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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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Friday, January 21, 2005

Red Cross Red Crescent - Disaster preparedness: activities

Red Cross Red Crescent - Disaster preparedness: activities: "An environmental preservation project, undertaken by the Thai Binh branch of the Vietnam Red Cross, was designed to address two issues affecting the people living on the coast in Thai Thuy district of Thai Binh province. With eight to ten typhoon storms striking the coast of Vietnam annually, tidal flooding often breaches sea dykes and causes economic losses to the local population engaged in aqua culture. The project involved creating 2,000 hectares of mangrove plantations, which served two important purposes. Firstly, the trees act as a buffer zone in front of the sea dyke system, reducing the water velocity, wave strength and wind energy. This helps protect coastal land, human life and assets invested in development. Secondly, the plantations contribute to the production of valuable exports such as shrimp and crabs, high-value species of marine fish in cages, mollusk farming and the culture of seaweed for agar and alginate extraction. This offers new employment opportunities to help what was a vulnerable population to improve their livelihoods. An evaluation of the project reported: 'By helping to protect the sea dykes, the mangroves are contributing to the economic stability of the communes. All members of the community stand to benefit as their homes, livestock and agricultural land are better protected from the risk of flooding. Poor families, with little money to repair or replace material losses from storm damage, are the greatest potential beneficiaries"

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CCD should play a leading role in coast conservation

CCD should play a leading role in coast conservation - Kahawita : "by Hiran H. Senewiratne
Former Director of the Coast Conservation Department (CCD) and Chairman Fisheries Harbours Corporation B. S. Kahawita an interview with the "Sunday Observer" talks about how to deal with the aftermath of the tsunami disaster in the coastal areas. He is of the view that CCD should play a leading role as they have experienced in the much talked about "setbacks" (area that has to be left free of any construction activity). He believes no new laws or gazette notifications are required to enhance the role of the CCD as all they have to do is abide by the Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP). Kahawita is unfortunately a victim of pre-mature retirement due to his efforts to implement "setbacks" for construction activities and adherence to the Coast Conservation Act, No. 57 of 1981.
Q: The government is talking about a 'setback buildings' 300 m away from the beach in the aftermath of the dreadful tsunami disaster. What are your comments about it ?
A: We must consider this as an opportunity in adversity.I would say that the Coast Conservation Act, No. 57 of 1981 (this came into operation in 1983) defines the Coastal Zone as- 300 m landwards from the high waterline and 2 km seawards from the low water line, where it also states that any development activity within the coastal zone, e.g. buildings, hotels, houses etc., has to be constructed after obtaining a permit from the Coast Conservation Department (CCD). So the 300m that has been talked about is not a new concept, it has been in the Act for the last 20 years, and the CCD was implementing it, though there were problems, in the CCD. Due to various pressures in some areas it was not possible to implement it. In trying to implement this setbacks I became a victim of premature retirement.
Q: What is your experiences on tsunami and tidal waves during your service in the CCD ?
A: I do not want to go into the theories of tsunami and tidal waves, since that has been dealt with in various literature and newspaper articles. However, according to my knowledge we have not experienced a tsunami. Tidal waves, yes. During the monsoons, especially during bad weather conditions waves beat over the berm (top) and then flow on to roads and houses, especially in areas like Hikkaduwa, Ambalangoda, Galle, Beruwala Porathota and Ambalantota. This process is called 'over-topping' and most of the people are used to it. This process comes back to normal after some time. In the case of the December 26 catastrophe most people I met told me that they thought it was the same process that was taking place and they were not willing to vacate the area until the tsunami wave hit them, which they were not accustomed to before.
Q: Everyone is talking about passing laws and Gazette Notification for building purposes in the coast. What are your comments?
A: Many contradictory statements are being issued by various organisations saying they propose to pass laws and gazette notifications about building in the coastal areas. The Coast Conservation Act, No. 57 of 1981 specifies that a permit has to be obtained from the CCD for any development activity in the coastal zone. There is no necessity to pass any laws or gazette notifications if one abides by this Act. The Coast Conservation Department should take a leading role in this matter and inform all concerned parties and take immediate action. Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP) has indicated area-wise around the island about this 'setback' for housing, commercial establishment and tourist hotels. Hence one should look into this CZMP to get the real picture instead of talking about new laws.
Q: Some say coral mining areas in the South were badly hit by the tsunami, Do you find any truth in that?
A: Coral mining areas in the South have been affected badly, but if you put the question in another form, there was an affect in areas where there is no coral mining. However, the tsunami has not paid heed to those factors.
Q: What do you suggest in the implementation of these 'setback'?
A: In reality, people are reluctant to leave the coastal areas, since their livelihood is based on fishing and tourism. The present impact has been so great, therefore immediate action should be taken to re-settle them in areas further away from the shore. The most important aspect at this point of time is to educate the people on this issue, by conducting public awareness programs, so that they could be relocated in areas not 300 m, but further away because in some areas water has gone beyond one Km.
Q: How did the Coast Conservation Act decide on 300 m landwards?
A: When the Act was prepared in 1981, it was decided as an arbitrarily act as there was no experience of water reaching that level. But due to the disaster of December 26 the time has come to re-think about this 300 m line in the coastal zone definition.
Q: Were there any pressure to build hotels and houses from various people in the Coastal Zone?
A: Yes, Some despite our warnings forcibly built hotels and houses and there are Court cases pending as well. Some had built additional unauthorised structures too. Most of them have got washed off. I do not want to name any hotel or individual at this moment, since most of their properties have been lost due to the disaster.
Q: You are also the former Chairman of the Ceylon Fishery Harbours Corporation, what is your opinion about the fishing sector?.
A: Only two fishery harbours in Kalpitiya and Mutwal were saved after the tsunami. This is nature. Now we should not cry over this but rise out of the disaster and develop and reconstruct what is in the coastal areas. The ADB suggested a fisheries harbour in Hambantota but due to difficult in developing infrastructure facilities this idea was dropped. Now with a lot of ideas emerging for relocation of Hambantota town, the fisheries harbour concept can be looked into.
Q: Will there be obstacles in reconstruction and resettlement of those affected?
A: The main problem is finding land for the relocation of people. However if a genuine effort is made this could be overcome. I feel we should think of settling people at the distance of 500-1000m, though this may be difficult due to land shortage in the coastal area. But some effort has to be made. There may be practical difficulties when people settle down away from the coast. Coastal development public awareness and education programs with community participation will have to be executed for proper implementation. This is where CCD can play a leading role, since they have enough experience in this aspect of public awareness programs. I hope the authorities will look into this. Even the relocation of some sections of damaged railway lines and roads could be taken note of and if the people are aware of these advantages they might not object to land acquisition. We should take this opportunity as a blessing in disguise and we must make as much benefit as possible. "

