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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, February 19, 2005

Guidelines for Temporary Shelters and Cluster Settlements

Ministry of Housing and Constructin Industry & EPEID - Govenment of Sri Lanka: "A set of Guidelines has been developed by the Ministry for the erecting of temporary camps for planning, design, and implementation of cluster housing settlements." The guidelines for the construction of temporary shelters can be downloaded by following this link and the guidelines for cluster houses can be downloaded by following this link.

Transit camp designs
Department of buildings
NHDA
CHPB

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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:

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Losses in fisheries and aquaculture climb to $520 million - recovery efforts underway

ReliefWeb � Document Preview � : "Getting rehabilitation right To help that effort, FAO has produced a framework strategy for the rehabilitation of fisheries and aquaculture in the tsunami zone which it hopes will help contribute to sustainable and responsible fishing in the region as the sector gets back on its feet. 'We should not re-create one of the major problems within fisheries prior to the tsunami: over-capacity in the coastal fisheries,' said Mr Turner. 'To simplify, that means too many boats, too much fishing effort. We must ensure that we do not surpass the level of fishing capacity that was there before the disaster.' The framework provides recommendations on a number of other issues, including: making sure that leadership of fisheries and aquaculture rehabilitation comes from the governments and fishing communities in the affected countries; relies on local craftsmen and suppliers as much as possible, and; respects local needs and sensibilities and focuses on people and their livelihoods. Fishers in the region affected by the tsunami use gear that is specialised to match local fish stocks, sea conditions and customs, and FAO is stressing that it is important that any equipment brought in or donated from overseas match those requirements. "

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ISO 14001 - A road map to prevent pollution

Online edition of Daily News - Features: "by Dr. Lalith Senaweera
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.
Preventive approach
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."

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Tsunami and our forgotten disasters

Online edition of Daily News - Features: " by Wg. Cdr. C.A.O. Dirckze (S.L.A.F.Retd.)
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.

"Analysis".

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.

Evaluation.

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."

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National water resources policy - why can't we achieveconsensus?

