Guidelines for Temporary Shelters and Cluster Settlements
Transit camp designs
Department of buildings
Letters from Sri Lanka
Letters from Sri Lanka - MIT News Office: "Letters from Sri Lanka
February 18, 2005
MIT professor Charles Harvey and colleagues Tissa Illagasekera from the Colorado School of Mines and Jayantha Obeysekera from the South Florida Water District traveled to Sri Lanka to investigate the impact of December's Indian Ocean tsunami on local drinking wells.
Harvey, an associate professor in MIT's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, is keeping a log of the team's findings, excerpts of which appear below. New entries will be added as they are received.
Day 3 -- Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2005
Today we drove along the coastal highway with many stops to inspect domestic water supply wells and the impact of the saltwater on natural vegetation. Except for coconut trees, most other plants and trees in areas flooded by tsunami waves were dying, although in one place we observed that the vegetation was recovering, possibly due to heavy rainfall immediately after the tsunami. Almost all the wells in this coastal zone are open-pit type, dug in sandy soils. These wells are still contaminated with saline water making them unusable for domestic use. Although most coastal areas have piped surface water from inland, the residents in these regions rely on domestic wells for other water needs (bathing, washing, etc.). Thus, if this water supply is unavailable for an extended period, an alternate source must be found. Since the surface water supply sources are being exhausted for most of the municipal water supply, finding alternative water supplies is a challenging task for the Water Supply and Drainage Board of Sri Lanka. This particular issue further demonstrates the need for integrated management of water resources for urban, agricultural and environmental purposes.
Today, we also met a group of scientists from Japan and Thailand who are working with the Sri Lankan government agencies to collect high-resolution topographic data for mapping major coastal towns for the purpose of testing tsunami simulation models. Most of the basic data necessary for simulation modeling are very scarce and a major effort is needed to assemble such data for post-tsunami reconstruction efforts.
Day 2 -- Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2005
We awoke at the regional Irrigation Circuit Bungalow located in Amparai, one of the worst affected regions. After meeting with faculty at Southeastern University involved in field studies, we made our first trip to the Tsunami Disaster Zone in Amparai where a densely populated area has been largely destroyed by the waves. Using a refractometer, we found salinity here at a level of ~6 parts per thousand in domestic wells.
At a camp for displaced people, we met state hydrogeologists who are drilling a well even with the recognition that the yield will not be sufficient to provide water for a settlement of nearly 700 displaced people. The settlement is built where there is no surface water and wells are poor yielding (low conductivity silty sediment overlays metamorphic rock with poor-yielding fractures). This was our first opportunity to meet with field personnel from the Water Supply Board who are assigned with the challenging task of finding water in locations where no surface water supplies are available. The task of finding water is not limited to this settlement, but also to many other areas where alternate sources of water are needed for new construction. A need exists for better subsurface characterization methods and modeling tools to make decisions on developing these alternate supplies.
Day 1 -- Monday, Feb. 14, 2005
Our team's first meeting was with the faculty at University of Peradenya in Sri Lanka. The team--Tissa Illagasekera from the Colorado School of Mines, Jayantha Obeysekera from the South Florida Water District, and Charles Harvey from MIT -- is on a fact-finding mission sponsored by the National Science Foundation to determine how groundwater resources have been affected by the tsunami. We learned at the university that in the affected coastal settlements there are 20,000 or more shallow dug wells and many of these now contain water with levels of salinity too high to drink. The chairman of the Sri Lanka Water Resources Board, Atula Senarafne, presented a conceptual model of how the tsunami may have contaminated coastal wells: seawater infiltrated in the flooded zone, much of it inland where it was trapped and remained ponded for several days. The saline water then migrates back towards the coast with regional groundwater flow.
Open questions include:
- Did inundation remain long enough for saltwater to fill the unsaturated zone? The answer largely depends on the vertical hydraulic conductivity of the soil.
- Is the saltwater mixing, perhaps due to density instabilities, with the underlying freshwater?
- Has the saltwater geochemically interacted with the sediment?
- How have well-purging efforts affected the salinity distribution in the aquifer?
Losses in fisheries and aquaculture climb to $520 million - recovery efforts underway
ISO 14001 - A road map to prevent pollution
With rapid globalisation the environmental issues are seen to be one of the most important topics. The pollution created in any manner such as air emission, effluent, land contamination etc. have several impacts on people, throughout the world.
It is expected that by the next generation about 90% of the world's additional people will live in towns, pace of urbanisation poses huge environmental challenges for the cities such as the problems of sanitation, clean water, energy and pollution from industry.
Adverse impacts of pollution
For many years it has been known that the quality of groundwater has been affected by increasing levels of nitrates and fertilisers that leak from agricultural lands.
Considerable quantum of groundwater pollution in the form of heavy metals, hydrocarbons and chlorinated hydrocarbons is reported in many countries. During the past 25 years, stricter water quality legislation in many countries has resulted in reduced pollution from point sources like communities and industry.
Air pollution can have both direct and indirect effects on the environment and on human health. Air pollutants that have considerable environmental impact include sulphur dioxide (So2), nitrogen oxide (No2) and carbon dioxide (Co2).
The local effects of air pollution include city smog caused by photochemical oxidants and nuisances caused by dust and smell. Other factors include toxic effects that can elevate lead levels in children, carcinogenic effects and other unwelcome health effects like respiratory problems.
Land pollution is the degradation of the earth's land through human misuse of soil. It is an accepted fact that as human influences such as poor agricultural practices, the digging up of important resources; industrial waste dumping has resulted in an irreparable damage to the land and has led to pollute the land rapidly.