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Reconstructing with sense and sensibility

Reconstructing with sense and sensibility by Lakmal Welabada: "'The tsunami spelt devastation for the coastal population, many lost their lives, and most their homes and everything else they owned. In a growing tide of compassion, the world rose together as one, to provide immediate relief to the victims, donating food, medicine, clothing and even counselling. Constructing a ‘Slipform’ wall. pix by Kavindra Perera The tsunami rendered nearly 400,000 people destitut forcing them to seek refuge in temporary camps set up mainly in schools, temples and churches. Around 100,000 are staying with relatives and friends. What is the future of these people? Many are still not in a proper mental condition to think of a permanent place to live, as they are still in shock over the loss of loved ones. But these people need to be re-settled in permanent homes that they can call their own, if their lives are to regain any sense of normalcy. But how does one go about re-building? What are the low cost housing options that are available in Sri Lanka at the moment?
The National Engineering Research and Development (NERD) Centre attached to the State Engineering Corporation under the Ministry of Science and Technology, has come forward with several short and long term solutions, using innovative and cost effective construction technology. This method was introduced by Vidya Jothi Dr. A. N. S. Kulasinghe, an eminent engineer and researcher, and it has been developed and perfected by NERD over the past several by local engineers. The Nerd centre has already installed 25 temporary huts using a basic part of their new technology for tsunami destitutes in refugee camps in Wadduwa, Nindana and Boossa. "We did so under the guidance of the Minister of Science and Technology, Prof. Tissa Vitarana. We hope to put up more such huts in other affected areas as well," says Kumar Perera, Head/Department of Techno Marketing, NERD. The attractive feature of this hut is that it can be put up within 45 minutes using minimum materials such as few roofing sheets, galvanised tubes, bolts and pegs and polythene fibre to cover the sides. NERD points out that their second design which is for semi-permanent shelter is by using cement-sand block bricks and asbestos as roofing sheets. Toilets and multiple units can also be built using this method, which the displaced families could occupy separately in a transit camp. As the third step, NERD has introduced a more advanced plan with better infrastructure to re-build permanent settlements or permanent houses for tsunami destitutes. According to M.W. Leelaratna, General Manager NERD, the use of pre-cast and pre-stretched building components is the prominent feature of this technology. Columns, beams, door frames, window frames and many other components are pre-made out of concrete. The iron bars used to strengthen these components are pre-cast and stretched to the maximum length. Hence, iron that is used in this method becomes many times economical than in the traditional method. This also helps to minimise the cost of the foundation of the building, as a strong foundation has to be laid only to erect columns. Strong beams are then placed in between the columns. A 'slipform wall' that is made of granite dust, coir(to get the fibre effect), water and cement is put up with the help of a special shattering mould. These shattering moulds are 8, 10 or 12 feet long (which is of the length of a normal wall of a room) and about 3 feet in height. The construction time of this method is much faster than the traditional methods. Concrete bars are used for roofing. If the building is double or multi-storeyed, a chicken mesh (2x2) is spread on the beams placed across on the walls at a distance of 2 feet in between, and 2-inch concrete is laid on the mesh. A wooden or metal shattering supports the concrete until it gets compacted. "Since window frames, door frames and roofing bars are made of concrete, this method saves on timber and sand," explains Leelaratna. Once these frames are given a coat of paint, none can detect that they are made of concrete.
"We suggest to start pre-cast and pre-stressed concrete yards in the crisis areas as it will easily provide building components to the displaced people. It will also encourage many entrepreneurs, which will gradually provide sustainable employment for hundreds of youth," he points out. NERD has already designed ten low cost permanent housing plans for quick constructions for tsunami victims. The basic cost of these houses range from Rs. 100,000 to Rs. 200,000. The cost per square feet is Rs. 400. The need for skilled and specialised manpower is the other main feature in installing this technology.
NERD has been training 40 masons each in four day training workshops held twice a year. Nearly 400 masons have been trained during the past 15 years. They are the licence holders for the low cost house construction method. Ariyaratne De Silva, Head of the Department of Civil Engineering of NERD suggests that broken building components like Kabok bricks and clay roof tiles among the debris can be re-used when building new, permanent settlements (adopting the NERD technology) in the tsunami affected areas.
"We have been working on a 20,000 houses for the war destitutes in the North and East, before the tsunami struck. It was due to the present crisis, but will be re-started soon. We can implement the similar plan for the tsunami destitutes both in the N-E and Southern areas," he suggests. NERD stresses that they can only do the consulting part by making estimates, designing the plans and also proceeding with the engineering supervision. Anyone who wishes to proceed with the low cost house construction method can contact Kumar Perera, Head/Department of Techno Marketing NERD at Industrial Estate, Ekala, Ja-Ela. Tel. 2234266, 2236284, 2246384.
*****
Houses damaged and destroyed
* Around 88,022 houses have been completely destroyed and about 25,731 houses have been partly damaged. District wise this includes 29,000 in Batticoloa, 19,100 in Ampara, 500 in Gampaha, 3895 in Kalutara, 7500 in Galle, 10,000 in Matara, 3739 in Hambantota, 3400 in Mulaitivu, 100 in Kilinochchi, 4000 in Trincomalee and 20 in Puttalam.
* NBRO and the NHDA have been instructed to plan construction of houses and buildings with the application of scientific redesignings to endure adverse weather conditions and natural calamities.
* A Special Task Force for Housing, comprising the Secretary of the Housing Ministry, Officials of the National Housing Development Authority (NHDA), National Building Research Organisation (NBRO), Centre for National Operations (CNO) and Government Factory will be set up by the Minister of Housing, Construction Industry, Eastern Province Education and Irrigation Development to expedite the urgently required rehabilitation and restoration activities in the affected areas.
* The Housing Ministry in cooperation with the State Engineering Corporation has already commenced a comprehensive survey to reclaim state-owned marshy lands, especially in the Eastern province to set up temporary houses for displaced people.

