Sri Lanka, a tropical island in the Indian Ocean, is facing an existential threat from climate change.
With its stunning beaches, lush greenery and unique wildlife, Sri Lanka has become increasingly popular as a tourist destination in recent years.
However, rising sea levels and extreme weather patterns have put the country at risk of going underwater.
Climate scientists predict that Sri Lanka could experience a sea-level rise of up to one meter by the end of this century, potentially devastating coastal areas that are home to millions of people and essential infrastructure and industries.
Popular beaches like Unawatuna or Hikkaduwa could completely submerge, along with historic sites and cultural landmarks located along these shorelines.
Sri Lanka has made significant strides in combatting climate change, such as setting ambitious targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increasing the use of renewable energy sources.
Nonetheless, more must be done to safeguard the country against catastrophic sea level rise effects.
This could result in inundation reaching approximately 41 square km for a rise of 0.3 meters and 91.25 square kilometres for a rise of 1 meter in low-lying areas along the coastal lines.
How Vulnerable Is Sri Lanka To Rising Sea Levels?
Sri Lanka is an island nation with a coastline extending more than 1,500 kms.
According to the Climate Risk Profile published in 2018, Sri Lanka is projected to experience a sea-level rise range from 0.4-1.2 meters by 2100.
This sea level rise will potentially lead to flooding of low-lying areas, saltwater intrusion into freshwater sources, and loss of coastal ecosystems.
Sri Lanka has already felt the effects of climate change, with many coastal areas suffering regular flooding during high tides and storms.
Forecasts anticipate that these events will become increasingly frequent and intense over the coming years, posing a serious risk to infrastructure, economy, and people of Sri Lanka.
What Is The Impact Of Sea Level Rise In Sri Lanka?
In the 21st century, Sri Lanka’s coastal zone is expected to experience rising sea levels due to climate change.
The tidal gauge data of Colombo, shows that sea levels are increasing at a rate of 0.288 ± 0.118 mm/month in Sri Lanka.
In approximately next 50 years, sea levels are projected to rise by approximately 0.1 m – 0.2 m.
Around 25% of the population lives in areas vulnerable to rising sea levels within 1 km of the coast.
Sri Lanka’s coastal zones are most at risk of uncertain rates of sea-level rise, which could worsen the hazards of tsunamis and cyclones.
The consequences of rising sea levels and storm surges could include erosion of shorelines, degradation of coastal ecosystems, and the displacement of coastal populations.
Although mangroves and other forms of coastal vegetation can protect shores and reduce vulnerability to tsunamis and cyclones, they protect less than one-third of the island.
Sri Lankan authorities recognize the benefits of coastal vegetation, but more efforts may be necessary to restore these shrubs and harden unprotected coastlines.
The linear interpolation of end-of-century global sea level estimates indicates that sea levels could rise by 0.13 meters and up to 0.4 meters by 2030.
By 2050, the sea level could rise by 0.2 meters and up to 0.58 meters.
Is Sri Lanka Under The Sea Level?
Sri Lanka is not currently under the sea level, but it is vulnerable to sea level rise due to climate change.
The country’s average elevation of 228 meters above sea level makes it relatively low, and approximately 25 percent of the population resides in areas vulnerable to sea level rise.
In the next 50 years, the sea level is expected to rise by about 0.1 m – 0.2 m, potentially worsening existing hazards such as tsunamis and cyclones.
Coastal vegetation, such as mangroves and shrubs, can offer some protection against these hazards, but more efforts may be needed to restore them and harden unprotected coastlines.
How Is Sea Level Rise Affecting Sri Lanka?
Sri Lanka is facing an enormous problem due to sea level rise, with beach erosion becoming increasingly severe as sea levels continue to rise.
This erosion has already started to put strain on coastal settlements, commercial activities and land use systems.
Furthermore, sea level rise could potentially result in displacement of people living in low-lying coastal areas, potentially causing significant economic and social disruption.
The uncertain rates of sea-level rise could exacerbate existing hazards like tsunamis and cyclones in Sri Lanka.
How Is Sri Lanka Contributing To Stop Climate Change?
Although Sri Lanka is highly vulnerable to climate change impacts, the country is taking steps to combat it.
One of their measures includes increasing forest cover by 32% by 2030 to absorb more atmospheric carbon dioxide.
The country has also committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 14.5% to reduce their carbon footprint.
Moreover, Sri Lanka plans on generating 70% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030 to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and mitigate any effects caused by climate change on the environment.
These initiatives demonstrate Sri Lanka’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions while combatting climate change impacts.
How Does Climate Change Affect Sri Lanka?
Sri Lanka is facing a critical issue of climate change crisis that threatens both its human and natural systems.
Nearly half of the country’s population of 22 million lives in low-lying coastal regions located in the west, south, and southwest regions.
These areas are especially vulnerable to rising sea levels’ potentially disastrous outcomes for local inhabitants.
Climate change threatens human settlements and poses a significant risk to Sri Lanka’s biodiversity – particularly its marine ecosystem and coastal coral reefs.
Sea-level rise due to climate change could alter the abundance of endemic species, further exacerbating the fragile ecosystem.
Sri Lanka’s coastal regions, particularly the Northern and Northern Western provinces, are particularly vulnerable to climate change as they are major hotspots with dense populations.
Potential consequences of climate change in these areas could include agricultural losses, floods, droughts, an increase in infectious disease outbreaks, and lower living standards.
Sri Lanka has recognized the threat posed by climate change and rising sea levels and has taken steps to protect its coastlines.
The government has implemented a Coastal Zone Management Plan to regulate development along the coast and protect vulnerable areas from erosion.