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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, March 12, 2005

Regional Meeting on Post Tsunami People Centered Recovery Process

Survivors Dialogue: " 11-13 March 2005, Colombo, Sri Lanka.
A regional meeting to enable tsunami survivors to explain their needs and strengthen community-driven recovery process is scheduled to be held from 11 to 13 March, 2005 in Sri Lanka. The meeting is being organized by the Asian Coalition for Housing Rights (ACHR) in collaboration with Women Bank and Women Development Bank networks and Sevanatha Urban Resource Center in Sri Lanka. This meeting is also being held in collaboration with Slum Dwellers International (SDI) and COHRE. " Read More

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Seminar - "Tsunami: Its Impacts and the Way Forward"

Seminar - "Tsunami: Its Impacts and the Way Forward" - a seminar to examine the environmental impacts of the tsunami and how these impacts may have been mitigated. 15th March, 5.30pm, SLAAS, Vidya Mw, Colombo 7. Speaker - Prof. Hemanthi Ranasinghe, Dept. of Forestry, Univ. of Sri Jayawardenepura. Panelists - Dr. Channa Bambaradeniya (IUCN) & Ms.Hesther Basnayake (UDA). Organised by Ruk Rakaganno. All are welcome. Please contact Premila/Tilaka on 2554438 or rukraks@sltnet.lk for more information.
The above was distributed through the yahoo group Sri Lanka-NGO-Link.

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Asbestos Hazards - Paul Blackaby

This mail was sent in to ServeSL by Paul Blackaby on 03/11/05
Apologies for contacting you in an unsolicited manner.
I have NGO contacts in Sri Lanka and I understand that the advice from the WHO is not been followed. This includes teams coordinated by USAid. (Further reference to the risk of asbestos debris being recycled .) Asbestos products are still anufactured and used extensively in Sri Lanka. The situation is likely to be the same in other countries in the affected area. These products were banned in the UK in 1999, where there is considerable controlling legislation (see references for health and safety information). Failure to follow this advice will lead to further tragic consequences. Those exposed to damaged or abraded asbestos or in reconstruction will need to seek medical advice and likely to need a regular health surveillance programme for many years to come. ALL asbestos containing materials (ACMs) are hazardous (including for example corrugated asbestos cement sheets). There are safe, cost-effective substitute materials on the market. Please ensure that this message gets disseminated through your contacts to the people on the ground. I would appreciate your comments. I work for a large housing association and have knowledge in this area.


Paul Blackaby
ims applications manager
Affinity Homes Group Limited bromley

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A Conference on the Tsunami at Columbia's SIPA

Amardeep Singh: " On Friday I went to a conference at Columbia on the seismic, social, and political impact of the Tsunami at the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) at Columbia University. The schedule can be found here.

I missed the morning panel on the seismic impact of the Tsunami. However, I did come across this article at the Guardian, which discusses it.

Afshan Khan, of UNICEF, gave the keynote address, highlighting her organization's efforts to assist children affected by the Tsunami. She made the point that in many of the affected areas, there were severe problems in terms of security and quality of life even before the Tsunami. One example is the water supply, which was talked about as a concern after the Tsunami wave left salt in fresh water sources. In many places in Southeast Asia, there were severe problems in the water supply even before the Tsunami.

Another issue much talked about in the coverage of the Tsunami was the danger that recently-orphaned children might be abducted by child-traffickers. Khan argued that this isn't as big a problem as has been reported, largely because many of the children who lost parents are being looked after by extended family. Moreover, there were significant problems in the trafficking of children all throughout Southeast Asia before the Tsunami as well.

Vector-borne diseases. One of the morning speakers alluded to the relief that many aid workers have felt that the explosion in diseases like malaria, cholera, and Denge fever, which the WHO had predicted soon after the Tsunami hit, have not materialized. With malaria, the Tsunami actually helped to slow the disease, as mosquitoes can't breed in brackish water. (See this link at Tsunami Help)

Khan added that here, as with water and child protection, there are actually opportunities to "leverage up" the quality of living in the wake of the Tsunami. That is to say, the influx of aid money and the current attention on the above problems can be an opportunity to raise standards to a level above where they were before the tsunami. Khan gave examples on how this might work with regard to fighting vector-born diseases (she mentioned the increased use of bed-nets). But she didn't say much about how this "leverage up" strategy might work in terms of fighting child-trafficking in particular." Read More

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Friday, March 11, 2005

IMF: Sri Lanka Reconstruction May Drive Up Inflation

Dow Jones-Document Preview: COLOMBO -(Dow Jones)- Post-tsunami reconstruction in Sri Lanka may contribute to higher inflation and further pressure government finances, the International Monetary Fund said.

"Staff has advised the authorities to be mindful of the limits to implementation capacity and potential inflationary pressures as reconstruction efforts proceed," the IMF said in a country report released Wednesday.

Inflation measured by the Colombo Consumers' Price Index is forecast to hit 12% by the end of this year, based on a 12-month moving average, up sharply from 7.6% at the end of last year.

The Asian tsunami in December left a trail of destruction along the island's coast, and the government has estimated reconstruction spending at more than $ 500 million this year.

Spending on reconstruction may further drive up inflation, which had picked up before the tsunami because of high international oil prices and government spending, the IMF said.

The fund said action to curb inflation may require a hike in interest rates.

"In this context, it is likely that the authorities will need to be prepared to increase interest rates in the course of 2005 to meet monetary policy and inflation objectives," it said.

The Central Bank of Sri Lanka has held key interest rates unchanged since November despite indications that money supply grew at a faster-than-targeted 20% last year.

This month, the IMF approved $157.5 million in emergency assistance to Sri Lanka at an annual rate of interest of 0.5% to help the country meet "immediate balance-of-payments financing needs, and maintain or restore macroeconomic stability."

The loan carries a low rate of interest, as it comes after a natural disaster - it has to be repaid in eight quarterly installments over 3 1/4 to 5 years from the disbursement date.

The IMF said the tsunami will drive up government spending and additional revenue measures might be needed if the government is to stick to its budget deficit target, which has risen to 9.6% of gross domestic product, from 7.5% before the tsunami.

"Staff's view is that additional measures equivalent to about 1.25% of GDP would still be required to meet budget targets," the report said, though debt relief by creditor countries would provide some support to the budget.

Last year, the government raised $250 million in dollar-denominated bonds from domestic commercial banks to bridge the budget deficit, but the IMF said the government hadn't announced any plans to issue further bonds this year.

-By Chamath Ariyadasa, Dow Jones Newswires; 9411-2304-942; chamath.ariyadasa@ dowjones.com
-Edited by Hilary Mc Cully
Dow Jones Newswires

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Humanitarian Situation Report: 04 - 10 March 2005

ReliefWeb-Document Preview:
Overall situation
The IMF approved US$155 million in emergency assistance.
On a trip to Batticaloa District on 9 March, Margareta Wahlstrom, Special Coordinator for UN Response to Tsunami-Affected Countries, Miguel Bermeo, Humanitarian Coordinator and UNDP Country Resident Representative and OCHA staff visited tsunami damaged areas, temporary shelter camps and a site where semi-permanent shelters are under construction for 2,200 families formally from coastal fishing communities. They were also briefed by the General Agent for Batticaloa and held meetings with staff from UN agencies and the NGO community. Among concerns raised during the visit were the need for the tsunami-affected population to be better informed about their options in terms of shelter and relocation and the need for greater flexibility by donors and others in defining tsunami-affected population to include those people, who, while physically untouched by the destruction, live close by and are feeling its economic consequences.
On 10 March, the sea level in Sirigama area, Hikkaduwa Division (Galle District) was reported to be unusually high for this time of the year due to storms and high winds off the coast. They have caused some road flooding and some shelter tents in the Sirigama area are reported to be inundated.

