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Serving Sri Lanka

This web log is a news and views blog. The primary aim is to provide an avenue for the expression and collection of ideas on sustainable, fair, and just, grassroot level development. Some of the topics that the blog will specifically address are: poverty reduction, rural development, educational issues, social empowerment, post-Tsunami relief and reconstruction, livelihood development, environmental conservation and bio-diversity. 

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Vanguard Foundation: Open Forum

A FRAMEWORK FOR MEDIUM TO LONG-TERM RECOVERY FROM THE TSUNAMI DISASTER (Vanguard Foundation: Open Forum): "By Dr. Keerthi Devendra (January 17, 2005)

I am a Sri Lankan, from Matara, currently resident in UK. Although living in UK, like with many others, my heart and mind is always with Sri Lankans and whenever there is an opportunity we like to do whatever we can to help Sri Lanka move forward.
Tsunami has caused an unbelievable level of damage to Sri Lanka. So many people have lost their loved ones, livelihoods and properties. In my view, although this a tragic situation, it also provides opportunities to make Sri Lanka a far better place than it was before the Tsunami. Such an improvement can be achieved only if the people are encouraged to think positively under all circumstances and if people are presented with a clear vision, a strategy and policies to direct all efforts in the right direction. I also believe that if such a strategy is presented as a simple set of statements, that most people can broadly identify with, it will help to drive the recovery process quickly and efficiently.
It is clear that a huge number of people are trying both abroad (expatriates like us) and in Sri Lanka to help the Tsunami victims and to help the country to recover from this disaster. It is also clear that the government as well as other voluntary and international organisations are putting a lot of effort and thought into planning recovery activities.
In an effort to help this process, in this letter, I have summarised my thoughts on this matter. I have also suggested some policies that may be adopted. This is only a discussion document and I am sure that others people who are directly involved with the recovery activities can provide an input to make these proposals more workable.
In my view it is important to have a common aim, A VISION, that all Sri Lankans can identify with. Although it may not have been put forward in this way I am sure most Sri Lankans have that objective (vision) in their mind. That VISION is to make Sri Lanka a much better place than what if was before Tsunami Disaster on the 26th of December 2004, both socially and economically, so that all Sri Lankans, regardless of their economic circumstances, race, ethnicity or religion, can maintain a happy and healthy living standard. It is also important to define clear time scales to reach this objective. I would suggest that the overall objective should be achieved within five years whilst helping those directly affected by Tsunami to achieve some normality within one year.

STRATEGY : To make the above vision a reality, the strategy needs to be based on

  1. Supporting all directly affected people to achieve a level of normality within one year.
  2. Developing new housing schemes (properly planned, taking basic needs into account) to replace damaged houses and re-establish destroyed communities.
  3. Provide necessary social and economic support to these re-established communities.
  4. Provide training, re-training where necessary, so that people can gain new skills specifically geared for new jobs/ businesses and start a new life in their own surroundings.
  5. Creating a much better transport infrastructure (roads and railways), particularly along the damaged coastal line. (I believe creation of a continuous four-lane road highway all along the coastal line covering west, south, east and north is now a possibility. Re-establish the damaged rail network and extend it to east. Such a road and rail system will improve communications as well as the economy throughout the country).
  6. Control planning permission to build close to the proposed road network (in 5 above) in order to achieve the highest quality and efficiency.
  7. Providing the correct environment to re-develop business / industrial / economical infrastructure along the coastal line as well as throughout the country.
  8. Providing guidance and quality requirements to make all new houses, furniture (doors, windows etc.) as well as all building components to certain specified standards so that economical efficiency can be improved. By ensuring that all products are made to specified standards would improve the quality whilst reducing the price. This will also improve maintainability in the long run.
  9. Ensure that efficient project planning and project management techniques used all recovery activities.
  10. Providing the necessary policy guidance and administrative support to increase the economic efficiency of all above activities.

2. POLICIES to help the make the above VISION a reality and to achieve the STATEGIC aims with the minimum effort and maximum economic efficiency it is necessary to have a simple, easily understood set of policies. What I have suggested below is a set that could be adopted for implimentation.

  1. Ensure all products and services are delivered to internationally acceptable quality standards.
  2. Provide the infrastructure and support to achieve, maintain and monitor quality of products and services.
  3. Minimize the wastage in every project. Minimum acceptable efficiency to be made around 85% (provide mechanism for monitoring and achieving project efficiencies).
  4. Allow independent organisations to complete as much work as possible without interference, but within the policy guidelines.
  5. Encourage all educational establishments to develop courses specifically geared for training Tsunami affected people.
  6. Maximise use of land in building new housing schemes. Where possible consider the feasibility of two story houses or terraced houses with basic essential amenities (Sri Lanka is a small country with limited amount of land. We need to use the land the most efficient manner to protect the environment whilst providing good quality housing to communities).
  7. Provide sports /play areas (leisure areas) every 500 meters in built up areas so that children as well as adults can enjoy the surroundings so that social life of communities is enhanced.
  8. Provide financial incentives (interest free loans, tax breaks etc.?) to individuals and organisations to re-build damaged businesses and industries.
  9. Ensure all re-established communities are supported with adequate shopping, schools, healthcare facilities. Provide special centres for children as well as elderly and injured.
  10. Economic activity centres to be uniformly distributed at centres along the coastal line taking into account population density.
    Contributed by: Dr. KEERTHI DEVENDRA


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