According to Nikki Chambers, hazards scientist at RMS, this week’s heavy summer monsoon rain has caused flash flooding and landslides in western and central parts of Sri Lanka. This event has damaged homes, affected an estimated 100,000 people, and displaced over 27,000 people. It arrives after a severe drought that has lasted around five months, which threatened to decimate the rice and tea plantations.
With climate projections indicating a rising rainfall trend in the wet zone and decreasing rainfall trend in the dry zone, the risks associated with water-related climate variability are expected to intensify. As a result Sri Lanka is experiencing increased climate variability and extremes, including more intense floods, droughts, and storms, a pattern that is reflected throughout the region
Flood insurance in this region is given only in combination with windstorm/cyclone cover. Industry reports suggest there is take-up of about 20 per cent of this type of cover mainly from industrial and commercial organizations. Private dwellings rarely have the cover.
Sri Lanka has experienced severe drought over the last three years followed by relentless monsoonal rain. In January and February 2011 floods and landslides caused displacement across the eastern and central regions of Sri Lanka. More than one million people were affected and in excess of 33,000 families were displaced in temporary relocation centers across the island. There were 64 deaths recorded but in terms of people displaced and farmland inundated, the floods were even more devastating than the tsunami of December 2004. Whilst these floods were a major loss to the market, total flood claims in 2011 were lower than in 2010, at LKR 753mn ($6.81 million).
Extreme weather variations have implications on the quality of the tea crop, Sri Lanka’s most important export. Tea exports are estimated to have reaped $1.5 billion in export revenues in 2013, but extreme weather conditions are likely to have a negative impact on the quality of the crop. The government is currently investigating a national crop insurance scheme to help farmers cope with increasingly severe and disruptive weather and resulting crop losses.
The destructive recent flood events have sparked worldwide awareness of the potential devastation of these catastrophes, calling for an industry-wide reevaluation of risk quantification.