Challenge and response
Under its "Equal Access to Justice" project. UNDP has been organizing, in cooperation with the Ministry of Constitutional Affairs and National Integration, mobile documentation "clinics." These clinics respond to the very large umber of people who lost all their personal documentation, ie. identification cards, birth and marriage certificates, school diplomas, etc. The clinics consist of teams of officials who travel to the affected areas with all the required equipment to directly record requests for replacement documentation, and spare people the cost and time of having to travel to Colombo. So far, some 20,000 requests have been recorded and are either in the stage of being verified or new documentation already issued.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) has signed with UNFPA a memo of understanding to restore reproductive health services in seven districts including Trincomalee, Kilinochchi, Hambantota, Galle, Ampara, Mulaitivu and Kalutara. A number of Gramodaya (village) health centres will be reconstructed and/or renovated as well as MOH offices and some maternity and neonatal complexes.
On 7 March, UNICEF signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Health for the rehabilitation and/or construction of health facility units in 34 locations in 10 districts This will result in improved facilities for delivery, neo-natal and primary health care (including cold chain) services.
The Directorate of Mental Health Services and the Psycho-social and Mental Health Committee, with the support of UNFPA, is developing through a consultative process a curriculum and a set of modules on psych-social issues.
Significant progress has been made in mainstreaming psycho-social activities within the education sector. UNICEF sponsored a one-day teacher support workshop on 7 March to provide refresher training on psycho-social approaches to 150 school advisors. The advisors will be taught how to facilitate group discussions with teachers working in tsunami-affected districts. Recent psycho-social activities in the districts include: a half-day workshop on 3 March conducted by the national NGO Shantiham for 25 participants from organizations in Jaffna; a three-day protection and psycho-social training workshop in Jaffna, organized by Save the Children, with participants including probation officers, staff from the Department of Child Protection and from 13 different NGOs; and the establishment of a psycho-social network in Trincomalee that includes, temporarily, a psychiatrist seconded by the Provincial Health Service.
Following a request from the Department of Youth, Elderly, Disabled and Displaced Persons of the Ministry of Health and Sri Lanka College of Ophthalmologists, IOM is launching a pilot project to provide ophthalmologic care to the tsunami-affected population and to strengthen the availability of ophthalmologic services in tsunami-affected areas. The pilot project will include mobile optometric and ophthalmologic teams that will train and enhance the capabilities of local eye-care staff, conduct cataract surgery, and donate surgical equipment and intraocular lenses. The project will initially operate in Hambantota district and, if effective, expand to five additional districts.

Non-food items and shelter
Regarding tents, a government needs assessment conducted by the Transitional Accommodation Project (TAP) with participation of UN agencies and NGOs is still-on-going in tsunami-affected areas. A criteria has been established for suitable uses of such tents. The categories are: people still living under plastic sheeting; people living in substandard tents, such as igloo tents, who should have them replaced; people who wish to leave temporary accommodation centres and return to their own land outside the buffer zone and people living with friends and relatives who need more living space on a site/at a house which already has watsan facilities; and administrative use, such as a temporary Government office where facilities were damaged or destroyed by the tsunami.
While customs clearance is a continuing problem some tents have recently been released. According to IOM 522 of its family tents were recently released from customs for distribution in Batticaloa (150) and Ampara district (250). An additional 120 tents were placed in storage awaiting distribution instructions. 428 IOM family tents are presently held at Colombo Sea Port awaiting customs clearance.
IOM reports that it had transported and distributing 618 family tents on behalf of the CNO when it was still in existence -- to Ampara (320), Trincomalee (200) and Batticaloa (98). To date, IOM has procured and distributed a total of 1,172 family tents - 750 to Ampara, 322 to Batticaloa and 100 to Muratuwa. It has also distributed 75 big community tents in Ampara, Trincomalee and Batticaloa (25 in each district). IOM reported that on 8 March, the Division Secretariat office in Muratuwa requested IOM to provide 498 tents. IOM has since distributed 100. An additional 398 are still needed.
UNHCR has to date delivered 1,993 tents to tsunami-affected areas. At present, UNHCR has 2,500 additional tents at the Port of Colombo which have been granted duty free clearance by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and are awaiting clearance for geographical allocation. A further 5,527 tents (also located at the Port of Colombo) are pending both the duty exemption certificates and clearance for geographical allocation.

In response to requests from NGOs and civil society, UNICEF has developed tsunami awareness materials for use in children’s clubs, community groups and in schools. The materials include a number of posters designed to facilitate discussion among children and parents about natural disasters and to address their questions and fears relating to the tsunami. Some 5,000 copies of the educational material are to be produced, including guidelines that teachers and others can use in discussing the tsunami awareness issues raised by the material.

The results of the Rapid Livelihood Household Survey conducted jointly by ILO and WFP indicate that 80 percent of the tsunami affected households lost their main source of income, and 90 percent of those households that had productive assets saw them destroyed or damaged.
The Ministry of Skills Development and Vocational and Technical Education, in collaboration with the ILO, is undertaking a rapid training needs assessment, with the overall objective of developing a strategic framework to address skills needed for post-tsunami rehabilitation and reconstruction.
An Inter-Ministerial Focus Group, including the Ministry of Urban Development and Water Supply and the ILO has been established for Enhanced Employment Initiatives in the Infrastructure Sector. The objective of the Focus Group is to ensure that all government bodies in infrastructure reconstruction use an optimal mix of local resources during the process so as to maximise opportunities for employment of low income and other affected groups.
In a new assessment, FAO estimates total fish production loss due to the tsunami to be 81 000 tonnes, or 28 percent of normal production. It also found that 54 per cent of Sri Lanka’s fishing fleet of 31,663 boats was affected by the tsunami. Thirty-nine per cent, or 12,438 boats, were totally destroyed, while 13 per cent were severely damaged. This number is less than previously reported due to initial overestimates from the fishing community.

The U.S. Department of Labour is providing funding for a programme in which the ILO and UNICEF are collaborating to provide interventions to protect unaccompanied children. At the national level, the ILO's International Programme for the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC), the National Child Protection Authority and the Department of Child Care and Probation will cooperate in such child protection. IPEC's field-level interventions will be focussed in the districts of Galle and Trincomalee, where together with selected trade unions and NGO partners, IPEC will provide for the needs of tsunami affected children through the establishment and maintenance of integrated community centres that offer physio-social counselling, remedial and catch-up education, non-formal education, vocational skills training, and recreational therapy facilities. The Ministry of Education will offer services to post-tsunami survivors who desire non-formal education.
UNFPA has established a Gender Desk at the National Committee on Women to strengthen capacities to address and coordinate gender concerns in relation to the post-Tsunami response. It has also facilitated the training of community based women groups to train grassroots women in their communities on risk assessment, documentation and response.
In conjunction with IOM, UNDP is assisting the Sri Lanka Parliament Select Committee on Natural Disasters by providing an expert on IDPs and the Guiding Principles pertaining to IDPs, as well as an expert on national policy and management of natural disaster preparedness and mitigation.

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Culture in conflict

Online edition of Daily News - Lakehouse newspapers: "How does an island of gracious, literate people produce so much ethnic violence? Shyam Selvadurai offers some insights

One of the most frequent questions I am asked regrading the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka is if one can tell the difference, racially, between the Sinhalese and Tamils. One cannot. Despite misleading claims by both groups that the Sinhalese are "fair" Aryans and the Tamils "dark" Dravidians, in reality they look the same, are drawn from the same racial stock and share many common features of caste, popular religious cults and customs. Hence the title of my first recommendation: Sri Lanka: Ethnic Fratricide and the Dismantling of Democracy (University of Chicago Press), by Stanley J. Tambiah.

The author, being Sri Lankan himself, has written what he calls an "engaged political tract" rather than a "distanced academic treatise". The book comes from his lived experience, as well as research and reading. It was published in 1986, and so will not bring the reader up to date on the bewildering and convoluted story of ethnic conflict, one that Sri Lankans themselves can hardly keep track of (and which they despair will never end).

Yet this book acts as a great primer on the beginnings of the conflict, starting in the times of British colonialism and moving forward to the 1983 riots. It provides a thorough background from which to regard all later developments.

What I love about this book, unlike others written on the subject, is its immense goodwill. The chief question the writer is interested in examining (and answering for himself), is how Sri Lankans - literate, friendly and gracious-could have come to such an awful impasse; how an elected majority government committed to liberal democracy could have become so righteously authoritarian; how the Tamil minority which, for the most part, thought of themselves as Sri Lankan citizens, could have bred the Tamil Tigers, a group determined to achieve an independent Tamil state at any cost.