This indicates that the disciplined approach of human behaviour plays a vital role in maintaining the cleanliness and prosperity of our earth's future.
However solutions to the land pollution have become increasingly recognised over the years. The most common and convenient method of waste disposal is considered as the sanitary landfill.
The danger of pollutant is that once the pollutants enter the environment those will cycle throughout the air, water and soil and continue to transfer from one medium to another.
Comprehensive environmental pollution system requires both pollution prevention and pollution control. Pollution prevention saves energy and resources, in most cases; it is more cost-effective than direct regulation in the long run.
At a time when economic competitiveness is a national priority, there is a need for an economically sound approach to prevent pollution.
However cost savings from prevention come not only from avoiding environmental costs like hazardous waste disposal fees but also from avoiding costs that are often more challenging to count, like those resulting from injuries to workers and ensuring losses in productivity.
In that sense, prevention is not only an environmental activity but also a tool to promote worker health and safety.
International standard for prevention of pollution
Considering the environmental issues taking place in the world, the International Standards Organisation (ISO) had initiated actions to prepare an international standard on Environmental Management to provide assistance to organisations that wish to implement or improve their environmental performance.
As a result in the year 1996, ISO 14001 standard on Environmental Management Systems - specifications with guidance for use has been introduced. The overall aim of this international standard is to support environmental protection and prevention of pollution in balance with socio-economic needs.
ISO 14001 - Environmental Management System standard requires an organisation to formulate an environmental policy and set objectives taking into account legislative requirements and information about significant environmental impacts.
Besides complying with applicable legislation and regulations the organisation must also demonstrate its commitment to continual improvement related to environmental issues of the organisation.
The standard is applicable to any organisation that wishes to implement maintain and improve an environmental management system, as well as those companies that seek certification/registration of its environmental management system by an external organisation.
Revision of ISO 14001
The second edition of this international standard ISO 14001:2004 is focused on clarification of the first edition and has taken due consideration of the provisions of ISO 9001:2000 to enhance the compatibility of the two standards for the benefit of the user community.
Moreover the new version of ISO 14001 provides organisations with the elements of an effective environmental management system that can be integrated with other management system requirements in an easy manner to achieve environmental and economic goals.
One of the important features of the new version is that it makes the guidance annexure more comprehensive and informative clarifying most of the grey areas of the Environmental Management System.
Therefore the new version would really help the organisations to proceed in establishing sound Environmental Management System to handle the environmental issues.
It is worthwhile to remember that the success of the system depends on commitment from all levels and functions of the organisation and especially from top management.
With the publication of new version it is now necessary to up-grade the already certified systems in compliance with ISO 14001:2004. However a transition period of twelve months is normally recommended by the international community.
Certification to ISO 14001
Sri Lanka Standards Institution (SLSI) has certified more than fifteen companies against ISO 14001:1996 standard.
In view of the publication of the new version, SLSI has already planned a series of training programmes to educate the business community about the changes made in the new standard.
Furthermore for certified companies SLSI intends to provide an additional gap analysis report during the surveillance audits in order to help the said companies to have a smooth transition to new version.
However if any organisation is having an idea to proceed in obtaining certification, it is necessary to develop an Environmental Management System (EMS) as per the new version of ISO 14001:2004.
Benefits of an EMS
An effective EMS can help an organisation avoid, reduce or control the adverse environmental impacts of its activities, products and services better assure compliance with applicable legal and other requirements and assist in continually improving environmental performance.
Having an EMS can help an organisation assure interested parties that:
* A management commitment exists to meet the provisions of its policy, objectives, and targets;
* Emphasis is placed on prevention;
* Evidence of reasonable care and regulatory compliance can be provided;
* The system's design incorporates the process of continual improvement."
Tsunami and our forgotten disasters
Fellow of Fire Engineers U.K. & Fellow of Industrial Security Sri Lanka.
Former Commandant, Civil Defence Force. Consultant in Disaster Management.
Sri Lanka has had more than her fair share of "disasters", both natural and man-made in the past 20 years, commencing with the bomb explosion on the Air Lanka aircraft at the BIA Terminal in May 1985 to the devastating tidal wave that created havoc on that fateful morning of the 26th. December 2004.
With the exception of the tsunami, all the other disasters are now history, mere forgotten incidents that have left behind sad and bitter experiences, from which judging by the "management" of the tsunami disaster, we have learnt nothing, in relation to reducing the effects and consequences of such disasters.
Therefore I firmly believe that in another two to four months the tsunami disaster will also be mere history. The tsunami could not have been prevented, but the loss of human life, the loss of property, and most of all the misery caused could have been greatly reduced if there was anything of a disaster management facility that had responded within the first vital 24 hours.
The purpose of this article is to analyze and evaluate the "management" of the tsunami disaster, and to propose the basic "structure" for a national disaster management facility that would reduce the effects and consequences of any future disaster.
This basic structure could be modified and adapted by any organization or institution that is desirous of establishing its own in-house disaster management facility.
In order to evaluate the disaster management facility it is necessary to first define and clarify certain important concepts in relation to the management of disasters.
1. Disaster.... What constitutes a disaster? There have been many definitions, but to my mind the simplest and the most appropriate definition is ..... "a disaster is a sudden and calamitous event that produces great loss of life, material damage, and distress."
The key word in relation to a disaster is "sudden," .... there is no prior warning.... hence the ability of a disaster to create havoc if we are not "prepared".