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Rebuilding a coastline

Rebuilding a coastline by Tharuka Dissanaike : "Now that the tsunami after-shocks have died down, it is time to think long-term. A huge coastal area of the country lie in ruins and shambles. A humongous clean-up operation awaits the green light. So many people's future lie in the hands of the State, the UN and other donor agencies. It is a responsibility like never before. Not even in our two-decade long war did the country face displacement and destruction of this magnitude. Never did the State have so many people totally dependent upon it for everything.
A million refugees today await government decisions and aid - from the clothes they wear, to their daily rice and dhal, to their homes and their fishing boats, the displaced are dependent upon the State and other agencies for the most urgent needs. But as usual, the aid-dependency is now becoming epidemic. Many displaced people languish in refugee shelters, just so they can grab what they can from the next lorry load that comes along. Two weeks after the tsunami it could be well assumed that the majority have gotten over the initial terrible shock. People must begin helping themselves. The government must aid this process as a necessary step towards healing and return to normalcy. For example, why can't the displaced people- many of them able-bodied men who have been living an out-of-doors life as fishermen- help out in rehabilitating of damaged infrastructure? In Batticaloa, the main roads are in a deplorable state after the tsunami and flash floods, and needs urgent repair. Easily the displaced people, who have also lost their known livelihood, could now be roped into the labour force to do other jobs- such as road rehabilitation, cleaning up damaged areas or pumping out wells or building temporary toilets for the refugee camps. This would give them an opportunity to work and earn a respectable wage instead of constantly depending on provided rations, and take their minds off the terrible loss they have all suffered in some form or the other.
Many of the refugee camps - islandwide - had no proper sanitation facilities. There was no privacy for women. Hundreds, at times thousands of people were in school buildings that had one or two bathrooms. With a little guidance temporary toilets could have been built using refugee labour and very little resources. Toilets should have been done a day or maximum two days after the tsunami struck; after all we are a country quite used to refugee situations. But two weeks after the disaster, this was still a non-addressed issue. A friend who went down to Matara to help people clean up their flooded homes came back to Colombo a little bitter. "People just don't want to help themselves. They do not even want to clean up their own homes and instead wait for outsiders to come and do every little bit." In areas of the east coast we had similar experiences where people would stand around at gawk while aid workers, local NGOs and other 'outsiders' did the work without even volunteering to help. One has to allow for the fact that many of these people have lost everything. Sometimes half their families as well as their homes, boats, shops, hotels, etc. But the time has certainly come to shake the displaced out of this miserable lethargy. Get them involved actively contributing to the rebuilding process. After all it is their village, their homes, their roads that are now being (or are planned to be) rebuilt by the State or by donors. The people have to be stakeholders in the process. They should have their say over the reconstruction plans, models as well as being participants of the entire exercise. This will pave the way for better healing - physically and psychologically. "

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Reuters AlertNet - EXPERTS TALK: Quotes from Kobe

On resettling people: "It's much more straightforward to repair a railway line in the same place it was than to develop completely new settlement areas. --- Geert van der Linden, vice president of the Asian Development Bank "

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Tsunami Relief Foundation

The Tsunami Relief Foundation: " The Tsunami Relief Foundation, Sri Lanka was set up by several young tsunami survivors from Sri Lanka: 'Many young people from various places in the world have been putting a lot of their time & energy into the tsunami relief efforts being undertaken by existing organizations. Many of the relief efforts have proved fruitful, although there have been times when we have not been provided with efficient or informative feed back, and also times when we have received news of the misdirection of funds and aid. Frustrated by the lack of clarity about where funding is going to, or not going to, we have, after much thought and consideration, decided to embark on our own project- The Tsunami Relief Foundation.'"

