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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, August 19, 2005

Five-year programme to face natural disasters

The Island: 18/08/2005"

"Systematic data collection needed"

"Integrate disaster risk management concerns with ongoing and upcoming development policies"


The Parliamentary Select Committee on Natural Disasters has recommended the formulation of a five-year programme to face an emergency situation.

The Select Committee chairman, Chief Opposition Whip Mahinda Samarasinghe last week released its report which had been unanimously approved by the members.

The following are the recommendations:

A five year Programme for setting up a comprehensive disaster risk management system in Sri Lanka will have following elements.

These activities will be made mandatory Act and with the required financial allocations from the treasury and where relevant incorporated in donor funded and assisted development projects:

The Disaster Management bill provides the basic institutional framework for disaster risk management at the national level.

This broad framework will have to be further development into an institutional system that spans the national, provincial, district and division levels.

Capacities will have to be developed at all these levels. This is the most crucial aspect which needs to be taken up immediately as all the other elements stems from this.

Systematic Data Collection, Research and Analysis, Disaster Risk Assessment and Information Systems.

Comprises the following:

Systematic data collection, Multi-hazard risk assessments, Risk Information system, Inventory of past disaster impacts, DRM Website

In Sri Lanka, while a lot of information is available on natural hazards, relatively little is available on disaster risks except for work done by NBRO on landslide hazard risks. A system needs to be developed that systematically captures the existing and emerging patterns of disaster risk.

The NDMC, with support from UNDP has already initiated the development of a disaster risk information system and a DRM website.

These initiatives must be taken forward with proper coordination with relevant R&D and S&T agencies and engaging specialist consultants as relevant, and if necessary international or regional experts.

Integration of disaster risk management concerns with the ongoing and upcoming development policies and programmes

In order to reduce future disaster risks, specific mechanisms will have to be developed to incorporate disaster risk reduction in the planning processes of some of the key development sectors such as environment, water resources, power and energy, education and health.

Activities required by programmes of UN Agencies should also be included under this activity to ensure timely completion of as required by the respective programmes (the following list must be checked for completeness and action taken).

Mainstreaming Disaster Risk Reduction into the National Poverty Reduction Strategy.

A Guide to Implementing the Hyogo Framework of Action — ISDR Working Document.

Mainstreaming Disaster Risk Reduction into In-Country Assessments and the Multi year Program Framework of International Development Agencies.

Mainstreaming Disaster Risk Reduction into the National Adaptation Plan of Action (NAPA) under the UN Framework on Convention for Climate Change

Mainstreaming Disaster Risk reduction into the UN Common Country Assessment and UN Development Assistance Framework Process.

Establishment of effective early warning systems and Disaster preparedness and response systems and plans.

It is important to note that Sri Lanka is prone to a range of hydro-meteorological hazards that occur with much greater frequency than tsunamis. It is therefore, important that the development of early warning systems be looked at in a multi-hazard context. The efforts on generating improved forecast and warning need to be matched with equal (if not greater) emphasis on effective communication systems, public awareness and social infrastructure at the community level to act on those warnings and undertake life saving actions.

Disaster preparedness and response systems and plans have to be set up and in action.

Natural Disaster Mitigation Strategy for each level of Government and integration of DRM into development, Protection of Public Infrastructure from Impacts of Natural Disasters.

There is a great need in Sri Lanka to promote risk management at the local level, which encompasses preparation and implementation of village, division, district and provincial level disaster mitigation plans. The experience of the five southern districts after the May 2003 floods can be shared and replicated in other disaster prone districts of the country.

Strengthening is proposed to be implemented by promoting Emergency response systems and Disaster Risk Management Plans at all required levels made mandatory through legislation. For Protection of Public Infrastructure from Impacts of Natural Disasters and action to be taken.

A national public education and awareness generation programme

The proposed public education and awareness generation programme must be implemented by proposed NDMA utilising existing training and development agencies including NGOs and CBOs collaborating with them as partners.

A Five Years Programme can be represented in the form of an Action Plan as .... in Annex Resource mobilisation and Partnership Strategy Mobilising national, regional and international resources and partnerships for disaster risk management.

The implementation of the proposed road map will require additional resources as well as substantive partnerships at all levels. Systematic efforts need to be made in this direction. Regional and International Cooperation and Partnerships discussed below would be mobilised in implementing the DRM system.

Regional and International Cooperation and Partnerships

Following the May 2003 floods a number of projects were initiated, including the ADB Coast Conservation Project and rehabilitation of roads and irrigation schemes, and rehabilitation of damaged sanitation facilities by UNICEF.