Therefore the main component in any disaster management facility is "preparedness". The quantum of destruction is indirectly proportional to the state of preparedness. The degree of the State's "preparedness" to mitigate the effects of a disaster is based on its "pre-disaster" and its "post-disaster" strategies.
2. Disaster management.... What is disaster management? "Disaster management is an applied science which seeks, by the systematic observation and analysis of disasters, to improve the measures to prevent, respond, and recover from the effects and consequences of a disaster."
The disaster management strategies are therefore based on the observation and the analysis of previous disasters, preferably in our own country if we have experienced disasters, or from those in other countries.
We have experienced more than our fair share of disasters and hence we are in a position to "analyze" these disasters and formulate our own disaster management facility.
3. Effects and consequences. There are two major components of a disaster that cause loss of life and property.
These two components in relation to the tsunami are, first the direct "effects" such as the loss of life due to drowning, destruction of houses, etc., and the second is the "consequences" as a result of these effects, such as looting, rape, etc.
The reason for this distinction is because in the management of any disaster the mitigation of the effects is the responsibility of the pre-disaster function, and the mitigation of the consequences is the responsibility of the post-disaster function.
4. Incident Commander.... the Incident Commander is the person nominated to be in charge of and to implement all the activities in relation to the required "response" to an incident and the "recovery" measures required to reduce the consequences of a disaster to the minimum.
This appointment should be made prior to the incident, to enable the Incident Commander to be "prepared". He should establish and train his Emergency Teams, check the availability and location of the resources he needs, the resources available with his neighbouring units, etc.
5. "As low as reasonably practicable." This is a very important concept in relation to disaster management. It is the criteria for evaluating the performance of the disaster management facility.
The probable "effects" of a disaster and the likely "consequences" as a result of such effects should be identified, and should be reduced to a level that is both "reasonable" and also "practical" in relation to the available disaster mitigation resources.
The criteria for analyzing the level of efficiency of the disaster management facility is based on the following equation:
Prevention + response + recovery = mitigation to a level "as low as reasonably practicable".
Prevention. Prevention in this context does not imply that the incident could have been prevented. What is required is that the direct "effects" and the resultant "consequences" of the disaster, are reduced to a level as low as reasonably practicable.
The "effects" of the tsunami were the destruction of everything in its wake to a distance of approximately 1.2 kilometres inland from the shore.
The "Consequences" of that effect are such aspects as hunger, shelter, looting, rape, sale of children, breakdown of the communication facilities, etc. The effects of the tsunami could have been reduced by:
a). Legal requirement. It was reported in the print media that there is in existence a regulation that prohibits "constructions within 300 metres of the coast line", and that in "future" the Government will "strictly enforce" this regulation.
Had this requirement been enforced it would have considerably reduced the loss of life and property due to the tsunami.
b). Early warning. Whether a "warning" was given, but not "received" by our institutions is being debated, but the fact is that this information is readily available, for example on the web site "iris".
The duration of the warning was approximately three hours. Taking into consideration that the destruction was mainly to a distance of 100 to 200 metres inland, a warning of three hours would have been adequate to evacuate more than the areas that were effected.
In this context it must be recalled that in relation to the World Trade Centre bomb attack the Police check point at the top of Lotus Road which could have prevented the entry of the LTTE explosive laden vehicle was non operational on holidays, and so was the Seismology Station at Pallekele on this holiday.
c). Natural protection. Mother Nature in her own way provides us protection in the form of the coral reefs and mangroves. I believe that we have for various reasons destroyed these protective barriers.
"Effects." There were no preventive measures to reduce the "effects" of the tsunami to a level as low as reasonably practicable, on the 26th of December, 2004.
Response: Response is the requirement for established and trained Emergency Teams to "respond" to the incident immediately to prevent the "consequences" of the disaster. If this facility was available it could have reduced the "consequences" of tsunami to a large extent.
The Civil Defense Force before it was disbanded in 1999 established and trained such post disaster Emergency Response Teams in all the institutions that were under threat.
These teams were trained in subjects relevant to the probable disaster situation, which were first aid, fire fighting, crowd control, traffic diversion and security of their institutions.
The emergency teams functioned under the command of an Incident Commander appointed by the respective Institutions.
Their main contribution in the event of a disaster was that they could "respond" immediately and reduce if not prevent the "consequences" of the disaster. There was no such "established and trained" response to prevent and reduce the consequences of this tsunami disaster. I specifically emphasize the phrase "established and trained."
Because the Sri Lankan quality of compassion and generosity in the event of a disaster is remarkable. They will risk life and limit to help, but in order to benefit from this asset this potential must be harnessed, trained, and directed.
"Consequences". There was no response facility to prevent looting, dry rations finding their way into the local boutique, children being sold, and even to prevent the rape of the tsunami victims. The consequences of this terrible disaster were certainly not reduced to a level as low as reasonably practicable.
Recovery. Recovery is the ability to return to "normal" life in the shortest possible time. The Central Bank bomb disaster reduced the greater part of Janadhipathi Mawatha to a ghost street, from which it took over a year to return to normal.
In this case it is not merely the reconstruction of buildings, but the rehabilitation of thousands of human beings. It is our shameful experience from previous disasters that materials donated towards the recovery effort did not reach the suffering and needy victims.
In our context recovery should also include the will and commitment of the Government to ensure that in future the effects and consequences of any disaster will be reduced to a level as low as reasonably practicable.
This requires the establishment of a permanent disaster management facility. The major components of such a facility are:
a) Disaster management "policy." To date to the best of my knowledge, there is no central disaster management policy.
A team of foreign experts sponsored by the American Embassy who conducted an extensive training programme on disaster management produced the framework for the proposed disaster management legislature.
