The project was designed to support the Government of Sri Lanka to strengthen the resilience of small-holder farmers in Sri Lanka’s dry zone, who are facing increased risks of climate change. The project has adopted a river basin approach to deliver an integrated package of interventions for irrigation and drinking water in the Malwathu Oya, Mi Oya and Yan Oya watersheds in the dry zone. These watersheds cover the districts of Kurunegala, Puttalam, Anuradhapura, Mannar, Trincomalee, Vavuniya and Polonnaruwa.
The key objective of this project is to strengthen the resilience of smallholder farmers to climate variability and extreme weather events through an integrated approach to water management. The primary measurable benefits include resilient water and agricultural management for 770,500 direct beneficiaries and 1,179,800 indirect beneficiaries who will gain from improved water management, resilient agriculture practices, and the provision of climate and weather information. The project envisions initiating a paradigm shift in how water resources are managed, especially in the dry and intermediate climate zones of Sri Lanka. This shift is catalyzed through an integrated approach incorporating climate change concerns; understanding linkages across river basins/sub-river basins; and covering multiple uses of water including irrigation, agriculture, livelihoods, drinking water and disaster management. The Project’s bottom-up approach to integrated water management involves the preparation of integrated cascade water resource development and management plans. These plans cover a host of water management aspects including drinking water management, groundwater management, climate-smart agriculture development, catchment management plans, disaster preparedness plan, and, etc. These aspects correspond to the three outputs of the project while also recognizing the interconnectedness of the said outputs.
The three outputs of the project include,
Output 1: Upgrading and enhancing the resilience of village irrigation systems and scaling up climate-resilient farming practices in three river basins of the dry zone. This output mainly focuses on improved climate-risk informed water management for agricultural production in the selected river basins by upgrading the inter-connected cascade systems and associated agricultural practices. These interventions will also lead to restoration and improvements in surface and groundwater availability as well as quality.
Output 2: Enhancing climate-resilient, decentralized water supply and management solutions to provide access to safe drinking water to vulnerable communities. This output intends to deliver drinking water solutions to poor farmer households through a multi-pronged partnership approach involving source replenishment, enhanced storage capacity, improved supply of clean and safe drinking water and addressing root causes of water quality issues.
Output 3: Strengthening weather/climate and hydrological observing, forecasting and water management systems to enhance the adaptive capacity of smallholder farmers to droughts and floods. This includes providing access to weather/climate-related knowledge, advisories and early warning for storms and flooding including the planning of water release from irrigation tanks.
Resources from the Green Climate Fund, in conjunction with government co-financing, will invest in improving the community irrigation water infrastructure and associated agricultural practices, scaling-up decentralized drinking water systems, and strengthening early warnings and forecasting for flood-response and water management. The grant from the Green Climate Fund is USD 38.08 million, with a government co-financing contribution of USD 14 million.
The project is implemented using UNDP’s National Implementation Modality (NIM), with significant UNDP support to implementation. The implementing partner (IP) for the project is the Ministry of Irrigation (formerly, the IP was the Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment). However, with the Presidential/ Parliamentary elections of 2020, the portfolio of irrigation and water management was shifted to a new Ministry, requiring the project to change its Implementing Partner). The Project Board is responsible for providing overall direction, and consists of a wide group of project stakeholders including the Ministry of Irrigation, UNDP, the Department of External Resources, the Department of National Planning, and several Responsible Parties to the project, including the Department of Agrarian Development, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of National Community Water Supply, the National Water Supply and Drainage Board, and the Ministry of Disaster Management.