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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. 

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Post tsunami redevelopment through special projects

Daily News: "23/04/2005 by Chandrasiri Nanayakkara

The tsunami on December 26, 2004 devastated coastal belts of Southern, North Eastern and Northern areas of Sri Lanka. It ruined most of the 'permanent' and movable manmade structures those needed for inhabitant communities and those required for income generation and economic development of the area.

To name a few most of the residential, commercial and service generating buildings, rail and road networks, fishing gear and boats were destroyed. This was an unexpected and novel experience for Sri Lanka in the recent history but the unaffected societies both local and international acted promptly to overcome immediate impacts.

According to media reports there will be no constrain of funding for redevelopment. Everyday we here a loan, grant or donation from rest of the world. The government is concerned there are two types of financing for redevelopment. First is to inject funds to accelerate and expand the activities of various departments and semi-government organisations.

Those added activities could be administrated through existing administrative structure but it need more resources such as vehicles, machinery and trained staff in addition to funds. For example the departments of education, housing, fisheries, tourism and health etc. could involve primarily with accelerating and expanding their activities to cater to demanding situations.

The second is through specific redevelopment projects targeting a special area, a sector or a target group of population. Most of them are financed by international donor agencies such as United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Asian Development Bank (ADB) and some NGO's. The rest is financed by individual countries.

For this all the projects correctly identified, well-planned and timely implementation is necessary. The word 'project' is a well-known word in the society and even the higher grade schoolchildren are involved in project based education to understand this concept through their curriculum.

What is a 'development project'? How it is planned and implemented? What is its impact and how it is contribute to the development of the society?

What constrains it faces in a special situation like tsunami? We have different understanding on this sometimes vague, incomplete, incorrect and misleading. This is an attempt to explain in brief some basic feature of development projects, which are the cutting edge of development of a country.

A project is a planned undertaking which is a set of interrelated and coordinated activities designed to achieve certain specific objectives within a given budget and period of time (Gittinger - 1982).

Several such projects would produce a Development Programme leading to a development Master Plan of a country. A project undergoes several phases namely identification, planning and analysis, appraisal, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.

The idea and need of a project should be conceived and clearly identified. The best who can feel the need of a project is the people and their leaders. It is conceived in their minds but unattended until it accumulates momentum.

Unfortunately the reality is these project ideas are generated by experts visiting the country for a short period and with superficial investigations, neglecting the traditions and culture of the people. What they think the targeted group or area most suitable and needed is not the people really need or not the way they want and not the best possible way to implement.

The identified idea, which expanded to achieve certain objective/s, should be well planned and documented in detail.

There are integrated projects because for balanced development of a community or an area all the sectors namely land, irrigation, agriculture, rural roads, health and education need to develop at once.

There are mutually exclusive projects. If we want do human settlement of an area the alternative of reforestation has to forgone. There are single objective (purpose) projects such as health, road development, fisheries development, drinking water, housing and education. These are more common infrastructure projects in post redevelopment of tsunami.

The purpose of a project is to convert a set of resources into desired results through a set of activities or processors. The resources are called inputs. As a result of a project we expect outputs, effects and impacts for the society.

The inputs are the natural resource and environment, local and foreign funds, expertise, goods and services, manpower and technology etc. The outputs are tangible and intangible, long and short termed, have multiplier effects, lead to new projects for the future. There may be negative impacts. Projects generate employment and are the national investment opportunities.

The expected outputs achieve project's objectives. The outputs are the specific products or services which an activity is expected to produce from used inputs. It may be the number of houses, schools or hospitals constructed. The distance of road or trail track constructed. The number and capacity of fisheries harbours or hotel rooms developed.

The effects are the outcome of the use of project outputs. It may be the increased incomes because of an industrial project, better health facilities due to new hospital, better education because of new schools, more tourist arrivals due to good hotel facilities etc.

The impacts are the outcome of project effects. It is an expression of the results actually produced, usually at the level of border, long range objectives. It is the ultimate change in the living conditions of beneficiaries resulting from a project.

Monitoring is the continuous or periodic review and surveillance by management at every level of the hierarchy of the implementation of an activity to ensure that the deliveries, work schedules, targeted outputs and other required actions are proceeding according to the plan.

The evaluation is a process for determining systematically and objectively the relevance, efficiency, effectiveness and impact. There are on-going and ex-post evaluations. The on-going evaluations are necessary from time to time to check the direction of the project and re-direct it to achieve the planned objectives.

To see the 'profits' of the project investment we do what is called 'cost-benefit analysis'. It compares project alternatives to select the best. Usually the project benefits are calculated up to 25-30 years and discounted to estimate the costs and benefits within the project life. To measure the benefits we have to compare 'before' and 'after' project situations. For future price changes of inputs and outputs of 'sensitivity analysis' is needed. To know the impact to the environment we have to do an environment impact assessment.

In tsunami projects because of the urgency and time constrains, people's demand, more projects concentrated in a given area, a large number of donors' additional problems can rise. Hence they need extra attention.

* Hurriedly prepared projects without considering environment, climate, culture, alternative uses of resources, legal aspects and future expansions can create conflicts, delays and resource waste. Hence planning and appraisal should be done using multidisciplinary team incorporating the experiences of local experts and considering beneficiaries' requests.

* They should plan for the future with 'break through thinking'. They should have more forward and backward linkages.

* They should be more resistant to any future disasters. Need buffer zones and reservations.

* Capable of changing attitudes eliminates dependency syndrome and strengthens self-reliance.

* The rules and regulations of the general administration can delay the procurement, and implementation.

* Scarcity and high demand of inputs (raw material) may be a constraint for project implementation.

* The lack of experienced local operating staff is an obstacle. Because we are exporting our best-experienced and talented human resource to other countries rather than investing in our country. This 'brain drain' is a set back for development of the country.

* After the implementation the integration it to normal system and maintenance should be well thought. It may need strengthening the present administrative structure to cater to new developments and have extra energy to maintain them without negligence and deterioration.

* They should use new technologies, which are appropriate and affordable, and resource saving methods, considering environment and sustainability.

We should remember that any project is meant for its target group or the beneficiary people and the growth and development of the country. Hence the 'trickle down' of benefits to the target group must be high. Such projects are not failures but successes. The writer was a former consultant to GTZ and EO projects in NWP)

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