But unfortunately this did not see the light of day because of the tussle between two Ministries to gain control of this subject.
b) Disaster management centre. A disaster management centre was established in 1998, a director appointed, and I believe even sent abroad for training. Subsequent to the tsunami disaster it was reported in the print media that this centre was closed in 2001.
c) Incident Commanders. Suitable officers should be appointed as Incident Commanders. They should be able to respond immediately to the incident and take charge of all operations. It is reported that Co-ordinating officers to the effected areas were appointed 9 days after the incident.
d) Disaster management "units." Disaster management "units" should be established at grass roots level. These units should be given basic training in their relevant subjects of disaster mitigation and should be capable of immediately "responding" to the incident. Such units were established and trained by the Civil Defence Force. These units were disbanded in 1999.
It will be appreciated that on that fateful 26th. December 2004, there was NO disaster management policy.
No disaster management centre. No Incident Commander. No disaster management units and the Seismology Station was NOT functioning as it was a holiday.
We were totally unprepared for this disaster. The only asset that we can be very proud of, is the immediate and continued response by the people, at each and every one of all our disasters.
Disaster management facility
"Basic structure". The fundamental structure of the proposed disaster management facility is given in diagram A. This structure is based on an analysis of the disasters we experienced in the past 20 years, and my experience with the Civil Defence Force. The structure has two key components, the operational component and the policy component.
Operational component. The requirement at grass roots level is for a very flexible, trained, and sustainable 'unit' that has the capability to "respond" very quickly.
My experience is that the local policy station area is the best suited for this operational unit, and the Police Officer-in-Charge of that area is the best choice for the roll of Incident Commander.
Within each "unit" volunteer disaster management teams are established at street level, and trained in the basic emergency functions, relevant to their probable disaster scenarios. In the event of any disaster within their police station area the teams will respond immediately and function under the direction and command of their Incident Commander.
In the event of a disaster involving more than one police station area, all the "disaster management units" (police stations) involved in that police division will come under the command of the ASP or SP of that division, and similarly in the event of the disaster involving more than one police division, all the disaster management units involved in those police divisions will come under the command of the SSP of that police district.
This structure is flexible and it provides a large trained man-power base that operates in manageable smaller "units" under the directions of an Incident Commander, and which could be mobilized very quickly even in the event of a disaster of the magnitude of the tsunami.
Policy component. The "Disaster Management Centre' would be the "headquarters" of the total facility.
The primary functions of the director and his staff would be to identify the probable disaster scenarios in relation to the location of the disaster management units, for example floods for the Ratnapura units, landslides for the Haputale units, terrorist attacks for the Colombo units, etc.
Having identified the probable disaster scenarios the director would be required to make a "risk assessment" of each scenario, and implement all necessary measures to reduce the effects and consequences of such disasters to a level "as low as reasonably practicable."
National water resources policy - why can't we achieveconsensus?
A handbook for proper housing and more
A Different Way to Build
Almost all of the problems created by conventional building and housing techniques are solved, while providing people with housing that is cheaper to build and maintain, and more beautiful than almost anything available today. The broad title given to such methods is �natural building.� Although there are many different types, I will focus on straw-bale building, as it is well suited to the seasonal variation of Canada.
A by-product of modern intensive agriculture is straw�staggering quantities of straw. Straw is the general term given to the hollow stalks of cereal grains such as oats or barley. A great deal of it is used as bedding for large animals, particularly horses and cattle, yet huge amounts of it are burned or tilled under the soil every year, simply to be rid of it.
But straw, when compressed into bales, is an incredible insulator and muffler. Bale walls have an R-value (a measurement of a material�s resistance to heat flow) of 29 to 34, while conventional walls packed with fibreglass insulation have an R-value of only 19. During tests at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, a sample bale wall was chilled on one side to -18C while the other side was heated to 21C�it took two weeks for heat loss from the walls to become a steady flow.
When coated in a lime and clay plaster and kept dry, straw-bale houses become almost fire proof, incredibly strong, and yet so flexible that they can survive an earthquake. Because they are mechanically baled yet so readily available, they are cheap and of relatively uniform size, so they can be stacked like blocks to form thick, sturdy walls.
Yet because walls are hand-stacked and plastered, they become slightly irregular and deeply personal. By building with industrial and agricultural by-products, we help to return our energy and material use to something loosely resembling a cycle; a gross approximation of the interconnectedness and efficiency of nature’s nutrient- and energy-cycling, but still vastly superior to what we do at present. "Read More
A journey through tsunami-hit Southern villages
Kumudu Neranjan de Soyza of Nape, Kosgoda, whom I met at the temple said that he was a supplier of building materials and owned a vehicle. Tsunami waves had destroyed his house causing heavy damages to his vehicle." I live in a relative's house with three children. Our house that was near the bridge and Kosgoda beach hotel was completely destroyed by the waves. " he said. A. D. W. K. de Soyza Jayathilaka of Dasanayaka Walauwa is a philanthropist in the area whom I met at the temple. He had deployed a tractor with three water pumps that goes around the village cleaning up wells free of charge. He also undertook to construct houses for the needy people with the help of well-wishers in the area. He is of the view that the houses for the tsunami affected should be constructed in such a way that they can be expanded later unlike the houses constructed by some NGOs that are uniform in construction and with no room for further expansion. Diviyagala Aranaya, a famous monastery, about two kilometers off the main Galle-Colombo highway, is a refugee camp for tsunami affected families. Though not registered at the time, it houses 57 inmates comprising 22 families. The camp is manned by navy officers with the help of the Gramasevaka of the area and the police. "There are about 57 families here. The camp receives dry rations and donations. But no temporary shelters like makeshift tents were received. Inmates are willing to resettle soon provided they get plots of lands to settle down ", said D. M. Dharmadasa of the Sri Lanka Navy, at the camp.