Daily News February 11 2005:by Rajindra de S. Ariyabandu
Gathering to collect one of the most precious of natural resources
In spite of having over 50 legislative enactments and40 institutions dealing with the subject of water,there is no single piece of legislation to rationallymanage and allocate water resources in Sri Lanka. Withabundance of water, there was no great need for SriLanka to manage water use.However, this presumption is fast fading away withmore spatial and temporal distribution of rain andincreased competition among users.Available water for human consumption is fastdeteriorating with increased demand from other wateruse sectors and rapid uncontrolled pollution of waterresources.While legislation exists to mitigate most of theproblems related to water, they are scattered amongdifferent departments and institutions, confusing thepublic and diluting responsibility.Thus, it is imperative that there should be acomprehensive water resources policy and a legislationto help the public and improve effectiveness of waterresources utilization.While all this is very well understood and accepted bythe civil society, the process adopted to formulatethe water policy was heavily criticized. The processbegan as far back as 1996.In response to ADB funded technical assistance projecton 'Institutional Assessment of Comprehensive WaterResources Management', the government of Sri Lankadecided to establish a Water Resources Council (WRC)and a technical secretariat, the Water ResourcesSecretariat (WRS).Cabinet approved establishment of the two institutionsin July 1995. As water is a cross cutting theme,functional responsibility of WRC and WRS was given tothe National Planning Department (NPD) under theMinistry of Finance.WRC was an advisory body consisting of number ofSecretaries to line ministries dealing with thesubject of water, departmental and institutional headsrelated to water management, academics andrepresentatives of NGOs and farmer organisations.WRC was considered to be the supreme body responsiblefor making decision on water related issues. WRS wasthe technical secretariat assigned to carry out dutiesdirected by WRC.Water Resources Secretariat was a small organizationwith a Director and five deputy directors secondedfrom relevant organizations dealing with water.WRS was a temporary institution established to assistformulation of a National Water Resources Policy andan enabling legislation. Process of policy formulationwas through a series of consultation on guidance ofthe Water Resources Council.WRC was responsible for obtaining Cabinet andparliamentary approval for policy and legislationrespectively. With these objectives, the twoorganizations worked in tandem with good understandingbetween them. WRS was supported by the AsianDevelopment Bank, FAO and Government of Netherlands.Provisions available allowed WRS to obtain theservices of foreign and local consultants in theprocess of policy formulation. During the period from1996 to 2000 a large number of stakeholderconsultations were held to facilitate the policyformulation process.As a result of consultations and working within thegroup, a draft 'National Water Resources Policy andInstitutional Arrangement' was submitted to theCabinet. On 28th March 2000, Cabinet approved thedraft water policy.This opened up one of the most contentious debates on'management' of natural resources in Sri Lanka. Therelatively debate-free and fast Cabinet approval forthe water policy can be attributed to theresponsibility and commitment expressed by the thenMinistry of Finance.Subsequently, the responsibility of implementing thewater policy changed many times, with changes in theCabinet, government changes and changes in functionsamong Ministers.The sequence of responsibility changed from theMinistry of Finance, to Ministry of Water ResourcesManagement, Ministry of Irrigation and WaterManagement, Ministry of Water Management, Ministry ofPolicy Development and Implementation, Ministry ofAgriculture, Livestock, Lands and Irrigation, Ministryof River Basin Development, Mahaweli Development andRajarata Development and finally, Presidential TaskForce.One could well imagine the fate of this policy with amultitude of ministries responsible within a shortperiod of four years. Quick succession of Ministrieswith a varying bureaucracy delayed the process ofpolicy implementation. Rapid turn over of Ministriescreated two conditions.Firstly, it gave no time for the bureaucracy tounderstand the contents and implications ofimplementing the water policy and secondly, it gave no'ownership' to the policy.Therefore, the bureaucracy was ill prepared to defendpolicy contents in front of a better informed and aknowledgeable public. Situation was further aggravatedby the political hierarchy. They did not allow theprofessionals to defend some of the issues raised bythe public.Politicians always feared that any form of explanationon water policy would be detrimental to theirpolitical existence. As a result most revisions anddiscussions were held behind close doors without muchcivil society participation.Recent attempt by the Government to obtain approvalfor the revised water policy is a case in point. Asimilar process was followed in submitting the 'WaterServices Reforms bill' to the Parliament without anypublic debate. Results again were the same; SupremeCourt rejected the Bill and referred back for furtherconsultation.These are lessons we should learn from history.Formulation of policy or legislation for an oversensitized issue like water should be more open andtransparent.Though the role of Water Resources Council (WRC) wasadvisory, it functioned more like a consultationforum. The initial interest and momentum of WRC waslost when the policy formulation process was slow inmeeting desired results.WRC meetings became irregular and key members optedout of participation. Weakening of WRC gave moreresponsibility to Water Resources Secretariat. In myopinion this was one of the cardinal mistakes in thepolicy formulation process.Being unable to conceptualize the policy formulationprocess and role of institutions, Water ResourcesSecretariat (WRS) was allowed to take leadership bydefault. Created as a technical secretariat to WRC,Water Resource Secretariat did not have the mandate orauthority to decide on formulation of policy andlegislation.However, due to the political vacuum, WRS had to takethe leadership to meet donor covenants.This situation was further complicated in 2001, when adecision was taken to recruit additional professionalstaff including a Director General and Directors tomanage the 'Water Resources Management Project' (WRMP)through the Water Resources Secretariat. (ADB agreedto provide technical assistance for capacity buildingthrough WRMP).A significant mistake at this stage was to impose uponan "Interim National Water Resources Authority" toco-exist with WRS. In my opinion this arrangement wasmade to legitimize recruitments of professional andproject staff.The Cabinet emorandum dated 13th December 2000,clearly mentions that WRMP will be implemented throughthe Water Resources Secretariat/National WaterResources Authority (NWRA). Memorandum also statesthat Water Resources Secretariat will be replaced byNWRA by December 2001.There was no mention to an 'Interim Authority' and ADBsupport was for capacity building of NWRA and partnerorganization staff in water resources management.However, in the absence of any clear conceptualthinking, the WRS continued to be maintained withadditional professional and managerial staff. In theprocess of operation from 2001 to date, WRS has beenthe key player in policy formulation and preparationof draft legislation.Over the same period from 2001 to 2004, there had beenthree governments with different interests on waterresources management. While some politicians andbureaucracy disowned the policy others opted to makeuse of it to build their own empires.Both these approaches did not favour smooth process ofpolicy formulation. WRS remained the only organizationwith continuity in the policy formulation process.Hence, WRS functioned as the 'owner' of the NationalWater Resources Policy as well as the 'Secretariat' tovarious committees and political directions. This dualrole did not favour sustainability of WRS or thepolicy formulation process.WRS had to 'produce' number of 'draft policies' and'bills' to satisfy political interests. As at presentone could count upto 20 drafts of the water policy andover 8 drafts of the Water Resources Bill.This adds to the confusion of public and media alike.If one had been following the current debate on therevised water 'policy', there is a confusion amongsome key ministers, who refer to the current draftpolicy as the draft Bill.On the other hand, media itself is referring to manydifferent 'drafts' of the policy (both Sinhala andEnglish). Issue becomes more complicated as thereseems to be copies of the Sinhala policy, which do notcoincide with the English version of the draft. Allthis indicate a lack of conceptualization andprofessionalism in the policy formulation process.

