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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. 

Friday, April 01, 2005

Italian skills to identify tsunami risk areas

Online edition of the Daily Mirror: By Sajeewan Wijewardana
The Italian government yesterday submitted proposals to the Parliamentary Select Committee on natural disasters, one of which related to identifying tsunami risk areas so that a blanket evacuation of people in any future tsunami threat would not be necessary.

This proposal relating to detailed coastal modeling was endorsed by scientists at yesterday's meeting where Geological Survey and Mines Bureau (GSMB) Director Sarath Weerawarnakula said once a detailed map is completed, blanket evacuation of coastal residents would not be necessary.

At Monday night's evacuation, all coastal residents were asked to leave for higher ground two kilometres away since Sri Lanka lacks accurate data on which areas are at risk from tsunami waves.

"We are getting tremors every now and then. The coastal people are in continuous fear. It is better to do this modelling and prepare a map so that we know which areas are at risk. Then we don't need to ask every one to leave," Mr. Weerawarnakula said.

The Italian government's set of proposals was officially handed over to Parliamentary Select Committee Chairman Mahinda Samarasinghe by Italian Ambassador Salvatore Zotta in Parliament to be included in the recommendations of the committee.

Endorsing the proposals Mr. Samarasinghe pledged that he would ensure that they will be taken up at the highest levels of the government. An acknowledging letter was requested by the ambassador and Mr. Samarasinghe promised that it will be sent.

The three proposals are to be financed from the funds of the Sri Lanka’s debt to Italy which has been remitted to be utilised for post tsunami projects.

"Sri Lanka has a debt of 7.3 million euros to Italy. We remitted the debt, on condition it is used for post tsunami projects such as this one. The Finance Minister is aware of this agreement," the ambassador told the parliamentarians.

Italy is a nation well experienced in dealing with all forms of natural disasters ranging from tsunamis to floods, he said, adding its advanced mapping technology was in high demand even in Japan and the United States.

The proposals were prepared by four university professors in Italy, experts in disaster management, after an Italian team had met and held discussions with Parliamentary Select Committee members, Science and Technology Minister Prof. Tissa Vitarana and professors from Peradeniya, Moratuwa and Colombo universities.

The first proposal is to provide Sri Lankan authorities with a set of high accuracy digital elevation and digital surface and terrain models of the coastal areas between the shoreline and 10 kilometres inland. The models will be fashioned from aerial and satellite data, with the latter processed by the use of 'proprietary codes' internationally patented by Italian universities and exclusively owned by them.

The initial target area is the coastal stretch between Galle and Batticaloa, a distance of about 300 kilometres. A second run will be carried out with the newly acquired space data which will refine and extend the model to the remainder of the Sri Lankan coast.

The second proposal calls for high-level government officials in Sri Lanka to proceed to Italy and exchange disaster data with Italian universities.

The final proposal is for a course to be conducted in Sri Lankan universities, starting in the academic year 2005/2006, to be of 3 to 4 years duration. It will focus on theoretical and practical knowledge of emergency management and natural disaster mitigation, particularly from meteorological and oceanographic hazards, active and passive preventive measures, including the planning of services and infrastructure capable of sustaining multidisciplinary monitoring of selected hazards and finally scientific and technical support to overcome physical and psychological trauma. The academics are to be provided by Italian universities.

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