P. Hemawathi de Silva is one among hundreds of fisherfolk who lost their houses in the tsunami death waves. I met her at the camp. "We lived in a land belonging to a neighbour and the waves had destroyed our house and what we want is a plot of land to build a house " she laments. Lakmal, an inmate of the camp said, " while I was having a bath with neighbours, the sea became violent and we ran onto the land. I saw boats being thrown ashore by the gigantic waves that followed us into the land. I lost my father. We receive sufficient food and cloth and I am willing to return home soon". Another inmate, a resident of Talgahapitiya, Kosgoda, said that she and her family members were saved from the waves but her house was completely destroyed and what she wants is a house to live in.
The lay -administrative committee of the monastery aired their opposition to having a refugee camp in the monastery premises. They complained that the refugees had broken the silence of the monastery, disturbing the routine of the meditating monks in isolated Kuties scattered around the premises. The refugees were seen pushed to the corner of the hall to accommodate the devotees who observed Sil at the monastery. Gamini Jayatilaka, the chairman of the lay-administrative committee of the Aranaya said that the refugee camp was set up ad hoc, and they made a request to the Divisional Secretary to remove the camp to an alternative location as it disrupts the activities of the Aranaya. He said, "We have suggested an alternative place: That is Kalagaspalata Kanishta Vidyalaya which was closed now. The refugee camp could be moved once the toilets are renovated."
L. K. Ariyarathne, the Divisional Secretary of Balapitiya says that so far 3874 families have been rendered refugees in his division amounting to 15,490 persons and so far 182 persons have disappeared since the disaster. He further said, " We have already taken measures to re-settle the refugees. For the purpose, we have identified 14 acres of crown land both in Government and co-operative sectors. There were 34 camps and we have established 17 camps Gramasevaka Division wise. Now the number has reduced to eight camps, ". He said that most of the refugees, who earlier stayed at camps, had gone back to their homes or stay with their relatives and some schools were selected to accommodate the refugees until houses are constructed to resettle them.
Meanwhile the residents of the area requested the authorities to keep open the central dispensary round the clock as they could not afford to travel to Balapitiya Base Hospital by three-wheelers, as the ride will cost about Rs. 300 and a large number of three wheelers of the area were destroyed by the tsunami waves.
The tsunami waves had nearly altered the geography of the coastal line. The devastated landscape was full of rubble from houses. One can see here and there on both sides of the highway, water filled craters and in some places part of a vehicle that was buried in the sand, perhaps, along with its passengers. By dusk, the villagers had gathered along the highway with clutched palms to beg for aid. They were the fisher folk who lost their livelihood in the national calamity. When a vehicle was stopped, the children will gather around it in the hope that they could get something from the travellers. The tsunami-relief camp at IDH Watte, Dadalla, is one of the few camps on the way to the city of Galle. The camp provides shelter for 385 inmates of diverse social strata. Drinking water, food and kitchen utensils were the immediate needs of the inmates. These refugees are willing to settle down if they get houses. Most of the refugees I met told me that they would like to have a house that could be expanded in the future. They are reluctant to settle in smaller houses often built by NGOs as they will not suit all of them. Along the coast from Colombo to Galle and Matara, a traveler could see the extent of the damage and sheer force of the waves that decimated entire towns and villages. Somewhere near Beruwala fisheries harbour, fishing boats were seen thrown onto the road.
The city of Galle, the bus station, harbour and the world famous tourist destination, Unawatuna were hit hard by the giant waves. A popular vegetarian restaurant, "Somawathi'' right opposite the Dhakshina Navy camp was among restaurants and hotels which were severely damaged by the tsunami. Most of the beach front restaurants in the tourist paradise were decimated by the tsunami, one hotelier is Rainer Komoll, a German national married to a Sri Lankan. He says that the catastrophe which befell the country is unprecedented. However he criticized the Government's decision to impose a hundred meter exclusive buffer zone from the sea front as he says that did not auger well for the industry. "Only if the hotels are in the sea front the tourists will arrive as before. Generally speaking, the police in Sri Lanka are little bit slower than in Germany. People in Sri Lanka will get a lot of help from other countries " he said. A sense of utter skepticism and uncertainty is written all over the woeful countenances of the refugees while children unaware of the gravity, play as if to gather their shattered lives.
The man-made perennial tsunami: poverty
The nineteenth century British Civil Servant who had perceived a disquieting disconnect between the colonial Indian administration and the appalling inequities in the socio-economic conditions of the vast majority of the local people, pointed out that "you cannot have separate, unequal people living alongside one another in great riches and deep poverty without inviting catastrophe."
That man was Allan Octavian Hume who founded the Indian National Congress in 1885. What the sagacious and humane visionary of that era perceived in 1885 assumes absolute pertinence today in the light of the widespread poverty manifest, not in the least in India, but throughout the entire world of the 21st century, and even, in the richest of countries.
One of the reasons that has strong validity that can be advanced to explain why this pathetic global situation has a risen is, that the "prosperity" that the apostles of the neo-liberal economic dogma have preached relentlessly eluded millions of people. Over the past decades on the other hand, it had served to heighten the darkness of injustice, unarguably, the supreme, cardinal, cause of the darkness of violence, hatred, terrorism, wars, and bloodshed.