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Friday, February 18, 2005

A handbook for proper housing and more

There are many documents and articles that describe proper post-tsunami housing re-construction strategies in a very broad sense. An important theme in all of these documents is that proper strategy can achieve much more than mere cost effective housing. For instance they discuss how the process itself can be used to provide temporary employment, a sense of belonging and a sense of community among many other things. However there are many organizations and individuals interested and involved in housing re-construction projects who are either unaware of these ideas or are unable to use it for the lack of details and proper guidance. For example I am at least aware of two small organizations, interested in spending something around US $100,000 on building houses, whose idea of cost effective housing is to find the cheapest housing plan and the cheapest contractor availbale. When I talked about some of the afore referred ideas with them, I got the impression that I was not giving them sufficient details to be of any use. Therefore I wonder if there is a way of coming up with some guidelines in the form of a manual or ''toolkit'' for proper housing that will be imense help to such people.

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A Different Way to Build

The Gateway Tuesday, 15 February, 2005 Volume XCIV Issue 34: "HOWEVER, there is another way to build, one which does almost everything right. The buildings themselves are naturally efficient, they can be incredibly cheap, and they outperform many conventional materials as fire retardants, as insulators, as sound barriers, in their ability to bear loads and stresses, and in the feeling they give their inhabitants. They use natural, non-toxic, degradable, locally available materials, many of which are a surplus or by-product of other industries.

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

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A journey through tsunami-hit Southern villages

Online Daily News; by Indeewara Thilakarathne
Once famed for its natural beauty, the village of Kosgoda stands forlorn and helpless. In some places the waves had traveled up to half a kilometer inland, destroying almost every object they met. AbayaSriwardanaramaya in Thalgahapitiya, Kosgoda is a temple, which had been harshly damaged by the tsunami. The Viharadhipathi of the temple, Ven. Kosgoda Vajirabodhi thero sitting on a rickety chair in the Sanghavasaya, the partly survived building in the temple, laments that he could not continue with the social work he carried out as most parts of the temple were swept to the ground by the waves. " The library of the temple that contains invaluable books and the hall where the Dhamma School for about 364 students was conducted has been reduced to rubble by the tsunami. Now we even cannot live in the Dharma Shalawa, we stay in neighbours houses and live on donations and dry rations as the devotees could not themselves provide us with food and there are eight novices with us in the temple", he said. There were about thirty tsunami refugees who either stayed with their neighbours or relatives who came to the tsunami-ravaged temple to get food and donations that were being distributed there.
The Viharadhipathi further says that a well-known thug in the area had threatened him with death and though he had lodged a complaint with the Kosgoda Police, no action so far has been taken to apprehend the thug who roamed freely in the area. He said that the motive was to evict the Bhikkhus from the temple premises. "There are some groups who engaged in looting and we, bhikkhus in the temple, were also threatened by a group of thugs when a group of 50 volunteers came from Elpitiya to clear up the rubble. One Wasana, who is also known as Indula, is the thug who threatened us wielding a knife. Though a novice Bhikkhu complained to the police on January 30, about the incident, police has not taken any action to arrest him," said the Viharadhipathi.
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.

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The man-made perennial tsunami: poverty

Online edition of Daily News - Features: "by Dr. Mervyn D. de Silva

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.

