Natural resources provide poor rural communities in Sri Lanka the opportunity to grow food and generate income through farming and engage other livelihood activities. Access to clean water is a growing challenge to many rural poor, the inability to access a resource that has been part of a community system for generations can damage the resilience of those communities and promote unsustainable migration into urban areas.
Forests and intact ecosystems that make up the water catchment provide essential ecosystem services for the delivery of high quality resources such as water and soil. In many situations good water supply is limited to the health of upstream forests and watersheds that collect filter and supply the water. The ongoing degradation of these systems reduce the resilience of communities that are reliant upon them and ultimately make any community lifestyle unsustainable.
Many communities in the North and East of Sri Lanka face reduced access to good quality water. Over 4000 people per year are affected by chronic renal faliure and other related diseases attributed to the heavy metals such as Arsenic and Cadmium in the water. Toxins that have been attributed to heavy agrochemical use within the watershed. This alongside another reason being the ongoing degradation of watershed areas leading to weaker and reduced water catchment areas.
The degradation of the watershed has an additional impact to the biodiversity; habitat degradation of aquatic and amphibious life. Close to 50% of the existing amphibian species are threatened with extinction in the country at the present with much attributed to the harsh chemicals entering the river systems. This impact can be noted in other species that live along and within waterways in Sri Lanka.