The culmination of the continuous history of the dominant economic paradigm and the polices, based on assumptions, that flow from it that creates great wealth and simultaneously creates great poverty and social distress is now catching up with the world. It was forcibly driven home into the minds of many perceptive people during the tsunami disaster of December, 2004.
The remains of the damage done to the simple lifestyle abodes of the poor left behind as it ravaged the coast of many South Asian countries, was ample evidence of the truth that "prosperity" had turned its back on millions of people, even before the tsunami struck.
The extent to which unequal people have been living alongside one another in great riches (tourist hotels and resorts) and deep poverty (fishermen, workers and their families) was penetratingly brought before the eyes of the world by the electronic media.
This time around, and perhaps, because, it was well-known that many Westerners who leave their winter-bound homes and travel to the sun-lit sandy beaches of the Third World countries were also to become victims of nature in rebellion.
The luxury hotels and leisure resorts owned and managed by local and foreign companies, though partially damaged, stood out in striking contrast amidst the shambles of the wood, cadjan, and one-brick walled houses of the poor fishing community as if in testimony of the glaring differences referred to.
Harward economist, Dr. Jeffrey Sachs who spearheaded the World Bank agenda during Russia's economic transition following the collapse of the Soviet Union, recognised this difference on a wider worldwide screen. In an essay entitled "The class system of catastrophe", Dr. Sachs argues that "what the rich world suffers as hardships, the poor world suffers as mass death".
He goes on to fault the USA and other rich countries for channelling the abundance of their wealth and resources for military research and armaments, instead of addressing the resolvable socio-economic problems with far extending implications, and reaching out to those far less fortunate countries and their desperately poor citizens.
Fishing accounts for a fair share of the GNP in most of these countries (4% in Sri Lanka) yet, the conditions under which these producers have to live is a scandal that should impel serious thinking among the development policy framers in the countries concerned, and the international donor countries and agencies.
The fishing villages that dot the coastline are rooted in a culture and traditions that go far back into the distant past. Any comprehensive plans drawn up for their rehabilitation must necessarily address the multiplicity of economic, social, and cultural factors that have supported them through the years and must be recognised.
It is inadvisable to barter them for any sort of political expediency or, the convenience of the "metropols" without suffering the emergence of a new set of problems later in time.
Nature's tsunami took away a large number of innocent people of all races and religions within a few minutes, while the perennial economic tsunami of poverty condemns millions of people to the misery of prolonged and slow deaths. These tragedies somehow escape the focus and attention of the powerful Western media which however, through the coverage of the December, 26th tsunami, opened the floodgates of human compassion and generosity. Why wasn't the deep anguish, the depth and magnitude of billions of people wallowing in the uncertainty of their next meal, of hunger, starvation, and death, similarly monitored and shown on the TV screens; Question mark.
The countries that were severely affected by the tsunami are located in South Asia, one of the most deprived regions of the world where the people face degrading and dehumanising poverty. According to World Bank estimates, it has a per capita GNP of approximately US $ 310, which is less than one fifth of that obtained by the industrialised rich countries.
Unsurprisingly, out of population of 1.2 billion which is equal to one fifth (1/5th) of humanity, nearly 500 million people live in absolute poverty. Here, it must not be forgotten that the countries in this region once justly proud of their heritage of the Indus Valley civilisation suffered economically, socially, and culturally for decades under the tutelage of colonial rule.
The adult literacy rate in South Asia is 46%, the lowest in the world with more - Children reported to be out of school than the rest of the world. About 260 million people, equal approximately to the total population of the United States, lack access to basic healthcare that can prevent increasing health disorders; 337 million people do not have safe drinking water; 830 million people do not have even rudimentary sanitation facilities; and, 400 million people go hungry to bed.
What does hunger mean to those who have not suffered it? To a grandmother in Transkei, South Africa, who supports her grandchildren on a small pension, it means that she has nothing at all to fill the empty stomach of her grandchildren. In her own words, "I boil water, and hope the children fall a sleep before they know there is no food in the water."
In order to grasp what the pain and agony means to the 400 million people in South Asia one has to suffer it or, depend on the experiences of other. Novelist, Richard Wright who experienced hunger during his early life thus describes in his own words:
"Hunger stole upon me so slowly that at first I was not aware of what hunger really meant. Hunger had always been more or less at my elbow when I played, but now I began to wake up at night to find hunger standing at my bedside, staring at me gauntly.
The hunger I had known before this had been no grim, hostile, stranger; it had been a normal hunger that had made me beg constantly for bread, and when I ate a crust or two I was satisfied. But this new hunger baffled me, scared me, made me angry and insistent.
"Whenever I begged for food now my mother would pour me a cup of tea which would still the clamour in my stomach for a moment or two; but a little later, I would feel hunger nudging my ribs, twisting my empty guts until They ached. I would grow dizzy and my vision would dim. I became less active in my play and for the first time in my life I had to pause and think what was happening to me."
Just as novelist, Richard Wright," paused and thought of what was happening to him", after the exposure of the tsunami disaster, the international community and particularly the rich countries, need to look at the damage done by the hidden economic tsunamies of scandalous persistent poverty. To be honest, it might be necessary to come to grips with the simple fact and realisation that poverty is not the real problem, but rather, that the real problem is the division of mankind into rich and poor within countries and between nations.
It has resulted in creating gaps that must be closed, not as an option, but as a necessity. There are strong reasons for bridging the economic faultlines not only to ensure a violence-free world, but also because it is an ethical, social, political and moral imperative to do so.