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Islandwide survey by NHDA

Online edition of Daily News - News: "The National Housing Development Authority (NHDA) has commenced an islandwide survey on locally available building material manufacturers and skilled labour in view of the material and labour required for the massive reconstruction program for tsunami affected houses.
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."

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Foreign Investment and Development: Who Gains?

Foreign investment and Development - Special Report - Development Gateway: "Foreign investment can be a key building block in development, yet controversial questions abound.

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

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Coconut frond thatches produce cooler shelters

TamilNet: 17.02.05 Coconut frond thatches produce cooler shelters: "[TamilNet, February 17, 2005 11:51 GMT]
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

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Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Relationship Between Energy And Poverty

PLANETIZEN: News Details: "Dec 18, 2004, 05:00 am PST, Contributed by Becky Russell
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

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A Sitrep from Sri Lanka (11 Feb)

Tsunami 2004 India: Relief, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction - Reports from field: "This is a small note giving basically the fundamental problems faced both by the fishing populations along the eastern and southern coasts of Sri Lanka and the fisheries administrators in rebuilding the sector. I am also a victim of Tsunami and I am unable furnish a detailed description of all what is happening around me, but would like to share some of the issues that might be of importance to all of us affected by the Tsunami of December 2004."
................ However, several deficiencies in the implementation of the said programme could be noticed, which bare enumerated below.
  1. The Sri Lankan administration does not have the capacity and the skill to handle the present crisis.
  2. The administration is moving at a very slow pace, where as the needs are very urgent and need fast action.
  3. Donors need proposals (concrete project proposals) in a matter of one or two days and the administration is unable to cater to this need.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
More

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Sea and jungle life bounce back from the tsunami's battering

News: "'The good news is that damage to the reefs we studied from the tsunami was low but the bad news is that unless we clean up the debris left behind there will be further damage,' he said." Read More

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Sri Lanka professionals discuss post-tsunami housing strategies

IStructE - The Institution of Structural Engineers: "People�s participation in housing construction was important for developing a sense of ownership, stressed Dr Asoka Perera (Moratuwa University). He advocated the use of non-traditional building materials, such as his own cement � soil blocks and slipform walls � pioneered by the National Engineering Research & Development (NERD) Centre. It is not economically feasible to try to make every item of infrastructure tsunami-proof, warned the the Chairman, Dr A.C. Visvalingam (Past President). Summing up, he advised that the suddenness, unexpectedness and scale of the tsunami attack should not close the eyes of policy-makers and designers to the rarity of this type of disaster. It would be more prudent to work with nature by moving all inessential structures further into the interior, wherever reasonably possible, and to protect the shoreline with suitable vegetation. He suggested that all buildings should be designed to resist medium-level earthquakes and cyclones. It was imperative that every population centre had a centrallylocated, robust, well-constructed building of adequate height into which people could move rapidly when expecting floods, cyclones, earthquakes and tsunamis. He reminded delegates that an extensive advisory document had been produced after the 1978 cyclone but most of its recommendations had been forgotten or were being observed in the breach." Read More

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Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Kothmale Community Radio & Internet

PILOT PROJECT:The Kothmale Community Radio and Internet Project in Sri Lanka, implemented by UNESCO, was a pilot experiment to develop a suitable access model to address concerns related to rural access and content barriers. The Kothmale project effectively used community radio as an interface between the community and the internet through a pioneering Radio Web Browsing model. In essence Radio Web Browsing introduced indirect mass access to cyberspace through a daily one-hour interactive radio programme broadcast by Kothmale Community Radio in Sri Lanka’s Central Province. More

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How to implement the introduction of English medium instruction in public schools?

LankaWeb News: by DR.Gunapala Edirisooriya.
"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

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Science Ministers of Cuba and Sri Lanka Meet in Havana

Science Ministers of Cuba and Sri Lanka Meet in Havana - Prensa Latina: "Havana, Feb 14 (Prensa Latina) The Minister of Science and Technology of Sri Lanka, Prof. Tissa Vitarana, held an interview with his Cuban counterpart, Dr. Fernando Gonzalez, acting minister for Science, Technology and Environment (CITMA). At the meeting, the visitor conveyed his country's wishes to develop biotechnology in cooperation with Cuba that makes a good use of human resources, something his country has not achieved yet. The visiting minister stressed on the importance of developing this field and implementing its achievements which he confirmed in saying that '�unfortunately some politicians rather import technology than develop their own potentials'. Just to mention an example, Sri Lanka barely invested 0.18% the domestic budget in technical advancement in 2001 while India or Singapour allocated 1% or 2% the GDP. Still, we wish to share with Cuba our modest achievements the field of renewable energy. "

