastal
ecosystems are diverse, but their fragmentation, is extremely high,
these sources said.
Professor Athula Senarathne
Sixteen of Sri Lanka's coastal lagoons are classified as threatened
and constitute nearly half of the country's threatened wetlands.
Environmental degradation of the coastal zone is a major hazard faced by
Sri Lanka. During the recent past, following the end of war, there has
been increasing pressure for development in the coastal zone,
particularly for tourism and recreational purposes, near shore
fisheries, fish farming, industrial development and housing. Communities
have exploited the use of natural resources, such as water, sand and
coral, on a commercial basis.
Development has led to the reclamation of estuarial, lagoon and
marshy lands. The disposal of sewage, has led to major, especially water
pollution problems. The main threat to natural ecosystems is population
growth and migration which reduces the space for ecosystems, including
safe drinking water.
Water is essential for life. The purity and accessibility of drinking
water are major concerns in the world. The amount of fresh water is
limited and its quality is under constant threat due to human activities
and natural environmental factors, according to the International Water
Management Irrigation Institute (IWMMI). Preserving the quality of fresh
water is important for drinking and food production. Health risks arise
from the consumption of water contaminated with germs, toxic chemicals,
and radiological hazards.
Access to safe drinking water improves the health of the people.
Water is a vital natural resource for the public. Understanding where it
is and how it moves under the ground is necessary to protect this
resource. Experts predict wars in future for water, more than for oil.
Water can be made available but providing clean water is a major task,
according to sources of the IWMII.
It is of no use if clean drinking water cannot be afforded by a
majority and if it cannot be used for agriculture due to contamination,
then it is a sad state of affairs. Sri Lanka is blessed with natural
water resources which could become a problem as multinational companies
are keeping a close watch on these resources, expecting a water scarcity
in the future, these sources said..
Soil from Gampaha to Matara which is iron rich is the cause of
acidity in the water, said the Vice Chancellor of the Peradeniya
University and Professor of Geology, Athula Senarathne. When such soil
is close to a wetland, the pH value could decrease to 3 which is a low
value, he said. There is no ideal pH value as it depends on pollutant
factors in the environment. He said that acidity was not an indicator of
Referring to the recent water pollution in Thunnane, Hanwella, he
said that the reduction of acidity in the water here was a natural
phenomenon and the contention that the water is polluted is not exactly
true. The soil in this area is mixed with Laterite (Kabook) which has
natural iron. Laterite retains the wetness of soil. These conditions
have contributed to the low acidity in the area. Professor Senarathne
said that Laterite absorbs metallic contaminants. He said that iron
gives a good taste to the water although too much of iron in the water
is not good for health. Scientific proof is very important in case of
contaminations and people should not come to conclusions without such
evidence and create chaos in the country, Professor Senarathne said.
Industries and businesses are needed to develop the country. If there
are allegations of environmental pollution due to industrial activity,
those should be investigated using scientific methods. He said that
people should not be frightened and instigated to commit violence as
industries are crucial for economic development of the country. The
Geology Department of the Peredeniya University has researched into
natural phenomena and environmental issues over the years and in a
position to help the country.
Sri Lankans have used groundwater resources extensively since ancient
times for domestic purposes using shallow open wells in almost all parts
of the country. Sri Lanka's largest ground water body extends over 200
km in the northwestern and northern coastal areas. The quality of
groundwater is generally good and constant throughout the year. In
northern and northwestern coastal areas excessive concentrations of iron
and nitrates have been reported due to agrochemicals and fertilizers.
Furthermore, due to uncontrolled abstraction of groundwater for domestic
and agricultural uses, salt water intrusion has occurred in the coastal
Water bodies which are mainly man- made, cover about four percent of
the land. The land of the island is mostly made up of coastal plains,
with mountains only in the south central part. Sri Lanka has more than
100 water basins. The climate of Sri Lanka is tropical and heavily
influenced by monsoons that bring rain throughout the year.
The rainfall range is from under 1,000 mm to over 5,000 mm. Sri
Lanka's groundwater resources are considered minor compared to its
surface water resources.
The groundwater in Sri Lanka is used for domestic purposes, small
scale irrigation, and for industries. However, in recent years, due to
increased irrigation and population growth, both shallow and deep water
deposits have been subjected to over extraction.