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Thursday, January 20, 2005

Reconstruction Tasks

Reconstruction Tasks

Challenges facing Sri Lanka are immense. Fishermen without boats, women without extended family support and villages without people, are unfamiliar pharases to us. At least for the time being financial aid appear to be flowing in. It insn't clear yet whether technical know how accompany the aid packages. Perhaps the best way we can help Sri Lanka is to put our heads together and try to help out in planning the reconstrction process. Tasks in which we can contribute are many. Among them are, helping various local bodies prepare technical documents, proposals, and design town and city plans. Many times there were discussions on how expatriate communities can help Sri Lanka, but nothing seem to have come out of them. This time it is different; we simply have to roll up our pants and get down to business.

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Natural Disasters: Earthquakes in Turkey

Searching for Sustainable Solutions: Searching for Sustainable Solutions Each year the World Bank awards start-up funds to the winners of the Development Markeplace competition for creative ideas that seek to solve local development challenges. Dr. Ahmet Turer, a structural engineer at the Middle East Technical University (METU), is one such winner for his creative use of recycled tires as a means for poor people to reinforce masonry houses themselves. He thinks that encasing house walls in discarded car tires will make them stronger and able to withstand seismic shocks. In other words, bricks won't crumble causing the roof to cave in onto people. Turer's idea holds promise as one that is low-cost and accessible to most people. Since people already have built their houses themselves, it would be easy for them to retrofit their houses as well. It is easy to find discarded car tires, so except for transporting the needed tires and cheap connection gadgets, there are no other costs. This approach is also ecologically-friendly since it recycles otherwise useless materials. Using tires to reinforce heavy infrastructure has been tried in similar situations. Researchers at Ottawa University successfully demonstrated that confining columns using car tires can work. The concept of reinforcing house walls with tires to guard against earthquakes is similar. If tires can improve the strength of reinforced columns, they should be also to strengthen masonry walls.
Think Local, Act Global?
Using car tires to reinforce houses could be replicated in other poor countries where earthquakes are frequent and people live in masonry houses. Examples of such countries include India, Pakistan, Iran, and South American countries on the Pacific coast. "If this approach works, just think how many lives could be saved and how much material loss could be prevented on the global scale," says Turer.
Getting the Word Out
This idea is based on a "do-it yourself" approach, so the project will succeed only if people embrace it. A publicity campaign is one of the most important phases of the project. The project will initially target poor people who live in high seismic zones that did not have an earthquake in last 20-30 years. This makes these areas more likely to receive an earthquake in near future. Pilot projects areas will be determined by overlapping high seismic zones with heavily populated areas where most people live in masonry houses. With the help of national and local television stations, Turer will film his laboratory experiments, in which he will reinforce houses and then destroy them in a simulated earthquake. He plans to show these test results on local TV channels that broadcast information of interest to farmers and poor people. He is also preparing television programs that explain the approach and demonstrate the benefits it could yield by showing "before" and "after" reinforcement tests. "I want people to see these improvements with their own eyes, so that they themselves will be willing to do those improvements," Turer explains.
Measurable Benefits From Recycling & Reinforcing
Since 1992, more than 18,000 people have been killed in earthquakes and some $20 billion has been estimated in damages. If people start reinforcing their house walls, many lives would be saved and many masonry houses would remain standing following an earthquake. "If only one percent of people start using this approach, we would save some 100 lives and $3.5 million over the next 10 years," says Turer.
Where is the project now?
The agreement is recently signed on Feb 23, 2004, and the methods that will be developed by the project will be available on early 2005. Turer and his team at the Middle East Technical University are working hard in their laboratory to refine the idea. They must create walls to test the resistance after retrofitting them with tires. They want to optimize how many tires are needed per wall, and what is the best pattern to use when applying tires. Then they will apply their findings on real buildings in pilot tests. They plan to start their publicity and education campaign by the end of 2004.

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Rebuilding after Tsunami: Our key challenges