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Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Tsunamis and urgent environmental issues: OCHA assessment and the EFL response

ReliefWeb, UNDAC Rapid Environmental Assessment in the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka: "Acute environmental impacts with immediate effects on human lives and direct relevance to humanitarian response efforts can be expected in the face of such a disaster. The Joint UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit (Joint Unit), integrated in the Emergency Services Branch of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), is the principal United Nations mechanism mandated to assist countries facing environmental emergencies. The Joint Unit is supporting Rapid Environmental Assessments (REA) in the region, in collaboration with the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) teams mobilized to assist national and international response to the tsunami crisis. The objective of the REA is to identify acute environmental issues with immediate implications for human lives and response efforts, and based on this, to provide humanitarian and other partners with effective support and analysis. In Sri Lanka, the REA identified: No major life-threatening environmental emergencies resulting from the tsunami; Urgent environmental concerns related to the management of tsunami debris, and sewage and sanitation issues in locations where displaced people are being offered emergency shelter; Coordination issues and re-mapping needs; and, Longer-term environmental issues that, while not the focus of this report, do require further attention. Full report (pdf* format - 11.3 MB)"
The critical response by the Environmental Foundation Ltd. Can be down loaded here.

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Rebuilding Fisheries Livelihoods in Sri Lanka

The Intermediate Technology Development Group (ITDG) proposes to use its experience in the fisheries sector to work with the national level rebuilding programmes as well as isolated efforts by NGOs and local organisations to rebuild small scale fishing. A draft of their concept paper can be found here.

For a complete list of their activities and resources for post-Tsunami re-building and planning please follow this link.

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INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON ENERGY, ENVIRONMENT AND DISASTERS (INCEED 2005)

INCEED 2005 - Charlotte, NC, USA: "Bridging the Gaps for Global Sustainable Development (UNESCO � ISEG � GADR)
CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA, USA July 24 - 30, 2005" Call for Papers

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Reducing solid waste and groundwater contamination after the tsunami

Online edition of Daily News - Features By Geethanjalie Selvendran, P.G., (Florida) and Catherine Mulvey (Columbia University) :"If solid waste is not managed properly now, harmful effects such as groundwater contamination from debris will pose great threats for Sri Lanka's drinking water source and to human health. In the immediate aftermath of the tsunami, the first priority lay in the rescue and recovery of its citizens. Now, over a month after the disaster, the wreckage is being cleared and preventative measures in the management of solid waste are needed to minimize contamination of grondwater sources. Potable water sources are at risk; we fear contamination is inevitable due to the enormity of the destruction and the required cleanup effort. however, immediate action to take the first steps towards proper solid waste handling will make a significant difference in keeping drinking water clean. These proper waste handling practices include the separation, removal, recycling, and safe storage of both vegetative and non-vegetative debris. " More

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Galle city expansion master plan

Online edition of Daily News - News: "The boundaries of the new city in the master plan would extend from Gintota to Unawatuna. The 100 metre rule would be strictly adhered to. The Galle railway station and the main bus station would be at Richmond Hill. The Galle railway station which is an old Dutch museum would be maintained and preserved as the first railway museum in Sri Lanka and it would be unique because Sri Lanka possesses all the railway engine models from the first to the latest. On a 50 acre land at Mattegoda would be the Galle Sports Complex and adjoining it would be the first private airport that is being designed and done by the Minister for Aviation and Ports, Mangala Samaraweera. From the Gintota river will be a corridor of learning with an ocean science university, information technology park which will embrace the existing Engineering Faculty and the Medical Faculty at Karapitiya. The Dutch prison building will be used as the world's first jail hotel. The prison will be shifted to Boossa. "

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‘Tsunami’ of Expats Creating Worries for Lanka

Sri Lanka news updated 24 hours day: The Lanka Academic, a newspaper published by Lanka Academic Network: "A government official said that the country was not against any real experts coming in to the country to do genuine work but, was not pleased about expatriates coming to the island to do jobs when local expertise was available freely. He said �It is also good for experts to come and train local people and then hand over responsibilities to them. We are worried that the money which is due to the country will go back as salaries to these experts and if that is happening its not fair by the country and by the people who donated the money to help the affected people in these countries� There is also a call by many expert Sri Lankans to recruit Sri Lankan experts, others and even Sri Lankan professionals living abroad to ensure that money is retained in the country. "

