Climate Change-induced SalinizationinSri Lanka



According to the UNFCCC, “increasing evaporation from rising temperatures contributes to the salinization of soil and water. Salts accumulate in the soils of arid environments. Saline soils contain large amounts of water-soluble salts that inhibit seed germination and plant growth, thereby reducing crop yields.”1 The salinized lands in SriLanka is about 223,000 hectares 2, and salinization is recognized as the major factor contributing to land degradation, which ultimately influence crop yield. The 2004 tsunami in Sri Lanka had devastated the coastal areas and salinizeda large extent of paddy lands in the Southern part. Paddy transplanting paddy instead of seedling,as seed germination is sensitive to salts.3

Salinization in the Trincomalee region

In one of the projects SLYCAN Trust conducted inthe Trincomalee region, on organic farming, the interviews with the farmers revealed that among other factors climate change impacts and excessive and continuous use of chemical fertilizers had destroyed the organic nature of the soil, leading to an increase in the salt content of the soil, lack of water retention and soil erosion. Salinization seen in these areas also affected the crops, as the grains of rice show evidence of deformity. Moreover, the water used in these area is also affected by soil salinity and in turn contributes to the problems faced in agriculture. Due to the lack of water retention, a layer of white substance, which is the saltre side, is left behind on the surface of the soil.

An interviewee a farmer in the Athabandhi wewa area, provided information that a shift to organic farming could help alleviate the issue of soil salinization. He commented that the process takes time and the first yield would not grow or prosper properly. As they pointed out the plant showed symptoms of singeing and discolouration.


Agriculture is one of the key sectors of the Sri Lankan economy.Furthermore,it is estimated that the agriculture-related activities provide the major source of employment and livelihood for nearly 72% of the SriLankan population. Much more research is needed to address soil salinity in SriLanka. Often times, home gardens like  and shad to be abandoned and the farmers we rerendered destitute. For this reason ,soils alinity is a major issue and it is essential to restore these lands for agricultural production.

Salinization and Climate Change

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change(IPCC) estimated that marine and coastal ecosystems in South and South-East Asia will be affected by climate change- induced sea-level rise. This in turn affects water resources as well as land salinity andThe overall health of coastal populations.

A pilot project was launched by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Disaster Management Centre (DMC)of the Ministry of Disaster Management joined hands with the Rice Research & Development Institute (RRDI)and the National Federation for Conservation of Traditional Seeds and Agricultural Resources(NFCTSAR-alocalNGO) to implement practices to address salinization. These include delaying of the time for transplanting seedlings, draining water from paddy fields on a more frequent basis to reduce salinity levels, application of more organic materials to the soil inland preparation, and establishing a nursery for small plots of land used for planting vegetables, medicinal   plants  and   trees, which provide an important additional source of nutrients and income for many people would also bedestroyedby salinization, leaving them more vulnerable than ever. The negative effects of salinization are intensified by the low levels of soil organic matter. Variety of crops ,not just paddy fields face issues of soil salinization. Salinization worsens the prevalent irrigation issues faced by farmers. Therefore, it is essential to implement capacity building programs to enhance farmer’s knowledge on organic farming practices which offer more sustainable long-term solution to salinization problems.

SLYCAN Trust is currently implementing a project to address the issue of soil salinity in the region of Trincomalee, to help restore paddy lands that have been abandoned due to salinization, or cause impacts on the crops due to the same. The project is expected to provide research material, as well as capacity building for farmers to address the impacts of climate change, and how to reduce soil salinization.