This is no Orientalist treatise, pandering to Western notions of the "barbaric" East. It is written by someone who deeply loves his country and its people, and wants a solution to this problem.

Since the tsunami, whenever I call my mother in Sri Lanka, the one thing she comments on over and over again is how quiet and sombre people are - how the natural exuberance and good cheer of Sri Lankans have been so dimmed by this recent disaster. So, I long for a book that will capture this exuberance and also the breath-taking beauty of the country.

In order to be innovative, I searched my bookshelves for something unknown to the reader, but I have returned to something that is familiar to most of us. For this is familiar to most of us. For this is the time for the familiar. Like those comfort foods of my childhood - like 'seeni sainbol' with bread and butter, like pineapple slices dipped in chili and salt, like cashews steamed in a plantain leaf, like mango accharu, I offer Michael Ondaatje's Running in the Family (McClelland and Stewart, 1982) as a perfect antidote to these trying times.

This wonderful book tells of the author's return to his native Sri Lanka at the age of 36 and what he encountered there. It contains not just a vivid evocation of landscape, but also the charming, funny yet also tragic stories of his parents and grandparents. Ondaatje, through a combination of prose pieces, poetry, humour and magic realism, brings 1920s Sri Lanka to life. He captures beautifully the languorous world of the upper classes, where drink, gambling, romance, tennis and billiards were simply a way of life.

I have kept one of my favourite Sri Lankan writers for last. Kumari Jayawardena has written many non-fiction books on various aspects of Sri Lankan history. What I love about her work is that she always managers to find a unique angle on a subject and write about it with great clarity and wit. Here is her take on colonial history: The White Woman's Other Burden (Routledge, 1995).

The common concept of white women during British rule in South Asia is that of the 'memsahib' who submissively supported her husband in his burden of ruling the empire. Her role was to stand as a symbol of European female purity. Not all white women were so compliant. This book is a fascinating account of white women who were anti-imperialists, socialists, communists, divine mothers, holy rollers and anarchists. They crossed boundaries of race, gender and class; and were an embarrassment to the colonial rulers, who regarded them as everything from prostitutes to mad spinsters.

These women have, for the most part, been erased from history in both the West and in South Asia, and they are brought back to life in the pages of this wonderful book. Here we meet a fiercely intelligent, vibrant and often charmingly eccentric array of characters.

Among them; actress Florence Farr, friend of Shaw, Yeats and Pound, who ended her days in Sri Lanka as principal of the first Hindu girls' school; Annie Besant, who championed self-rule in an Indian newspaper she acquired, and was imprisoned for her views and later elected the first woman president of the Indian National Congress; Mirra Richard, of Egyptian-Jewish origin and from France, who became the famous "Holy Mother of Pondicherry" and was considered by many of her followers to be divine; Madeleine Slade, from an upper-class British family, who became Gandhi's devoted follower and embarrassed the British Raj by cooking and washing for Gandhi and acting as his secretary; Doreen Young, who became the first foreign woman to be elected to the Sri Lankan Parliament (on the Communist Party ticket); Heidi Simon, a Viennese Jew who led militant action in the strikes and political struggles of 1940s Sri Lanka.

Sri Lankan writing in English has really bloomed in the last two decades, with writers such as Romesh Gunasekera, Michelle de Kretsre, Carl Muller, A. Sivananadan and many, many others. What is offered above is just a tiny sampling of a wonderful body of literature that keeps growing from strength to strength.

(Shyam Selvadurai is the author of two novels on Sri Lanka, Funny Boy and Cinnamon Gardens. His new novel, Swimming in the Monsoon Sea, will be published next fall.)

(The Globe and Mail)"

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World's 'forgotten' crises cry out for attention

Online edition of Daily News - Lakehouse newspapers: "LONDON, March 10 (Reuters)

All emergencies are not created equal.

A tsunami of biblical proportions roars out of the Indian Ocean, kills up to 300,000 and prompts the public to empty their pockets like never before as media coverage goes into overdrive.
In contrast, war in Democratic Republic of Congo kills nearly 4 million and leaves thousands traumatised by rape and machete massacres, yet hardly registers in the global media.
Why do some humanitarian crises make the front pages while others wait in vain for their turn in the spotlight? "(A tsunami is) simpler, visual and more dramatic, in ways that both drought and conflict aren't," said Paul Harvey of the Humanitarian Policy Group (HPG), a British think tank.
A survey launched on Thursday by Reuters AlertNet, a humanitarian news service run by Reuters Foundation, highlighted 10 crises aid experts said had been neglected by global media.
The experts chose Congo, northern Uganda, western and southern Sudan, West Africa, Colombia, Chechnya, Nepal and Haiti as the most neglected humanitarian hotspots.
They also drew attention to the global AIDS pandemic and other infectious diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis.
Those polled cited a raft of reasons why some emergencies are "forgotten", not least the challenge of distilling complex crises such as Congo's down to simple soundbites or finding a thread of hope to help audiences empathise.
"The story is always the same," said Lindsey Hilsum, international editor of Britain's Channel 4 TV news. "It induces despair. It's expensive and dangerous, and one feels that there are no solutions and no end to it all." Analysts said long-running humanitarian crises were often difficult to package as fresh-sounding stories, while logistical problems and tight budgets could also put off news editors.
In countries such as Zimbabwe and Sudan, governments routinely refuse to give journalists visas, while reporting in Congo can mean hitching a ride on an aid plane, trekking through the jungle or guessing when the next ferry will arrive.
And all for a story unlikely to make the front page.

"If you had a similar natural disaster (to the tsunami) in Africa three months from now, I don't think you'd have the same media coverage (or) the same consequences, because it's only maybe once a year that the Western public is willing to be moved by disasters on that level," said Gorm Rye Olsen, a researcher at the Danish Institute for International Studies.
In the meantime, stories of geopolitical importance such as Middle East turmoil and "the war on terror" hog what's left of the international news agenda, analysts say.
"The world's obsession with Iraq has pushed to the margins many other scenes of mass violence," said Gareth Evans, head of the Brussels-based International Crisis Group think tank.
Without TV time, aid experts say the general public is unlikely to donate in large quantities, as they did after the tsunami when individual donations to charities outpaced initial offers from governments, leaving them rushing to catch up. "The media is a huge factor in getting people to be generous," Oxfam Great Britain's humanitarian funding manager, Orla Quinlan, said. "If they're visually engaged, that brings it home and makes it real to them."
But some researchers say the link between airtime or column inches and donations is not clear-cut. They said the tsunami was an anomaly because private donations are usually far outstripped by aid from governments and international institutions.
"Governments give aid in places with political and strategic interest to them," HPG's Harvey said. "That's why funding skyrocketed in Afghanistan after 9/11."
Nevertheless aid workers say better media coverage of low-profile humanitarian crises can still make a difference.
George Graham of International Rescue Committee UK said more coverage of Uganda's war - where aid agencies say more than 20,000 children have been abducted to serve as soldiers and sex slaves - could highlight it as a test case for an international criminal court.
"Greater media engagement could have a really positive effect," said Graham, IRC's East Africa programme officer.
Danish researcher Olsen quoted a letter from a Sudanese man, smuggled out during heavy fighting in the south: "It maybe a blessing to die in front of a camera - then at least the world will get to know about it," the letter read. "But it is painful to die or be killed without anyone knowing it." (For more news about emergency relief visit Reuters AlertNet http://www.alertnet.org email: alertnet@reuters.com; +44 207 542 9484) "

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Putting lives back together in Sri Lanka

ReliefWeb - Document Preview : "Putting lives back together in Sri LankaNow that most of the emergency needs of the tsunami survivors have been met, the focus is shifting to the long term.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 8, 2005) -- With much of the emergency relief needs of tsunami survivors now met, the focus shifts to what the head of a relief agency calls "the really hard part -- putting peoples' lives and their shattered communities back together".

Lelei LeLaulu, president of the humanitarian and development organization, Counterpart International, said they were concentrating on a "ridge to reef" restoration" starting at sea with the fishing community which was badly hit by tidal waves.

Then there are the devastated coral reefs where the fish dwell and which creates sand and beaches.