The Arthur C. Clarke Foundation: "by Sir Arthur C. Clarke
When the Hollywood movie The Day After Tomorrow was showing in Colombo last summer, many asked me if a calamity like that could befall Sri Lanka. Without debating the scientific merits of the movie, I said that Nature always had a few tricks up her sleeve.
Little did I imagine that before the year ended, killer waves 30 feet high would lash the coast of Sri Lanka, leaving an unprecedented trail of destruction in my adopted country. For over two million Sri Lankans -- and indeed, all of us -- the day after Christmas was a living nightmare that mimicked the celluloid horrors of The Day After Tomorrow.
When they arrived with practically no warning, the waves were ruthless and indiscriminate. They swept away fishermen and tourists, pilgrims and prisoners, soldiers and rebels. They displayed gross disregard for our artificial human divisions and demarcations. As the death toll passed the 30,000 mark, with thousands more missing, I kept recalling the words of William Makepeace Thackeray: “Good or bad, guilty or innocent -- they are all equal now.”
My heart-felt sympathy goes out to all those who lost family members or friends. My family and I were more fortunate -- Colombo was spared the highest waves, being on the opposite side of the island. But among those who directly experienced the tsunami were my staff at our diving station in Hikkaduwa, and at my holiday homes in Kahawa and Thiranagama ­-- all beachfront properties located along the southern coast. They all survived, and relate harrowing tales. However, our diving equipment and boats were washed away.
As Sri Lankans struggle to come to terms with the shared grief and multiple impacts of this tragedy, they confront a massive humanitarian crisis involving over one million displaced persons. The first priority is to provide emergency shelter and relief, and then create conditions that will help them to return to normal lives and livelihoods as soon as possible. We also need to address the long term issues of better preparedness, effective warning systems and disaster mitigation.
The best tribute we can pay to all who perished or suffered in this disaster is to heed the powerful lessons it offers us. Nature has spoken loud and clear, and we ignore her at our peril.
For over two decades, I have been an unhappy witness to the bitter armed conflict in Sri Lanka, which has consumed twice as many lives as the tsunami, and blighted the future of millions more. Peace in Sri Lanka has been my number one wish for many years -- there is now renewed hope that the lashing from the seas will finally convince everyone of the complete futility of war.
Political cartoonists in Sri Lankan newspapers were quick to make this point. One cartoon, appearing two days after the disaster, showed a government soldier and Tiger rebel swimming together in the currents, struggling to save their lives. (Indeed, there have been reports of them helping each other in the hour of need.) Their common question: what happened to the border that we fought so hard for?
In a message broadcast over local television only a few days before the tsunami, I made the same point. “We should not allow the primitive forces of territoriality and aggression to rule our minds and shape our actions. If we do, all our material progress and economic growth will amount to nothing.”
I added: “I have always been an optimist, and I still remain optimistic that Sri Lanka will achieve lasting peace.”
In Colombo last week, the usually bickering political parties came together -- at least momentarily -- to mourn the dead and to pledge rebuilding the ravaged island. If only such unity is sustained, Sri Lanka can rebuild physically and also heal the long standing wounds that have bled this beautiful island for far too long.
On a more technical level, too, the disaster holds lessons that must be heeded. One that is particularly close to my heart concerns coastal resource management. In the wake of the tsunami, the government announced that it will strictly enforce an existing rule that bans any construction within 300 meters of the shore. For a long time, this rule has been openly flouted by individuals as well as hotel developers and shrimp farmers -- many of who have now paid a terrible price for their arrogance or ignorance.
We should also ensure that all remaining coral reefs and coastal mangrove forests are fully protected. These natural formations act as splendid bulwarks against the wrath of the sea -- while they cannot block out tsunamis, they can certainly reduce their impact. In the past few days, environmentalists and divers from across South and Southeast Asia have reported examples of this phenomenon. Dr M S Swaminathan, father of India’s green revolution, says mangroves in southern India’s Pitchavaram and Muthupet regions acted like a shield and bore the brunt of the tsunami. “The impact was mitigated and lives and property of the communities inhabiting the region were saved”.
Alas, this news arrives too late to save most of Sri Lanka’s mangroves and coral reefs. For half a century, I have watched with mounting dismay how both these natural resources were plundered. From the mid 1950s, when I first explored the seas around Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) and decided to settle down on the island, I have been calling for greater protection for the reefs. For every person who heeded my call, there were many who did not. Fuelled by a combination of poverty, indifference and official apathy, coral mining has continued to destroy these ‘rainforests of the sea’ -- thus eroding our natural defence.
Mining was not the only threat to the reef. My first book on Sri Lanka, The Reefs of Taprobane (1957), carried a photograph showing fishermen using dynamite to stun and catch fish – blowing up everything for metres around. This completely illegal activity has continued over the years, depleting fish stocks and wrecking the reef.
I once warned that Sri Lanka’s southern coasts will be inundated by enhanced sea erosion owing to coral mining. Of course, nobody could predict the tsunami -- but I wonder how many thousands of innocent lives could have been saved if the right action had been taken at the right time.
As memories of the tsunami slowly begin to fade, it can once again be tempting to resort to these and other gross violations of nature and law. Our big challenge in rebuilding Sri Lanka is to not only restore the damaged infrastructure, but create viable livelihood opportunities for millions of people who will otherwise return to illicit and unsustainable practices. At least part of the large volume of aid should be invested in long term projects that address these needs.
The outside world can play a role to ensure that this happens. The Asian tsunami has been called the first truly globalised disaster of our time. Certainly, the tremors from the bottom of the Indian Ocean reverberated well beyond the dozen countries that were directly impacted. Inspired by television coverage, people all over the world donated in cash, kind, skills or time. This prompted their governments to follow -- but this is just a start.
For real changes to happen, Sri Lanka and other affected countries need sustained assistance and constant engagement by the world’s rich nations and corporations. They also need appropriate investments in technology and skills to stand on their own feet.
The media can keep these issues alive. The New Year dawned with the Global Family closely following the unfolding tragedy via satellite television and on the web. As the grim images from Aceh, Chennai, Galle and elsewhere replaced the traditional scenes of celebrations, I realized that it will soon be 60 years since I invented the communications satellite (in Wireless World, October 1945). I was also reminded of what Bernard Kouchner, former French health minister and first UN governor of Kosovo, once said: “Where there is no camera, there is no humanitarian intervention.”
But cameras and other media have to do more than just document the devastation and mobilise emergency relief. Media need to move beyond body counts and aid appeals to find lasting, meaningful ways of supporting Asia’s recovery.
The real stories of survival and heroism are only just beginning. Let network TV move on to the next big story. I am confident that the cyber activists and committed local journalists will keep us informed. The Web offers a platform for passionate individuals and small groups to get their views out to the world.
Indeed, this will be a real test for information and communications technologies (ICTs).
On that fateful day, hundreds of amateurs captured breath-taking images of the Asian tsunami using their hand-held video cameras. TV networks and professionals arrived only hours later.
In the coming months, we should return to these locations, armed with video cameras, to record the next big wave -- of human spirit and human perseverance."