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Cleaning wells and renewing lives

TheStar.com - Cleaning wells and renewing lives: "Our team builds a clinic in the newly formed village of Sakkuday. It will be used by local health-care workers to care for the new village and its inhabitants. We seek the help of settlers and land-mine clearance personnel to build the structure. This helps build a greater sense of community. The men and women who build this clinic will know they have helped forge their own community. Empowerment is a strong word. When disaster strikes, people want to rebuild. It helps them to cope with their loss and look toward a new goal. Victor Menkal, our water sanitation engineer, is elbow deep in dirty wells in the village of Kallady. He literally grabs five local villagers and teaches them how to clean a well. We provide sludge pumps, generator, water pumps and water purification chemicals. They move on to another well. The curious join in and the group grows. Well after well, the team grows and eventually forms smaller teams. They clean their own wells for their families. Heads of families demand their sons work with us to clean their neighbours' wells. Soon we are operating at a five-team capacity, each team cleaning 16 wells a day. The water engineer performs quality assurance checks. More equipment and chemicals are needed. We source these locally. Within a week, 480 wells are clean. We hire a local businessman named Krishna to carry on our work and co-ordinate the cleaning. The wells are prioritized in order to get the maximum benefit. Communal village wells are the first priority, followed by temple wells, then private wells. No one is denying their neighbour access to their cleaned water."

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Monday, February 14, 2005

NO WAY TO MONITOR TSUNAMI RICH

By Jayantha Sri Nissanka Published in Sunday Obsever 13th Feb. 2005.
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

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Post-tsunami reconstruction: From a town planning perspective by Prof Ashley L S Perera

Online edition of Sunday Observer - Business: "However, the government's efforts to put on track the reconstruction phase in the tsunami ravaged coastal areas, seem to have met with some obstacles, primarily due to the absence of an integrated planning approach. The government's planning agencies appear to have failed to respond in a meaningful way thus leading to this vacuum. The rather vague perception of the spatial dimension by the State bureaucracy has further contributed to this confusion. Most national level institutions in Sri Lanka generally focus on the sectoral composition of the economy and the spatial dimension is often considered a constant factor in their analyses. Consequently despite the efforts of the media to focus on the devastation location wise. State officials only speak in terms of the sectoral impact. "

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Agro-psychosocial program for tsunami affected

Online edition of Sunday Observer - Business: "Western Province Agriculture Department has launched a special program to mitigate mental and physical drawbacks of tsunami affected people. The program is based on agricultural and psychological strategies while facilitating self-development activities. The program which includes agricultural activities ensuring them long term benefits would initiate from Bentota to Negombo. Provincial Department of Agriculture Director Dr. T.T. Ranasinghe said that their intention was to assist the tsunami affected people with some rehabilitation and reconstruction of economic, social and environment damages. According to Dr. Ranasinghe training on small scale value added processes in food processing technology for efficient fish produce and initiation of Plant Protein Food Crop cultivations in urban homesteads will be the priorities. Establishment of mushroom cultivations as leisure activities and expansion of home gardening activities will also be combined into the program. Agriculture Department also plans to provide training for GCE O/L qualified youth on Vocational Agriculture while providing necessary directions for small and medium scale agro-entrepreneurship and career guidance emphasisng on sustainable development. Introduction of efficient firewood stoves which enables the reduction of fire wood consumption in households, etc. will also be a nother aspect that will be included "

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Sunday, February 13, 2005

World Dialogue on Regulation

World Dialogue on Regulation: "Upon invitation of the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), development practitioners and policy makers met in Chennai, India, from 17-19 November 2004, for a workshop to review experiences in Asia and Africa in the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) for poverty reduction. In order to provide an input into the preparatory processes of the World Summit of the Information Society (WSIS), Poverty Reduction Strategies and the Millennium+5 Summit, the participants decided to compile some key conclusions and recommendations in a statement. The purpose of the Chennai Statement is to stimulate the ICT debate from a clearly poverty-focused perspective.
Download the statement (PDF)"

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