Onshore, LeLaulu said a sustainable tourism industry should be built rather than "re-building mistakes" of non sustainable tourism.

The development agency's "Sri Lanka Tsunami Redevelopment program" is also rebuilding 500 family houses and 25 public buildings, such as schools, clinics, and cooperatives.

"Our job is not just to rebuild houses, but to introduce new construction technology which is environmentally sustainable and economically viable. We will also train local builders how to use this technology," explained Dr. Thoric Cederström, Counterpart's Vice President of Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture.

With support from Forrester Construction as well as private individual donations, Counterpart will soon begin building the first two model houses under the direction of its Senior Scientist, Dr. Ranil Senanayake, the director of Counterpart operations on the ground in his native Sri Lanka.

"We are working on how to introduce building technologies that utilize locally available, low-cost materials such as bamboo, coconut, and swamp palm," said Dr. Cederström whose team is in discussions about bringing Counterpart staff to Sri Lanka from the Philippines where the technologies are readily available. Once the model houses are built, Counterpart expects to raise up to 500 more as well as advocate these construction methods for other Sri Lankan coastal dwellings.

Counterpart will also rebuild or repair schools using the same building techniques and has set up a school-to-school program where U.S. schools can adopt part or all of the rebuilding costs for a sister school in Sri Lanka. "We have arrangements with schools in Kansas City, New York City and Southern California," noted Dr. Cederström who is talking with the National Association of Independent Schools about partnering with schools in their network.

To contribute to the "Sri Lanka's Redevelopment", visit www.counterpart.org. "

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Aid is slow to reach victims

A St. Paul woman expands her effort to help Sri Lankans with a new charity. BY BRIAN BONNER, Pioneer Press -- Mon, Feb. 28, 2005
After visiting 30 refugee camps and donating supplies to several thousand people, a St. Paul woman has concluded that much of the aid that has been pledged from around the world is not yet reaching tsunami victims in Sri Lanka.
Shivanthi Sathanandan, a 24-year-old St. Paul woman who returned recently from four weeks in Sri Lanka and India, said that especially in the non-government-controlled north, people told her they hadn't eaten for two days.
Her supplies of packaged food and other relief items attracted long lines in camps. She encountered complaints from refugees that official aid is bypassing them.
"The north said they're not seeing a lot of aid. The south said they're not seeing a lot of aid. Each side thinks the other side is getting stuff," Sathanandan said. "I told them: Trust me, we've been to both places, and nobody is getting anything."
She used her visit to distribute supplies bought with $35,000 raised by the Tamil Association of Minnesota.
After seeing the needs, Sathanandan has decided to stay active in helping Sri Lanka's recovery. She has formed a charity organization, Kids Aid USA, that is focused on meeting Sri Lankan children's long-term needs.
She doesn't know why aid is slow in reaching people. Sri Lankans alternately blamed the ethnic Sinhalese-dominated government and its nemesis, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or Tamil Tigers. The Tamil Tigers are an ethnic separatist group that rules parts of the island. Fewer than 20 percent of Sri Lanka's 20 million people are Tamils.
Her concern over misdirected aid is shared by a variety of sources, even within the Sri Lankan government.
The leader of the government's relief efforts, Thilak Ranavirajah, complained at a Feb. 2 news conference that "our public servants have failed to deliver" aid to more than 30 percent of people in distress.
Next month, according to its Web site, Transparency International is expected to hold a meeting in Indonesia on how to combat corruption in tsunami relief work. The Web site of the Berlin, Germany-based organization (http://www.transparency.org/) provides other information on the subject.
Regardless of fault, Sathanandan said, having aid stuck in the pipeline underscores the need for private efforts organized by people willing to donate directly.
Sathanandan has traveled regularly to Sri Lanka since she was 16. Her parents, Myles and Rose, grew up as part of the ethnic Tamil minority in Sri Lanka. They left in the late 1960s and lived in London before settling in Minnesota in the early 1980s.
They accompanied their daughter on the trip, paying personal travel expenses so all the locally raised donations could be spent on tsunami survivors.
The final leg of the family's Sri Lankan journey took them to areas controlled by the Tamil Tigers, which waged a 19-year civil war against the government. Three years after a cease-fire, Sathanandan said, trust remains low between the government and Tamil rebels. Recent violence, including the Feb. 7 assassination of a rebel leader and four associates, has exacerbated tensions.
Sathanandan found that both sides are pursuing parallel reconstruction projects with separate sources of money.
"The (Tamil Tigers are) getting a lot less money than what the government is getting," she said.
To get to rebel-held areas in the north and east, the Sathanandans had to drive their convoy of aid supplies through government and rebel checkpoints. They encountered no hostility, she said, but a lot of questions, inspections and delays.
Hope is fading fast that the tsunami would be the catalyst to spark unity among the island's feuding factions.
"That's the standstill," she said. "No government wants to hand money over to that (Tamil Tigers) group. At the same time, the (Tamil Tigers are) wary of the government. (They are) suspicious that, if they let the government into the region, the government would try to take over."
The situation is not entirely bleak. She said that, as in the south, northern coastal refugees are moving into transitional housing — tents and huts — as they await construction of new permanent homes.
She found the greatest desperation in fishing villages slightly inland. Those residents didn't lose homes but lost boats, nets — and, she said, attention. "People don't know they are there," she said.
Finding those overlooked places will be the aim of the newly formed Kids Aid USA nonprofit organization. Sathanandan is planning return trips to Sri Lanka to buy and distribute supplies with the money she raises.
The tsunami has forced orphans and children from poor families into the work force, she said.
To Sathanandan, the exploitation of children is a clear warning that "if we don't pay attention to the (tsunami-) affected generation, we're going to see huge repercussions five, 10, 15, 20 years from now."
Here is contact information for an organization started by Shivanthi Sathanandan of St. Paul. Her aim is to help tsunami-affected children in Sri Lanka.
Kids Aid USA
P.O. Box 16324
St. Paul, MN 55116-6324
Phone: 651-698-0774
E-mail: kidsaidusa@yahoo.com

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Thursday, March 10, 2005

First Report of Tsunami Services Monitoring - PAFFREL

The first situation report of monitoring the relief and rehabilitation process has now been issued by PAFFREL at the yesterday's Press Conference and the full report is now available at our web www.lankaworld.com/paffrel
Thank You.
PAFFREL Media Unit
People's Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL)
93/10, Dutugemunu Street, Colombo 06, Sri Lanka
Tel: 94 11 5557010-11-13, Fax: 94 11 5557012
E-mail: paffrel@sltnet.lk, paffrel@eureka.lk

Download the full report

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Social and environmental impacts of seashell harvesting

This is an urgent request circulated through the yahoo group Sri Lanka-NGO-List. Hilary Murdoch is with Imapct Limited, an organization whose role is to empower and support individuals, organisations and companies to gradually transform the way they work, bringing about positive social change.
Dear All,
I am doing some research on behalf of a UK garment retailer whois making clothes with seashells sewn onto them. I am trying toinvestigate the social and environmental impacts of seashell harvesting and I wonder if you have any leads or information. I work for an ethicalconsultancy which advises retail companies on improving environmentaland social conditions in their supply chains.
Maybe you know of a journalist that has written an article aboutthis, a group that has done work on this or could give me the emailaddress of someone who might be able to help me? the garments are madein India but I do not know where the shells come from - potentially SriLanka, the Philippines, South Pacific or Indonesia?
Please do contact me directly if you have any relevantinformation. I need to collect this information really fast - really before the end of tomorrow!
I look forward to hearing from you, Kind regards, Hilary Murdoch (UK), Impactt Limited tel: +44 20 7242 6777 fax: +44 20 7242 6778 hilary@impacttlimited.com web: www.impacttlimited.com

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Let us go the extra mile for our country