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Tuesday, January 18, 2005

UNDP | United Nations Development Programme

UNDP United Nations Development Programme: "17 January 2005: Investing in Development, the UN Millennium Project report presented to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan today, proposes scores of specific, cost-effective measures to halve extreme poverty and help a billion people improve their lives. World leaders adopted the Millennium Development Goals nearly five years ago, but until now there was no concrete plan to achieve them. 'The experts who contribute to this huge undertaking have shown without a doubt that we can still meet the Goals " Read the report (PDF)

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Integrated Multi disciplinary Planning Approach

LankaWeb News Daya Hewapathirane Ph.D Ontario, Canada :''The December 26, 2004 Tsunami onslaught of Sri Lanka is the most devastating environmental extreme that the country has experienced in its living memory. By January 14, 2005, twenty days after disaster occurrence, the magnitude of lives lost amounted to 30,752, injured were 15,122, missing were 5903 and the total displaced was estimated at 1-1/2 million. The number of houses completely damaged was 88,506 while 28, 854 were partially damaged.
As far as negative impacts are concerned, there are direct and indirect impacts, short and long term impacts, quantifiable tangible impacts and non-quantifiable intangible losses. Some intangible losses may be priceless and some may be irreplaceable. Among disaster effects that are beyond monetary quantification are distress and mental trauma experienced by many tsunami victims, among them being the many orphaned children, the homeless, those who lost family members, those whose livelihood was disrupted, and the many who suffered property loss, and loss of income. There is the possibility of reduced land values in the tsunami affected coastland.
Broad-based Program of DevelopmentThere was no government policy towards tsunami and no planned program of emergency measures as a form of government response to such an eventuality. This is primarily because the authorities did not perceive the possibility of a tsunami disaster in Sri Lanka. There are no tsunami warning mechanisms in Sri Lanka, and no coordinated rescue and emergency response program, including emergency hospital, morgue and medical services, to handle in a coordinated manner, large numbers of injured people. Transport was a serious problem and ambulance services were non-existent in most places. So was police security and emergency services.
Integrated Multi disciplinary Planning ApproachThere are significant long-term benefits in adopting an integrated and interdisciplinary approach to planning reconstruction, rehabilitation and long-term development of the tsunami prone coastal zone of Sri Lanka. Minimizing possible future tsunami and other coastal hazard effects, maximizing coastal resources use in a sustainable manner, and improving living conditions of the coastal inhabitants, would be furthered, if the coastal reconstruction and rehabilitation program is integrated into a broader program of environmental, social and economic development. Such an endeavor will involve the assessment of the natural and human resources base of the coastal zone, and the natural and human-caused hazards that commonly occur in this zone.
An interdisciplinary approach facilitates fuller understanding of the coastal resources base, the characteristics of the tsunami and other hazards of coastal environment, and of varied hazard effects. This forms the basis of identification of appropriate strategies and measures to cope with hazards while maximizing sustainable resource use.
The Significance of CoastlandsThe coastal areas are among the most valued land of the island. They are among the resource-rich, climatically invigorating and densely inhabited land in the country. They are used for a diversity of economic and recreational activities, fishing and tourist industry being the most common. Many important urban centers, most being historic settlements, are located in coastlands.
Fishing villages, croplands and a diversity of industries are characteristic of the land use of coastal areas. Tourism is one of the primary sources of income in the country and the coastal regions are among the most popular tourist areas in the country. Many service industries, handicraft and local fine arts enterprises based on the tourist industry are located in coastal locations. Some of the most scenic environments in the country with lovely sandy beaches, sandbars, rock outcrops, coral reefs, peninsulas, bays and lagoons and unique vegetation including coconut palms adorn the coastal areas. The tropical ocean in many places offer excellent opportunities for those interested in water based recreational activities such as swimming, surfing, fishing, boating, and other forms of water sports.
Many historic sites are located in the coastal region, including the UNESCO designated World Heritage Site of Galle. Particularly in the coastal zone of the Western and Southern provinces, demographic characteristics are marked by mix of all communities of the country - Sinhela, Muslim, Tamil, Moor, Burger, Buddhists, Hindus, Islamists, and Christians.
Coastlines contain some of the most popular and diverse transportation routes in the country. Its railways and major road arteries serve a large population, and form the main transportation routes connecting the City of Colombo with most other parts of the country.
The Range of Hazards Besides, tsunami, coastal erosion, flooding, salinity, damage to and depletion of coral reefs, water-borne diseases, indebtedness, unemployment, landlessness, crime and child-abuse are among the known natural and human-caused hazards of coastal regions, particularly in the widely inhabited coastal environments.
An integrated approach involves the assessment of this array of environmental and human-caused hazards. They include experienced and potential hazards and their impacts. Impacts of coastal hazards would take the form of direct, indirect, tangible, intangible, short-term and long-term.
The integrated approach avoids the adoption of a narrow perspective of focusing on the tsunami hazard in isolation. All other environmental hazards and community issues in the coastal belt need to be taken into account. It is an opportunity to identify, characterize and plan against all environmental and socio-economic problems of coastlands. Conditions that bring about variation in the effects of the tsunami and other hazards will be investigated. These will include the physical characteristics of these hazards, land and water use characteristics of the hazard prone areas and coastal water bodies including the open ocean, including other variables in the physical and human environment of coastal areas having direct or indirect impact on the hazards.
