By Vositha Wijenayake
In an attempt to address the needs of the vulnerable communities in Sri Lanka that are impacted by adverse effects of climate change, Sri Lanka has submitted a proposal to the Green Climate Fund for climate finance. The funding requested has as its objective strengthening resilience of smallholder farmers in the Dry Zone to climate variability and extreme events through an integrated approach to water management.
Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) provide that the proposal was developed through multi-stakeholder involvement, as well as wide consultation of CSOs and local NGOs and communities at risk and under pressure due to climate change. It is further noted that the activities be entirely country driven and reflecting strong ownership of CSOs representing these vulnerable communities in both conflict-affected and non-conflict-affected districts in the three provinces.
However the Independent Technical Advisory Panel (ITAP) for the Green Climate Fund has provided an assessment which highlights concerns for providing funding to Sri Lanka’s proposal highlighting issues of sustainability of the project. This is according to the ITAP due to lack of community agreements on water management, and impacts of the war which impacted agriculture and the environment of the country.
Ex-ante agreements with communities
ITAP in its review points to the need to have agreements with communities at the preparation stage of the project for the implementation of the project. One of the reasons for finding the project having faults is the non-existence of such agreements.
However it needs to be noted that promising communities that they will be provided finance to implement activities at the community level prior to assurance of funding being received only would create a breach of trust between the applicants for funding and these communities. The CSOs state that they are extremely confident that the proposal has been developed in full consultation with local communities and draws from the experience of communities and CBOs that are prominent in the Dry Zone in delivering drinking water solutions. They further state that extensive engagement of the civil society, and CBOs in particular, is very much a part of the ground work during implementation of community water supply- a practice which dates back at least 15 years in Sri Lanka. It is further noted that community owned schemes allow the CBO to determine the rates which are affordable to each community and how households pay for the service.
Conflict the primary driver of water insecurity in the Dry Zone
The second issue highlighted by the ITAP is that the impacts on water security are not driven by climate change are primarily driven by the conflict which impacted the region, and in turn does not warrant climate finance. The beneficiaries of the project were those who suffered from the conflict that ended in 2009. However this does not preclude that they are impacted by impacts of climate change.
CSOs point out that though the conflict had its impacts on communities making them socio-economically vulnerable, climate change risks and impacts are significant and discernible in communities with which they work in this region. Further the recent floods and droughts have had severe impacts making the impacts of climate change felt on communities, and the change in intensity of monsoon rain has crated impacts including damage to irrigation systems, rural infrastructure, quality of water, and crop production.
What remains to be noted is that though the communities are those that have been impacted by the conflict it does not prevent them from being impacted by climate change. Their existing vulnerabilities have been aggravated and have rendered them more subjected to socio-economic marginalization and dependent on scarce water resources for their livelihoods. It is these reasons that increase the need for funding to address the needs of these communities who are feeling direct impacts of climate change.
GCF Review of Country Proposals
Board of the GCF will be reviewing 9 proposals submitted by countries in their 13th meeting to be held in Songdo, Korea. Sri Lanka’s proposal for funding is up for review at the meeting. It is necessary that the country pays attention to the comments received and have responded accordingly prior to the meeting of the Board.
Climate finance is much needed to address the needs of the vulnerable communities, and the approval of this project would guarantee financial support for much needed climate action in the Dry Zone for the uplifting of lives of farmer communities and addressing water insecurity in the region.