Online edition of Daily News - Lakehouse newspapers: " Extracts from the Prize Day address delivered by the Rector of St. Joseph's College, Colombo, Rev. Fr. Victor Silva "
IT IS two months since the "tsunami" ravaged our island and her people, without any distinction, effectively shattering our illusions of segregation. Immeasurable loss of life and lifestyle has left us reeling in a wasteland bereft of the sum and substance of joy and self-worth.
St. Joseph's College too, has not been unaffected, for we have lost three of our students and a part-time volunteer violin teacher, as well as two parents. Furthermore, we as educationists are shattered and grieved over the immense loss of students and children the nation over.
Shedding light on how we often take our comfortable lives and our relationships for granted, this natural disaster has opened our eyes to the fragility and vulnerability of modern man in relation to the vast and indiscriminate power of nature.
Visible through this catastrophic cloud of chaos and misery, however, was the silver lining of brotherhood and togetherness displayed by our people.
For just one brief shining moment, in the chequered history of our land, all our people rallied together as one, without any of the short-sighted, man-made distinctions of class or creed. What neither scripture nor sermon, nor project nor plan could do, this natural disaster appears to have achieved.
We have been brought closer to each other in a free-spirited brotherhood as a united nation. The Irish poet W. B. Yeats once said that, "man needs reckless courage to descend into the abyss of himself."
Similarly we require great courage to give up our conceited ideas of superiority due to race, religion, caste and class that divide our country into many fragments.
It is also commendable that positive leadership was displayed by the media, spearheading the initiation and co-ordination of immediate and effective rescue and relief operations.
The absence of their usual negative attitude of casting aspersions and pointing fingers of blame was very heartening at a time when there was little else to lift our drooping spirits.
In what has been described as the biggest ever relief and rehabilitation operation, unlimited funds and goodwill are now being offered to us.
Together with the unprecedented goodwill now extended to us in our hour of grief, it is hoped that the funds and resources made available will transform this disaster into the great opportunity that we ever received to rebuild our nation as one.

Our task
A pertinent question demanding close attention and careful consideration is the resettlement before the victims grow accustomed to the culture of refugee life and the attendant dependency syndrome. The best option would be to use a large participatory methodology, whereby the victims are also involved, consulted and empowered.
Conversely, the usual techno-bureaucratic process imposed from above by the State and international donor agencies can hardly heal and transform the lives of the victims in a sustainable direction, without their active involvement.
As educationists, our attention must also be directed to the multi-faceted problems faced by the youth and schoolchildren. Official statistics released by major related international agencies place a figure of one-third of the total number of dead as being children.
The European Union, in a resolution passed recently has called on the international community to "pay special attention on the 1.5 million children affected by the disaster."
In Sri Lanka alone, 176 schools have been rendered beyond repair or completely wiped out. As for child survivors, they have to come to terms with the loss of their parents, family members, homes and all that was familiar to them.
The inability to face such stark realities has caused a great majority of them to experience related phobias. Personal safety is of prime importance to young girls and boys as 'human vultures' make use of them for nefarious purposes, due to the mechanisms of law and order not being fully operational in the affected areas.
Prior to the disaster, they would have enjoyed some sense of Security and purpose in life with hopeful dreams for the future. They have been now deprived of all such dreams and hopes as well as the stability and security of family units.
We are thus constrained to seek extraordinary solutions to an extraordinary problem. We cannot sit idly while children of school going age roam about uncared for in areas where there is no trace of school building and other infrastructure.
An encouraging feature is the immediate commencement by UNICEF and a few other donor agencies of a specific number of schools, which they expect would be model schools in those areas.
The educational institutions in the island, in carrying out the paramount responsibility of this nature, can be in contact with UNICEF and Save the Children organizations, who are already engaged in nation-building activities, for further assistance in the second and third phases, where in the long term development is considered. This may include activities such as:

a) continued reconstruction and rehabilitation of schools,

b) promoting the involvement of children and young people in development projects in schools and communities and

c) reduction of child and youth involvement in armed conflict through education and peace programmes.

Assistance also has to be directed in effective ways to meet the varied needs of the traumatized children. Teachers can encourage students to speak of their experiences, thereby releasing their innermost fears and anxieties.
Where students are reluctant to speak of their experiences, thereby releasing their innermost fears and anxieties. Where students are reluctant to speak of their experiences, they can be encouraged to express themselves through an art form, e.g. song, poetry, painting etc.
In the course of this year, we propose to take our students on a visit to some schools in the affected areas and entertain those children through such aesthetic activities, in which our school has gained excellence, and thereby encouraging the children to share their traumatic experiences with our students.
We believe that this is one form of effecting a healing process, while also contributing towards building a strong Sri Lankan identity and brotherhood.
I am happy to announce here that St. Joseph's College too has obtained permission from the relevant authorities to rebuild a school, Diyalagoda Maha Vidyalaya in the Kalutara district and continue supporting that school until it can function independently.
The generosity, compassion and commitment of the Old Joes, supported by our parents, teachers and students empowered and encouraged us to venture into this multi million Rupee project of providing a model school to the affected children. It must be borne in mind that the future of any country depends on its youth and children.
For it is the young generation who are the leaders of tomorrow, and it is only they who have the power to take their nation forward "into that heavenly freedom where knowledge is free, and it has not broken up into fragments, where the mind is without fear and the head is held high" (Tagore).
In order for this vision to be properly initialized, it is absolutely imperative that they receive a solid education. History only remembers those who swim against the tide.
In this great endeavour, therefore, the educationist, philanthropists and specialists in all spheres who love children, can team up to work wonders with and for the children affected by the tsunami.
We can make a difference. We should never forget that education, indeed, the most profitable investment in terms of dividends.
The school we build may house future leaders; the healing we bring in and the hope we infuse in them can cause us to be creators of leaders.
As the Josephian family, we can go that extra mile to do something for our country, for our children, who have endured so much. We can then look back with satisfaction on our contribution, however small, to this worthy cause.

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We used debris to rebuild roads in Nagapattinam - Sheela Nair

Online edition of Daily News - Lakehouse newspapers: "by Nadira Gunatilleke
"We used debris to re-build roads and create artificial 'sandiness' while re-building Tsunami hit areas in Nagapattinam and Sri Lanka too can follow the same strategy using the debris for the same task", said Ms. Santha Sheela Nair, ISA, Secretary to Government, Rural Development Department, In-Charge for Overall Supervision of Relief Operations, Nagapattinam, Government of Tamilnadu.
Addressing the media in Colombo yesterday she said that the recent Tsunami killed about 8000 people in India and that about 6000 of them were from Nagapattinam.
Since 1952 Tamilnadu records different types of natural and man made disasters and has lost a large number of people. Cyclones are the commonest natural disaster to hit Tamilnadu. By December 31 we were able to restore most of the essential services such as electricity, water and food supply. Dr. J. Radhakrishnan, IAS, District Collector, Nagapattinam, Government of Tamilnadu, Chennai said shortly after the Tsunami disaster the authorities released Rs. 10 million immediately without asking any questions. Debris lay in the Batticaloa district can be used to re-construction work, he added.
Indian High Commissioner Nirupama Rao said that Tsunami has opened up new opportunities to strengthen friendship and closeness between Sri Lanka and India. India has been assisting Sri Lanka from the very first day and the first Indian aircraft reached Sri Lanka on December 26th afternoon. 553 tons of relief is among the numerous types of relief provided by the Indian Government to Sri Lanka as Tsunami relief, she added. Chairman, TAFREN, Mano Tittawella said that India was the first outsider who responded to Sri Lanka's appeal for assistance soon after the Tsunami disaster and since then the Indian Government is assisting Sri Lanka in all possible ways.
Secretary to the Prime Minister, Mr. Lalith Weeratunga and several other officials were present."