Alternative Strategies and MeasuresIt is necessary to consider all strategies, and canvass all possible practical ways of preventing, avoiding and minimizing future damages and costs occasioned by extreme natural events and other extremes of the coastal environment. Some of these measures will be emergency actions such as a program of emergency preparedness, response, including emergency hospital and medical services. Warnings, planned evacuation, organization and management of relief centres, supply and coordination of relief supplies, are among other emergency actions.
Zoning, land use regulation and planning, relocation of buildings, and structural modifications to minimize damages, flood proofing or a planned combination of structural change and emergency action, insurance are among the more permanent measures that are available to minimize and distribute losses.
An important observation during the tsunami was the behavior of both wild and domesticated animals. They were the first the evacuate disaster prone areas. Animal behavior under threat of an oncoming tsunami or extreme natural event, needs to be research extensively. It can lead to the development of useful biological techniques of tsunami warnings which in combination with predictions based on seismological and oceanographical devices, could lead to the development of a sound system of tsunami prediction and warning. Having a system of warning will not always be effective unless people respond to it. Experience with flood warning show that often people have little faith in public warnings and tend to wait until the last moment before evacuating. People tend to perceive environmental extremes in ways that are not always compatible to that of the professional. With more public education and information on tsunamis, there is the possibility of getting the required response to warning from people.
Controlling environmental extremes such as the tsunami that devastated Sri Lanka is an impossibility. However, there are ways of coping with losses occasioned by such events. This involves adjusting and adapting to the hazard. Among these coping methods are actions to reduce losses, actions to regulate or control losses, actions to distribute losses such as relief and insurance, actions to regulate or modify the physical event, and bearing losses.
All possible alternative measures will be considered in planning reconstruction and rehabilitation programs in the tsunami affected coastal regions. Appropriate combinations of such alternatives may be identified for specific sites, based upon variation evident in the characteristics of the tsunami event, and differences in overall characteristics of the physical and human environment of the affected places and their inhabitants.
In the identification and assessment of all possible strategies and measures to minimize hazard impacts, it is important to assess the consequences of such strategies and actions on the resources base and its use. The economy of these coastal areas are based upon the resource base and its use.
In the assessment of measures to cope with one hazard, their positive and negative impacts on other hazards will receive attention. This enables the identification of alternative strategies and techniques that are complementary and compatible to one another. Measures taken against one hazard therefore, will not have the effect of aggravating the impact of other hazards or negate the positive effects of actions taken against other hazards. Therefore, under the integrated approach, the range of strategies and measures that will be identified, will not work at cross-purposes and thereby become counterproductive. This is a multi-hazard approach to planning which takes into account alternative approaches and means of coping with varied environmental hazards and issues that have implications for overall development of the coastal zone.
The integrated approach is necessarily interdisciplinary and participatory. Collaborative interaction of a diverse range of professionals with diverse disciplinary perspectives will be necessary for successful implementation of the planning process. Much could be achieved by a research and planning team that consists of Geographers, Environmental scientists, Oceanographers, Hydrologists, Engineers, Economists, Sociologists, Urban, Rural and Infrastructure Planners among others.
The participatory approach should necessarily involve those living and working in coastal areas and also those who were affected by coastal hazards including the tsunami. This is especially important in the identification and evaluation of hazard mitigation and loss reduction measures and coastal resources development initiatives.
Local Emergency PersonnelOthers who should be participants in the planning process are those who acted as the first responders to the tsunami disaster and other natural hazards. They are the people themselves - neighbors, neighboring villages that are unaffected, the local Buddhist clergy and community leaders and subsequently the local and national emergency response personnel. They include those who volunteered for emergency and related work during and immediately after the disaster with true humanitarian feeling and care for their people in distress. They serve without any form of payment of help from any local or foreign agency. This has been the practice all along during times of disaster in Sri Lanka. These people already have a home in the community, they already know the language, they already have a working knowledge of the geography and the indigenous transportation systems. They are the best volunteers that the affected community has and they should be accorded support and appreciation. The more volunteers that come from abroad, the greater the risk that they will fill up the hotel rooms, and utilize critical local resources which may be needed in the response locally.
Sustainability will be a primary consideration in the planning process, in designing of a program of measures that will minimize losses and negative effects and maximize the positive impacts in view of enriching the coastal environment, and the community that lives and works in it.
Coping with the Tsunami HazardAs far as the Tsunami hazard is concerned, this comprehensive research and planning project will identify effective strategies and practical methods to mitigate the devastating consequences of tsunami hazard events, such as loss of human life, injury, disease and long term impacts on the physical and mental well-being of people, impact on children, damage and destruction of property, damage to the environment, economic disruption, income loss, and social dislocation.
Issues such as vegetation and land use in coastal regions and structural developments along the coastline to modify wave action, sand bar formations are considerations that have to be taken into account in an overall restoration, reconstruction and rehabilitation program pertaining to the sensitive coastal environment.
To mitigate tsunami hazards, the first priority is to improve the identification of the tsunami-inundation zone and within it the region with high tsunami risk. (In Japan, to minimize the inundation area, tsunami seawalls (often more than 10-m high) have been constructed along the shoreline.)