There has to be a comprehensive review of the whole raft of questionable assumptions of economic models, with the emphasis on people-centred development strategies.
There is an urgent need to look critically at the decisions taken by multilateral and aid agencies that set the context in which the poor suffer and starve; and, the world's financial apparatus and its mechanisms, and how the complexity with which finance is used to exploit men and women. Otherwise, the perennial economic tsunamies will continue with increasing severity and the tectonic plates between the haves and have nots will erupt into global unrest.
Former, World Bank President, Dr. Barber Constable made these remarks some time ago on the cliches of humanitarians, aid givers, and politicians.
"Our institution is mighty in resources and experience, but its labour will count for nothing, if we cannot look at our world through the eyes of the most underprivileged, if we cannot share their hopes and their fears"
It was a frail body packed with more power than any of the G-8 world figures, an unelected spokes woman of the poor, that boldly carried the simple yet compelling message," Poverty is neither noble nor acceptable, social justice does not automatically follow fitful economic development."
That woman was Mother Theresa of Calcutta, who dared to obliquely indict the international community and multilateral development organisations whose billions of dollars went back to the aid-giving so-called donors, lined the pockets of bureaucrats, while hardly effecting any structural changes that would once and for all lift the poor from their suffering and despair.
"For those who are hungry,God is bread". Mahatma Gandhi, 1946.
Islandwide survey by NHDA
The District Offices of NHDA, including Northern and Eastern provinces will collect details of manufacturers of building materials and their products along with the details related to manufacturing technology, standards maintained and problems encountered by them. The NHDA while passing on the information received to the District Offices, organizations and individuals engaged in Relief Housing Program in tsunami affected areas, hopes to find remedial measures to resolve the problems faced by the manufacturers.
By the survey concurrently being carried out on skilled labour it is expected to identify the availability of skilled labour in the trades of masonry, carpentry, plumbing, electrical, welding etc. related to construction industry and to harness their skills for the Housing Program for the tsunami affected. According to NHDA, around 10,500 skilled tradesmen have already been identified.
The, NHDA requests all building material manufacturers and skilled persons who are desirous of being registered under this program to provide their information to the district offices of NHDA.
Further details on this program could be obtained from the Deputy General Manager (Rural Housing and District Management) of National Housing Development Authority Head office at Sir Chittampalam A. Gardiner Mawatha, Colombo 02."
Foreign Investment and Development: Who Gains?
This Development Gateway Special Report examines:
1) Strategies to attract foreign investment and simultaneously strengthen the domestic private sector.
2) Accountability for protecting people and the environment.
3) Creating win-win business models for investments in markets comprised of the poor.
See our interviews with distinguished leaders from the private sector, government and civil society and must reads on practical approaches to the issues raised. January 24, 2005"
The full report
Coconut frond thatches produce cooler shelters
Tamil Rehabilitation Organization (TRO), an NGO registered with Government of Sri Lanka and working exclusively in the NorthEast, has introduced shelters made of thatched roofs from coconut fronds in Vaththirayan and other coastal towns affected by Tsunamai much to the relief of the displaced seeking refuge in shelters. The new constructions are cooler and provide natural ventilation suitable for the hot and humid climate in most of Sri Lanka's NorthEast coastal villages. TRO is planning to build about 10,000 of these type of shelters and has asked the expatriate donors to stop sending expensive tents from western countries. In the first few weeks after the tsunami hundreds of tents were brought to the disaster areas by the International NGOs and the TRO. Most of these were made of material that is plastic or tarpaulin, which were hardy and withstood weather and wind, but were too hot to provide a comfortable living environment. Further, majority of the tents were designed for camping in organized parks in the West and were built to shield campers from cold temperatures." Read More
The Relationship Between Energy And Poverty
Energy plays an critical role in in reducing poverty and fuelling economic growth.
The Dutch Minister for Development Cooperation, Agnes van Ardenne, and the Dutch Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment, Pieter van Geel, discuss the importance of energy in the developing world, and its role in reducing poverty and fuelling economic growth. The Netherlands played hosted the international conference Energy for Development (E4D) on 12, 13 and 14 December 2004. The conference was jointly sponsored by the Dutch Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the environment (VROM), the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Business Council on Sustainable Development (WBCSD). The aim of the organizers was discuss the essential role energy plays in the alleviation of poverty in the developing world, and to engage governments, industry and the financial sector in energy-related dialogue. " Read More
A Sitrep from Sri Lanka (11 Feb)
- The Sri Lankan administration does not have the capacity and the skill to handle the present crisis.
- The administration is moving at a very slow pace, where as the needs are very urgent and need fast action.
- Donors need proposals (concrete project proposals) in a matter of one or two days and the administration is unable to cater to this need.
- A number of donor agencies, foreign teams, NGOs are working independently, without consulting the relevant authorities. The latter too turn a blind eye, because they do not want to block the flow of foreign aid on one hand and, because they do not have concrete reconstruction plans at the village level, on the other. For example, I was recently asked to join the Minister of Fisheries for a discussion with a team of Belgians, headed by the Deputy Minister of Defense (Security). They said that they were trying to help rebuilding a village called Mirissa, in the Matara District of Sri Lanka and they told the Minister that they were going to distribute some boat engines to people of this village on the following day and invited the Minister to attend the ceremony. This is a clear example of how things happen without the knowledge of the relevant authorities. Such action, if not properly monitored, is sure to increase the level of fishing effort in the already overexploited coastal fisheries sub-sector.