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Post-tsunami micro-finance strategy

(This article which appeared in the ISLAND news paper on 03/09/05 was sent in by Ananda)
by Dr. S. P. Premaratne, Micro-finance specialist University of Colombo
The negative effects of disasters are well-known. Recently, Sri Lanka experienced the worst natural disaster - Tsunami. In addition to the social and psychological trauma, many basic tenets of society crumbled under the pressure. Communities may be torn apart, government structures dissembled, and basic infrastructure vital to economic life and cross-regional transport rendered useless. Now we are in post-disaster era; post-disaster rehabilitation and reconstruction works have begun. One of the most useful and helpful tools for such situation is micro-finance delivery service. Various, formal and informal, MFOs have rushed to the Tsunami affected areas. What would be their role? This paper makes recommendations for donors, policy makers, and MFOs.
Effective delivery of micro-financial services is challenging under any circumstance. Institutions that desire deep outreach and financial sustainability however, encounter even more obstacles in post- disaster societies. Many groups desire a Jump-start to economic survival, although, their specific requirements vary widely.
Micro-finance institutions can effect positive change at the individual, the community, and the national levels. On a larger scale, institutions can demonstrate the positive effects of micro-finance to an attentive national audience. Successful examples in the early reconstruction phase can influence policymakers and legislators to support legislation enabling micro-financial service provision and can prevent restrictive regulations.
The economic impact of natural disasters on poor households
The impact of a natural disaster is rarely uniform across all households in a community or region, and the specific impacts depend on the nature of the disaster. Nevertheless, natural disasters typically impact the finances of poor households in a number of ways. First, the disaster might affect the households ability to earn income. It might be difficult income-earners to reach their customers or for customers to reach them. Before Tsunami, tourist and fishery industries were the major income sources for the areas. The two sectors have almost completely destroyed by Tsunami. Second, poor households might face increased expenditure. Prices of essential commodities such as food or fuel might have increased dramatically due to high demand and/or short supply. Household health expenditure increased dramatically. Third, the disaster might have caused damage to, or destruction of, income-generating assets such as crops, livestock, tools-of-trade or other equipment. Loss of productive assets can have a long-term impact on the ability of the household to generate income. Finally, the disaster might have caused damage to, or destruction of, household assets.
The impact of natural disasters on MFOs
Given that the clients of MDOs are basically the poor households, it is common for MFOs to be impacted financially as well. First, there will be an immediate decline in inflow of cash. Second, there will be an increase in outflow of cash. Clients are likely to withdraw savings and they may request additional loans. There may be a significant loss of capital if large numbers of clients are forced into loan default. Furthermore, while group-lending methodologies can ensure high repayment rates under normal conditions they can also serve to magnify capital losses in times of widespread economic stress.
The result of all of the above is that MFOs may face a serious liquidity crisis in the wake of a natural disaster, but MFOs have a role to play under a disaster situation.
Without a proper study, it is very difficult to say that the demand for micro-finance in Sri Lanka far exceeds the supply but recently a number of donors and NGOs rushed to the affected areas. For this reason, all MFOs (NGOs and formal financial institutions) are making a positive contribution by satisfying a need. As long as MFOs respond to active demand, they are encouraging investments in enterprises that might not be made otherwise and helping residents to recover from the post-disaster economy. It is a positive effect that is worth their time and talent.
Despite the proliferation of MFOs in Sri Lanka and the widespread support for micro-finance, there is still a great amount of unmet need. On average, nationwide there is less than one bank branch for every 100,000 people, less than 50 percent of micro- entrepreneurs have access to credit, and less than ten percent of the population have a bank account.
The efforts of micro-finance agencies have been aided by strong government support through a decentralization plan and structural adjustment reforms. The government policy is to create an enabling environment for micro-enterprise by improving education, credit, and transport services. The support of the government and a strong governmental commitment to reconstruction. are critical factors in successful post-disaster micro-finance endeavors.
The role of MFOs in disaster relief, rehabilitation, and reconstruction
Most MFOs cannot ignore the possibility of being impacted by natural disasters. Regarding the role of MFOs in emergency relief, one debate revolves around whether MFOs should engage in general (non-financial) disaster relief activities, or whether they should concentrate on providing financial services that support clients to manage their household finances through the difficult post-disaster period. MFOs should think about two aspects. On one hand, the MFO wants to protect its identity as a member of the community that puts the need; of its clients first, as any successful business will do. On the other hand, the MFO wants to protect it’s identity as a-long-term, professional financial intermediary as distinct from aid organisations. Now relief operation stage has gone.
With national disaster management unit, MFO personnel may be involved in detailed disaster assessment activities. Nevertheless, the MFOs primary focus is on assessment of its existing clients. As the focus of disaster response moves from emergency relief to rehabilitation, the MFO needs to re- orient both its personnel and its clients, and to disengage from emergency response activities.
The success of an MFO’s services following a disaster depends on a number of factors. Most important are the timeliness of the intervention, the length of time the MFO offers various services, the types of financial products the MFO provides, the MFO’s ability to coordinate its services with those of other relief organizations, and loan terms and conditions.
Established MFOs can provide relief activities immediately after disasters, but the period during which they offer such assistance should be brief and followed by unsubsidized loans in the rehabilitation and reconstruction phases. Any MFO activities during these phases require coordination with other organizations to ensure the quick and accurate flow of information and services from all players. Successful MFO activities during the rehabilitation and reconstruction phases also depend on timely intervention. During these phases, emergency loans, allowances for withdrawal of client savings, and rescheduling of debt may be more important than providing clients with new loans for housing or asset replacement. New loans can most successfully be made about six months after the disaster to clients who have proved they can manage the disaster through other means.
New MFOs should be created after the relief and early rehabilitation stages are over, so that they can better screen applicants and make higher-quality loans. Providing services in postdisaster settings entails both high direct and indirect costs: New MFOs encounter more difficulty than established organizations when serving the same disaster-affected population, as it takes longer for new MFOs to reach financial sustainability than it does existing MFOs. The initial costs of servicing loans in post- disaster areas are very high for new MFOs but can be reduced somewhat by involving the community in making new loans.
Some of the key characteristics differentiating post-disaster micro-finance sites from a standard location are highlighted below.
- Pervasive poverty and loss of assets
- Greater dependence on informal sector
- Mobile population
- High levels of dissavings
- Damaged or non-existent banking system
- Inflation
- Short-term operational focus vs. sustainability
- High level of uncertainty and incentive to avoid irreversible investments
Pre-conditions for entry: Despite the difficulties involved in entering a post-disaster area, institutions committed to establishing services are able to commence with remarkably few pre-conditions. Even for the most well-managed institutions, the complexities involved in post-disaster environments may have detrimental effects on operations and sustainability. For this reason, most institutions eye post - disaster and post-conflict sites with hesitation and many prefer to wait until certain pre-conditions are met before beginning micro-financial services.
Certain essential pre-conditions (not apply for relief services) have been identified as necessary before micro-finance services commence. The displaced population should plan to permanently settle, be allowed to settle, and have the ability (skills and access to markets) to form successful businesses. Regardless of the targeted clients, financial institutions look for a partially monazite economy, the ability to develop and implement risk management strategies, a cohesive community, some market activity, credible insurance and guarantee markets, and a government social safety net.
Micro-finance organizations often establish services in post-disaster areas more rapidly than they do in standard sites. It is acceptable to begin a program after a rapid market assessment, foregoing the traditional comprehensive feasibility studies and pilot projects. ‘However, micro-finance organizations should analyze which pre-conditions have been met, and which are likely to improve. Although it is possible to deliver services in minimalist environments, the enabling conditions must appear eventually if the institution desires sustainability.
Possible Strategy
Writing-off loans is not a good strategy for any MFO. In some cases, however, loan write-offs can occur, such as when a client is killed or unable to be located. Writing-off loans has a number of negative impacts. First, it benefits different people to different degrees and this can cause disharmony among clients. Second, experience has shown that writing off loans is likely to cause repayment apathy on future loans. Third, writing off many loans can cause serious decapitalisation of the loan fund. Loan cancellation should not be considered. In addition, MFOs have different options. Some of them discuss here.
The following table identifies some of the strategies undertaken by various micro-finance institutions operating in post-conflict and post-disaster areas. The actions taken depend upon organizational capability, the goals of service provision, and the specific characteristics of the operating environment.
table 1
Strategies for Post-Disaster Micro-finance service delivery
In order to determine which strategy or strategies will further a micro-finance organizations goals, it must determine priorities and a time frame. NGOs commonly participate in one of five service fields: refugee/survival service, development grant initiatives, development lending for income generating activities, brokerage services (low-income and lending institutions), and financial intermediation.
Emergency loans may be offered for the purpose of restoring productive assets and essential household assets. The decision to offer an emergency loan should be based on a detailed assessment of the clients asset loss. It should be case specific.
Rescheduling repayments: As a general rule,, MFOs should expect continuing full repayment. However, in some instances, it will be appropriate to offer options for temporarily reducing repayments. Repayments might be made interest only, they might be suspended completely, or they might even be returned to the client on a regular basis as a support of household income.
MFO personnel should consider loans for rescheduling-on a case-by-case basis.
Reduced interest for disaster-affected clients: MFOs might consider a temporary reduction of interest rates. However, without also reducing the requirement to repay capital, this option is usually of little significance.
Revised lending methodologies: While group-lending methodologies can result in high repayment rates under normal conditions they can also serve to magnify losses in times of widespread economic stress.
Insurance measures: It is usually best if the MFO acts as a link between clients/groups and reputable insurance companies who can provide general insurance.
Loan loss reserves, write-off policies, loan recovery policies: Provided restructured loans are treated appropriately, there need not be any alteration to the accounting policy on arrears ageing and delinquent loan write-off. All effort should be taken to ensure that delinquent loans are recovered, either through the client, the loan group, an insurance mechanism, or combination of these.
Program Design
Successful program design for post-disaster settings requires careful risk management that minimize loan defaults and other financial losses. Diversification to minimize risks also demands careful examination of group lending practices. Group lending with Joint liability may suffer from covariance effects and domino defaults, whereby one defaulter can pull the entire group into default. In addition, group-based programs with equal loan sizes and joint liability are unattractive to clients during the rehabilitation and reconstruction phases.
Successful program design also demands that governance structures be stable. Established MFOs have developed disaster-management funds to help clients cope with emergencies. Despite their role in protecting clients in times of disaster, MFOs cannot serve as social safety nets for the entire vulnerable population in their service areas. MFOs may provide temporary relief services on a non-exclusionary basis, but rehabilitation and reconstruction services are available only to previous clients of established organizations and selected clients of new organizations.