Tsunami Severity ZonesMapping and demarcating the tsunami inundation zone become an important initial step in the research and planning process. On the basis of the variation in the degree of tsunami proneness and damage potential this zone may be divided into high, moderate and low tsunami hazard areas in terms of the severity of hazard impact. Within each of these three zones, it is necessary to map the physical, human and land use characteristics, including such aspects like variation in elevation, drainage pattern, vegetation, soils and geological characteristics, land use characteristics, the distribution of population, houses and other structures.
This information has important implications for the identification and planning of measures to cope with tsunami hazards in future. It is useful in designing appropriate evacuation routes as well as routes for search and rescue. It will help in developing measures such as zoning, land use regulations, relocation of critical and high-occupancy facilities, planning of structural modifications and adjustments to minimize disaster damage.
In identifying relevant strategies and measures to cope with existing and potential disasters, it is necessary to examine closely the existing and former demographic and land use characteristics within demarcated disaster zones.
Also important is an assessment of the effectiveness of the measures adopted before, during, and the days following hazard occurrence. This will include actions taken by individuals, the community and the government, especially the emergency actions such as warning, rescue, emergency relief and rehabilitation, emergency medical services, communications and information.
Coastal Land Use and Structures It is important to identify the various natural and human-made characteristics and structures within the tsunami hazard zones that are confronted by potential tsunami waves. Examination of these tsunami-structure interactions is significant in the identification of effective damage reduction measures. The impact that the tsunami had on these coastal area physical and human environmental characteristics needs to be examined.
As tsunamis run up the coast, it is inevitable that coastal material such as sand, soil, rock, debris, trees and vegetation, and other objects in the sea and on coastal surfaces including large and heavy items, including building material and building contents are dislodged, moved and carried forth. These objects become water-born projectiles that can impact and destroy structures along the paths of the tsunami.
Some structures are subject to serious damage owing to the impact of these water-born moving objects. The degree of damage will vary depending upon the tsunami characteristics such as the suddenness of on set and velocity of flow, including the composition of seawater of things collected and carried forth by the tsunami. It is important that engineers determine the nature of tsunami induced forces in order to better design structures on the waterfront and help guide the decision making process in issues of land use.
To improve the prediction capability of tsunami run-up models by including more accurately the effects of dispersion and wave breaking. To achieve practical means of describing the complex run-up flows within the context of their interactions with structures, trees, rocks, and vehicles, as well as with other typical, complex coastal features such as berms, dunes, earthen dikes (typical around tank installations), and river inlets.
The advancement of this proposed research will contribute to other tsunami mitigation endeavors such as the tsunami database, bathymetry and coastal-topography data management, hazard mapping, education, warning, planning, and the development of community-model activities.
Local Emergency ResponseThe first responders in any fast-onset natural disaster like the tsunami are the local people, the neighbors, neighboring villages that are unaffected, the local leadership such as Buddhist clergy and community leaders and eventually the local and national emergency response agencies. The people who volunteered during this crisis period did it with a caring humanitarian spirit for their people in distress. Besides involvement in rescue, evacuation and transportation to temples, schools and other unaffected public places, hospitals and medical centers, they were the first to provide disaster victims with needed food, clothing and other essentials. This has been the practice all along during times of disasters in Sri Lanka.
Any future emergency planning should be looking into ways by which the valued services of these true volunteers are given well-deserved recognition. It is the most practical and reliable form of emergency response that needs to be encouraged and helped. They already have a working knowledge of the geography and the local road and transportation systems. The more volunteers that come from abroad, the greater the risk that they will fill up the hotel rooms, and utilize critical local resources which may be needed in the response locally.
Besides, their service is limited by their lack of knowledge of local languages and the geography and the social settings of the affected region.
Public Education and Information
Educating the risk prone public in coastal areas on tsunami threats is of fundamental importance. Also, Sri Lanka needs to develop effective internal information networks to get warnings and news fast to local communities. Special telephones and other forms of communication are important. The value of cell phones or mobile phones was greatly felt during the tsunami crisis in informing, warning, directing and communicating with people. The communities need to be educated on how to respond to warnings. People working with volunteers who are trained beforehand, can alert the local populations of abnormalities observed in the ocean.
A wide range of alternative strategies and measures may be available to reduce tunami damages. Appropriate combinations of these alternatives could be adopted on the basis of the characteristics of tsunami losses and coastal area occupance.
Institutional arrangements to handle environmental extremes of coastal regions is a high importance. Programs should not be distributed among several public agencies. The effectiveness of programs may be impaired by difficulties in securing needed program coordination during times of crisis. Public education and information on the tsunami hazards and response to them, are of primary importance.
Integrated planning demands a great variety of data – physical, biological, economic, and social. As far as understanding characteristics of the tsunami events are concerned, relevant information in disciplines such as seismology, oceanography, geomorphology, hydrology, biology, geography may be useful. In assessing alternative actions to cope with tsunami hazards, data requirements will extend to disciplines such as engineering, environmental sciences, urban and rural planning, sociology, economics, and a host of other social and management sciences, including GIS. A fair amount of data appears to be available at government agencies involved in coastal environments, fisheries and related research. There may be the need to improve the available data-base by research and extensive field investigations. ''

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