The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, has committed approximately USD 1.3 million to support the recovery and DRM activities in affected districts of the 2003 floods, channelled through UNDP. In response to the drought of 2004, As of August, US $1.6 million was pledged for immediate mitigation by UN agencies, for water management tube wells and water purification seeds general relief and rehabilitation work for the drought and flood-stricken areas are underway by WFP, If RC, Oxfam, CARE and ITDGE. UNICEF, WFP UNHCR, and FAO are supporting the government through relief activities, needs assessment, and quick impact projects.

In terms of risk reduction, from 1997 onwards USAID’s OFDA has been supporting the Sri Lanka Urban Multi-Disaster Mitigation Project (SLUMDMP) implemented by the Centre for Housing, Planning and Building (CHPB) as the Sri Lanka country project of the AUDMP, a regional programme of ADPC, Bangkok, As demonstration activities the project dealt with LA level risk and vulnerability assessment, hazard mapping and integration in land use and development plans, action planning for mitigation of disaster impact, implementation of mitigation initiatives at local government level.

The project carried out demonstration activities in Ratnapura UC, Nawalapitiya UC, Kandy MC and Colombo MC areas. CHPB carried out several national level activities including training and awareness, has produced important publications, such as Guidelines for planning and construction in disaster prone areas and awareness ..... for different hazards separately. Activities included integration of DRM in subject of Geography of school curriculum, selected University courses and social marketing activities in selected schools. As an initiative under the USAID/OFDA sponsored AUDMP, a capacity building workshop was conducted in November 2003 on Lessons Learned in the 2003 disasters and Approaches for Long-term Disaster Risk Management in Sri Lanka.

ADPC played a key role in this project and the project activities were con..... in March 2005. SLUMDMP has carried out a range of training programmes in collaboration with NGOs such as St. John’s Ambulance, SLRC, ITDG, Oxfam etc. and a few local CBOs.

The Intermediate Technology Development Group, ITDG is a regional organisation which aims to improve the technical skills of poor people through appropriately designed technology and has been working in Sri Lanka since 1989. The disaster mitigation program, which aims towards disaster prevention, works in five south Asian countries and the project director for Sri Lanka, Madhav Ariyabandu, won the 2004 Fran Myers Award from the Gender and Disaster Network.

ITDG has produced important publications such as "Gender Dimensions in Disaster Management" (2004) and "Defeating Disasters: Ideas for Action" (199(), as well as video documentaries meant to influence policy makers. The main technology areas that ITDG works in for Sri Lanka are agro processing and food production, energy, transportation and disaster mitigation. ITDG is implementing "entry point" rainwater harvesting and micro-irrigation projects in drought prone areas.

UNDP remains committed to assisting the Government of Sri Lanka in strengthening the disaster risk management system in Sri Lanka. Implementing the provisions of the disaster management bill (when enacted) will require capacity development in a number of areas. Possible areas of UNDP support include:

Institutional capacity building at all levels (at national level for various ministries and departments, including a National Disaster Management Centre and other appropriate levels-provincial, district, division levels)

Mainstreaming disaster risk management in recovery and development planning processes

Establishment of disaster risk information systems.

Strengthening local level disaster risk management systems.

After the May 2003 floods and landslides, the district administration of the affected districts with the assistance of the National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC) and UNDP have been working to capture lessons learned and to develop district and division level disaster preparedness plans. In the after math of the Tsunami, it is an opportune time to evaluate this work and appropriately replicate it in other districts of the country.

Under its ongoing collaboration with UNDP, the NDMC has also undertaken a stock taking study of all the past and ongoing disaster risk management initiatives in the country. This can be useful input to capacity development initiatives that might be undertaken.

These initiatives would complement capacities currently existing in the country in the form of the government institutions like the Landslide Studies Division of National building Research Organisation (NBRO) centre for Housing, planning and Building (CHPB), National Aquatic Resources research and Development Agency (NARA), Geological Survey & Mines Bureau (GSMS) etc.

The reporting and monitoring mechanism that needs to be put in place will also monitor the progress of associated regional and national Projects. Conducted on a quarter yearly bases, the mechanisms will identify gaps and recommend measures to fill these gaps, to enable successful implementation of the DRM Programme.

Concluding Remarks

Immediate action needs to be taken to initiate the DRM system. There could be another disaster in the country, some times in the already affected areas (just after the tsunami Ampara was again affected by a flood). Next could be a major flood or a cyclone. At least the emergency response plans should be prepared immediately to be ready to face such a calamity, possibly with an effective warning system and other essentials associated with such a system. It is also necessary to find out how the basic paradigms could be changed so that these systems that are created would function if a calamity occurs.


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