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Tsunami boat aid to Sri Lanka could backfire - UN

Reuters AlertNet: "09 Mar 2005 12:52:03 GMT, Source: Reuters
09 Mar 2005 12:52:03 GMTSource: ReutersCOLOMBO, March 9 (Reuters) - Relief agency pledges of new boats for Sri Lanka's fishermen could backfire because too many new vessels will increase competition, reduce the average catch and endanger fish stocks, a United Nations agency warned on Wednesday.
The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said donor agencies have so far delivered or promised over 10,000 small canoes to tsunami-hit fishing villages, well over the nearly 7,000 small boats the government estimates were lost.
"Relief agencies are right in concentrating on the livelihoods of the poorest fishermen but this has to be done in a responsible manner," Pierre Gence, FAO's representative in Sri Lanka, said in a statement.
"An over-supply of modern fibreglass versions of the traditional "oru" one-man canoes will further deplete near-shore fish stocks," the FAO statement added.
Most of Sri Lanka's trawler fleet was also destroyed by December's tsunami, which killed around 40,000 people along Sri Lanka's southern, eastern and northern coastline.
"If you have too many boats in these waters, then already marginal incomes will go down even more," Sri Lankan Fisheries Biologist Lesley Joseph told the FAO. "Increased competition from an over-supply of canoes means that things could get even worse."

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Nutrition and the Environment

The following is a brief description of the article 'Nutrition and the Environment' that appear at the Development gateway.
''This article, by Johns and Eyzaguirre and published in the IFPRI website, adressess the relationship between nutrition and the environment. According to the authors, as community development priorities merge with those of environmental conservation, it becomes increasingly clear that unless human populations meet their basic survival needs they cannot afford to conserve. At the same time unless local communities protect the environments around them they have limited hope to thrive beyond the short term. As nutrition represents the most fundamental of human needs, it provides a useful perspective from which to address this paradox.''
The full article can be downloaded by following this link.

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Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Gender Dialogue: Celebrating what?

Online Edition of the Daily News - Features: BY NADIRA Gunatilleke
ANOTHER International Women's Day has been celebrated! Everyone celebrated it in the same old manner. All celebrations were soon over without any difference. But tomorrow all ordinary women will undergo the same harassment and injustices as usual.
As the majority of Sri Lankan citizens (over 52 per cent of the total population) we, women should think about the burning issues we have to face in our day-to-day life and demand of the relevant authorities to solve them as soon as possible.
After this we can look into gender mainstreaming, empowerment and all the other subjects.
What are the burning issues we face in our day-to-day life ? When answering this question we have to be genuine and consider the experiences of ordinary women who travel in crowded buses and have dinner in their kitchens, holding the plate in their hands, not women who travel in inter-coolers and have dinner at Five Star hotels.
The simple reason for this is that the majority of Sri Lankan women fall into the first category.
Most of women work today due to financial difficulties. The morning is as dark as night during this period of the year.
At present is it possible for an ordinary working woman to walk along a path or street in the dark? The simple answer to this question is no. The possibility of being robbed, harassed or raped is very high.
Being killed and made to disappear without a trace is not impossible. But do women protest demanding street lamps, police patrols or stricter laws?
They do not even think about those things, but seek help of companions, probably a male. She does not hesitate to sacrifice anything to get his service.
They get into public transport and the harassment starts. Perverts are everywhere. Some of those men are not satisfied by only leaning against a woman. They go beyond that stage and very rarely receive verbal resistance.
Women face a ready-made set of sentences, such as: Ange gewenna berinam car ekak aran yanavako'(take a car and go if you do not like being touched), 'Wenadata hondata indala ada mokada ke gahanne?' (You enjoyed this other days. Why are you shouting today ?), etc which put the woman in a more embarrassing situation.
How often do women use their physical strength or an object to resist? How often do they demand of the driver to stop the bus at the nearest police station? Do women ever protest demanding a practical system to eradicate harassment in buses?
After reaching their destination - doesn't matter whether it is her office or home - the harassment sometimes continues in a different mode. I do not need to describe how some working women get abused in their workplaces or at home.
In her office she sometimes undergoes verbal and sexual harassment while in some homes domestic violence turns her into a smashed tomato.
But how many women want to stop it happening for the 994 th time? How many women seek help? How many of them make an official complaint? How many women have heard of the proposed 'Women's Rights Bill' which suggests considering domestic violence a crime?
When there is no certain procedure to obtain things, it is men who get it first no matter what it is. Women weakly stand behind men. This happens in all queues for buses, food, drugs, aid, all sorts of tickets and everything.
Do the distributers ask women to come forward? Do women demand justice? Do they ever complain to the relevant authorities? The only thing women do is to scold everyone in common and do so into empty space!

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Don't let the children suffer'

Online edition of the Daily News -Features: BY THARUKA Dissanaike
TALES of woe are not uncommon along the country's tsunami-hit coastline from Bentota to Batticaloa to KKS. But to parents, grappling as best they could with the terrible disaster that has wrecked their lives, the worst possible nightmare must be to see their children dropping out of school for want of 'things' for their studies. During a recent visit to some of the hardest-hit villages in the South, the lament of parents was almost unbearable.
"Our children are sitting the scholarship examination this year. Their text books were destroyed in the tsunami and the school has not yet given them new books," cried two burley fishermen from Ambalangoda. "What can we do? We have spoken to the school and the grama niladhari. They say that they do not have enough stocks to give."
These fishermen were living in temporary tented accommodation in a patch of bare land by the sea, having lost all their possessions- homes, boats, nets and vehicles to the tsunami in December. One had even lost his wife and mother, both of whom had not been able to survive the surging waves.
"I had to get a loan from the local 'poli mudalali'to buy shoes and uniform for my son," said a mother from another coastal village. "I have no money. No income. My husband died in the tsunami, but my child just entered Year One and I did not want him to miss school. I have no idea of how I am going to pay this money back."
In the same village, 15-year-old Kaushalya has stopped schooling. She was to sit for her O/L exam this December but after the tsunami the child did not want to go back to school. "I have enough exercise books," she told me shyly. "But I have no uniform or shoes to wear to school." Were there others like her in the village? I asked. Parents replied in the affirmative. "We try to send them but some are too scared to be parted from their families for a long time. Others do not have the necessary uniforms, equipment or books, others attend for a few days and then drop out."
"We hope that when things go back to normal, the children will also restart their education. But it is such a burden on us to see them just loitering around the camps doing nothing and wasting their time," one mother cried. "Education is the only asset we can leave our children with. We have lost everything else. In other places, one set of uniform material has been given to children when it is more than obvious that a child needs at least two white uniforms. Others have got bits and parts- few exercise books, a school bag, a set of colour pencils, a lunch box, etc- but any parent knows that having a few things and a few books will not suffice for today's child. The exercise book requirement for schooling these days is enormous. There is little point in giving an O/L student whose book requirement is easily over 10, (160 pages) exercise books just four,(40 or 80 pages) books. And this is exactly what has happened in many of the tsunami devastated areas.

