Thursday, October 25, 2012

It is time we treated WATER with more respect – not by charging though!

People in countries and states where water is scarce, know and practice the art of conserving and careful use of this scarce commodity. People are very used to going to great lengths to use as little as possible for their daily needs. Almost all homes in those countries have water meters and people are charged under different bases for water consumption. Few wash their cars at home, and go to car washes where water is used sparingly and reused as grey water. Grey water is used for gardens.

Colombo folk, now pay increasing charges for water and are more conscious of the cost; rarely do we see a maid watering the garden with a hose, and instead see them use watering cans to water specific areas of plants and flower beds, when there has been no rain for over 10 ten days. These days the rains are heavy and thoughts of water conservation are few, however it is now time to think of conserving a larger percentage of this rainwater, that now just flows down to the sea, without prior use.

All new rural water schemes come with a water-meter, and homesteads are charged for the water they use. It comes from a central source via the pipelines that are now increasingly being laid along the roads with outlets to each building plot. When the bills come people begin to realize the need to conserve and hence are careful in their use. Many homes that have this so called mains supply also have wells and therefore use the well water when needed or as necessary.

It is now dawning on people that the well water is not an unstoppable source of free water, and that the water table is affected by over use of well water, and sometimes can lead to permanent loss, where the ground water level does not refill.

I have to pay a standard fee per season for the use of water to my fields. It is a nominal charge, which does not take into account the true cost of supplying water via the system of channels and canals from the Minneriya Tank. I have stated before that I have perennial problems of non receipt of water, as I am the last in the channel and my neighbors who are further up take the water (more than their allocation) with none left for me, resulting in my having to pump water from the river to make up the shortfall. This incurs the ire of the authorities for so doing, as it is supposed to be water that is due further downstream harvested by a system of anicuts to paddy fields. Whilst excess water seeps into the river from field ahead of me, I am supposedly prevented from pumping that back for my fields!!!
The attempt recently to make an annual charge for the use of a well in one’s own property was greeted with horror. However whilst I agree at present it is best not to do so, it is still worthy of a reminder that the precious water MUST be conserved.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Only 65 Tonnes of paddy have been purchased from Polonnaruwa District!!

In today’s (3rd October 2012) Daily News it was reported that subsequent to the Yala Season harvest only 65 Tonnes of paddy have been purchased by the PMB from the Polonnaruwa District. There is no reason given as to why this amount is so low. Is it because the farmers just had no surplus paddy to sell the state? No explanations are given except for the facts.

Subsequent to last season’s bumper harvest, there was a lot of paddy in storage, as a result of the state purchasing and filling the various storage warehouses. Some of this paddy has been sold at a price lower than the state purchase price to local millers, whilst the bulk of it still remains in storage.

The state is manipulating the price. That is by not releasing the stock in the silos, and the small crop this season, a shortage of paddy has resulted. This has raised the farm gate price, a boon to the farmer, though his crop is a fraction of the previous season and is small comfort. This is the simple reason why the state has not been able to purchase the paddy. It is not worth their while for the farmers to take the paddy to the state buyers, when they can get a higher price at the fields from traders. For those in the know, a three bushel paddy bag of nadu rice sells for Rs2200 and for the samba white it is Rs2400 the latter at Rs 38/kg when the govt. purchase price is Rs30/kg. I am told the price is on the way up.

It is important now that the state does not play games with manipulating stock of rice in stores to raise the price, so as to release an excess only to fall again. In the same vein the state can create an artificial shortage by not releasing rice from their stores increasing the market price. This will help the large millers more than anyone else to increase their price, and dupe ruined marginal farmers who have decided to abandon paddy cultivation, to get back into the Maha season!

What this does is enrich the millers and make an already poor paddy farmer even poorer, cheated by a false sense of security. Please do not forget that traders make profits on the changing price of paddy. The farmers dispose of it at whatever price they can get, as they have to turn their harvest into cash. They cannot afford the luxury of storing it until the prices rise, unlike the rich traders and millers. The state is playing the enabler yet again, on behalf of these unscrupulous traders who profit from this turn of events. The customer now has to pay a higher price for rice, even though there are thousands of tons of rice rotting in the government stores, not being sold(why?). This sort of behavior by the Govt. is unpardonable, as I can see the farmers’ desire to farm, daily diminishes by such State in/action.