- There is no particular section or unit in the Ministry to guide foreign teams, who are storming into the country. It is necessary to establish such a unit with the participation of not only Ministry Officials but also some senior researchers and academics. Many of the officials hardly possess any command of diplomatically dealing with foreign teams.6. The professionals of the country are still not active in helping the country in the rebuilding and the reconstruction process. It is also true that the government has never mentioned the need to mobilize the country’s professionals.
Sea and jungle life bounce back from the tsunami's battering
Sri Lanka professionals discuss post-tsunami housing strategies
Kothmale Community Radio & Internet
How to implement the introduction of English medium instruction in public schools?
"From kindergarten onwards, the archaic approach to teaching English was to teach writing, reading, grammar, composition, and so on. Yes, this is the approach we inherited from our colonial rulers. In England, this is how they taught English to children whose mother tongue was English. Our colonial rulers applied the same instructional methods in Ceylon. Our teachers in Sri Lanka continued to follow the same instructional approach. It works with children who are exposed to English language from their childhood, but it does not work with students who are not exposed to the language from their childhood. For them, this approach did not work, does not work, and will not work. Facts speak for themselves.
At the higher education level, regular classes were scheduled for teaching of English. Most of my undergraduate colleagues had the desire to learn English. Nevertheless, teaching strategies heavily relied on the same archaic approach. During my undergraduate days, I had to follow an English Intensive Course (EIC). I am sure many of our generation would be familiar with the type of course I am referring here.
I have no doubt that those who were in charge of designing instructional strategies and materials for teaching EICs did the best they could. I have no doubt the instructors who taught those classes did their best. Teaching emphasis was on reading, deciphering, dictation, grammar, and writing. Yes, at the University of Ceylon, we regurgitated those lessons starting with, "Ice melts," "Dogs bark" etc. But, we didn't learn English in any meaningful manner. It was an utter failure. As I was following the course of studies for the Bachelor of Commerce degree, I had no alternative but to improve my reading and comprehension skills because we heavily relied on English textbooks.
Through perseverance, I developed my reading skills well and I put them into good use. Although I could read and comprehend well any textbook in my area of specialty, I could hardly speak or write well in English. At least in my undergraduate days, my colleagues had no sympathy for those who tried to learn to speak English. During my post graduate studies in England, I learned and improved my speaking and writing skills. This is my experience. I have no doubt that I am not the only person to go through this experience as many of my contemporaries and the younger generation must have had similar experiences. My experience guides this simple proposal. I will try to put this in the simplest form I can.
Let me pose this question? How do the young ones lean a language? We all seem to have forgotten this fact! Let us reminisce over this. The young ones listen. They follow the sound. They observe the movement of lips and other facial expressions. They imitate. They start with sounds like: ma, tha, ya, and so on. As they become toddlers, they improve these skills through a process of listening and repetition and expand their repertoire of activities related to speaking. So, what do they learn first in a language?
The answer is, speaking. Yes, the answer is speaking not writing, reading, grammar, composition, and so on. Let me also allude to a universal fact. Any child will learn any language to which she or he is exposed to from the child's birth. No child ever speaks a language at the time of her or his birth. Universally all children first learn to speak a language to which they are exposed to. Through schooling, they learn writing, reading, grammar, composition, and so on. This is a universal truth. Then, why can't we apply this universal truth to teaching English to students who are not exposed to the language of English? This approach places major emphasis on the development of speaking skills. Now the question is how do we implement this approach? My instant gut reaction is, "If there is a will, there is a way."
I have no doubt in my mind that the current effort to introduce English medium instruction in our schools bounds to fail if we continue to use the failed, archaic approach to teaching English. It is not wise for us to hide our heads in the sand if we know that we are bound for failure. Some misguided mind may think and advise that access for higher education through swabasha media has created unlimited and uncontrollable opportunities for the rural children and therefore the solution is to introduce English medium instruction in a hap-hazard manner--in effect, an introduction of a very cleaver controlling mechanism, a gate-keeping mechanism.
This is criminal thinking, pure and simple! No country can afford to withstand failures of educational reform. We have witnessed the dire consequences of such failures during the last three decades. There is no point in implementing “reforms” in a hap hazard manner knowingly or unknowingly. Because of what is at stake we must think of effective strategies and approaches to implement reforms. There are many issues and logistical aspects that need careful consideration. I touch on some aspects of implementing this approach. (I am not an expert in teaching of English. We need to get some expert advice on designing instructional materials needed. Many of the steps delineated below are relevant and needed on a short-term basis.) More
Science Ministers of Cuba and Sri Lanka Meet in Havana
Tsunamis and urgent environmental issues: OCHA assessment and the EFL response
Rebuilding Fisheries Livelihoods in Sri Lanka
For a complete list of their activities and resources for post-Tsunami re-building and planning please follow this link.
INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON ENERGY, ENVIRONMENT AND DISASTERS (INCEED 2005)
CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA, USA July 24 - 30, 2005" Call for Papers
Reducing solid waste and groundwater contamination after the tsunami
Galle city expansion master plan
‘Tsunami’ of Expats Creating Worries for Lanka
Cleaning wells and renewing lives
NO WAY TO MONITOR TSUNAMI RICH
Millions of rupees raised by various organizations & individuals for Tsunami were in danger of being Siphoned-off due to the absence of regulations to monitor their financial operations unless special regulations are introduced soonMany NGOS organizations individuals raised funds to assist victims locally & internationally. Some millions could be pocketed by them submitting bogus cost estimates & various other methods ……………….. More
Post-tsunami reconstruction: From a town planning perspective by Prof Ashley L S Perera
Agro-psychosocial program for tsunami affected
World Dialogue on Regulation
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