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Fisher families needed better treatment

Sri Lanka, 3 - 8 - 2005: Fisher families needed better treatment: "Tuesday, March 8, 2005, 13:42 GMT, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.
Mar 08, Colombo: Coordinator of the World Forum for Fisher People Pauline Tangiora, who has visited fisher families affected by the tsunami disaster, says these families deserve to be treated better.
She said the families have not received the assistance they should have received. She observed that with the onset of the monsoon rains, these families would face further difficulties, as they still live in tents or temporary shelters.
At a media conference held in Colombo, Ms. Tangiora said the Sri Lankan government's decision to impose a 100 meter buffer zone has aggravated the situation in fishing communities.
They cannot understand why they cannot rebuild their houses. They have been living all through the coastal area and they have no choice left now. No one has come to guide them in making their decision either to live in the places in the coastal [belt] or go beyond the imposed 100 metre buffer zone. This has caused a lot of anger and a lot of resentment of these lots who suffer as the victims of tsunami, she said.
Ms. Tangiora added that decision-makers should consult affected people at the provincial and district level. I have seen the rubble yet remain uncleared along the coastal belt. It needs immediate cleaning 12 kilometres from Colombo. Otherwise people living in these areas will be infected and would suffer from various diseases, she said. "

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Humanitarian Situation Reports - Sri Lanka: 04 - 08 March 2005

The lates OCHA and UNICEF situation report, have been released and can be accessed at the Humanitarian Information Centre. HIC has also made available on their website a catalogue of assessments organised by source, date, sector and District. They have also made availbale a comprehensive contact directory. This directory contains e-mail, telephone and postal addresses of Governement, NGO, INGO, UN and other organizations.

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Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Gender relief and rehabilitation

Online edition of Daily News - Lakehouse newspapers: "BY MANEL Abeysekera
President, Sri Lanka Women's Confernce

IN the urgency of action demanded by the suddeness and shock of the tsunami devastation, we may have overlooked the need for disaggregated data and its gender dimension which is essential for the effectiveness of the action itself; however, even after the first phase of providing immediate relief, let us note this for future emergencies as well as for the medium and long-term task that has to follow.

The gender dimension revealed in the disaggregated data needs to be catered to now that the CNO's work has devolved on the Task Force for Relief (TAFOR) and the Task Force for Rebuilding the Nation (TAFREN).

While the CNO must be commended for its performance in an extremely difficult and unprecedented situation, it is no surprise that, in a country where the gender dimension is hardly taken into account, it appears to have not been in the CNO. This is all the more reason for it to be incorporated into TAFOR and TAFREN at the very start of their work.

Engendering assistance to tsunami IDPs should be done and the following concerns met:

1. In camps

1.1 Security against abuse of women, girls and children within shelter; provide escorts where necessary.

1.2 Segregate from males other than husbands / sons

1.3 Privacy for sleeping and toilet / bathing facilities

1.4 Special attention to pregnant women and nursing mothers

1.5 Provide menstrual needs

1.6 Women to be placed in charge of needs and welfare of women and girls; she should organise the women in the camp for self protection and for obtaining relief being provided and for their special needs

2. Outside camps.

2.1 Women relief workers to check on special needs of women and procure them for IDPs.

2.2 Pay special attention to women - headed households: {a} help women who have been earners to resume earning.

{b} help those who were not earners to obtain traditional / non-traditional employment or skills for earning and provide them support till then.

{c} help women and older girls to form themselves into cooperatives in order to benefit from micro-credit schemes.

2.3 Provide infant needs {milk foods, feeding bottles, nappies etc,}, clothes, protection against mosquitos. Provide underwear and clothes

2.4 Health

{a} Test women and older girls for HIV/AIDS and separate them and provide treatment

{b} Pay special attention to women, girls and children who have been abused - some women may need the "morning after" pill - and provide the necessary treatment.

{c} Cater to reproductive and family planning needs.

{d} Cater to ante/post natal care including provision of nutritional supplements.

{e} Cater to gender differences in psychological needs of disaster trauma.

{f} Cater to women carers who may be very young and very old.

3. Empowerment

3.1 Utilise women's stamina and resilience to survive and rise above tragedy and make them participants in the rehabilitation process.

3.2 Utilise their domestic, local and environmental knowledge to advantage and encourage female leadership and gender co-leadership.

3.3 Consult women on housing for them and their families since they are the housebound/home makers and know the housing/household facilities required.

3.4 Link up women with local GO/NGO catering to women.

3.5 Utilise women's concern and capacity for economic use of natural resources and finance to their advantage.

3.6 Facilitate women's access to economic rehabilitation packages.

3.7 Include women in community rehabilitation discussions and hold them at times when women are free from family chores and at places accessible to them.

3.8 Facilitate and ensure legal recognition of women who are heads of households and ensure that new title deeds are in the name of both husband and wife.

3.9 Provide support for women care givers.

3.10 Pay special attention to vulnerable women - single mothers, widows, those below the poverty line and socially marginalised women {e.g. caste-wise} in targetting rehabilitation measures.

3.11 Prevent women being overburdened with their multiple role responsibilities and supply them with support services.

3.12 Provide advisory services to women in short, medium and long-term economic planning in terms of their aptitude and family responsibilities.

3.13 Utilise women in immediate rehabilitation activities such as construction and related projects like cement brick making etc.

3.14 Urge employers to be "women and family friendly" and exercise patience with women workers who may well be employed for the first time./ new to their jobs.

3.15 Ensure that women are participants in planning, implementing and monitoring rehabilitation measures , not only for their benefit but also for their capacity building, and that they are beneficiaries of them.

4 Gender resource material

4.1 Gender disaggregated data on IDP's.

4.2 Gender monitoring {including women participants in the rehabilitation process} to ensure gender balance in rehabilitation measures and activities including participation in them.

4.3 Gender budgeting to ensure gender fairness in allocation of funds.

It is clear that, with the enunciation of the 100 meter rule, alternate land for building would need to be alienated by the government for housing, The Lands Act, dating, I believe, from British times, did not make it possible for women to be eligible for such alienation because it was only granted to males; while I understand that it is now gender fair, if it is not, this would be a timely opportunity to make it so as there must surely be several women - headed IDP families and it is important for their sake as well as for gender fairness that this be ensured.

The aftermath of the tsunami tragedy and the tremendous effort the country has to make to change it into a victory by creating a better Sri Lanka in terms of people's livelihood and standard of living as well as of infrastructure, is the moment to recognise a gender dimension in our human rights, political and socio-development activity by establishing a Gender Unit in the Planning arm of the Ministry of Finance; one may ask: what about the existence of the Ministry of Women's Empowerment and Social Welfare?

There has been, for many years, a Ministry mandated with issues relating to women-their equality and equity-whether as an independent Ministry or in combination with another portfolio.

Yet, one has to admit - as was my experience during my association over several years with the National Committee on Women appointed by the President to implement the Women's Charter of Sri Lanka, which the Ministry overlooks with regard to finance and administration - that no government authority, despite instructions from the Secretary to the President, sends proposed legislation, policies and programs to it for engendering: during my time we received just one relating to fisheries which we engendered and returned to the Ministry of Fisheries.

On the other hand, all such proposals are referred to the Finance Ministry for assessing their financial implications, their place in the totality of government policy and planning and finally for allocation of funds: so, there is no circumventing this procedure.

Therefore, on behalf of all Sri Lankan women, who are more than half our population [and perhaps even of the IDP's too], I hope that a Gender Unit will be established accordingly, without delay, not only for engendering purposes but also for monitoring implementation; it may wish to work in coordination with the Ministry mandated to ensure women's human rights; but whatever mechanism is evolved, we need this gender unit to be established immediately as a matter, not only of urgency, but of principle, policy and good faith."

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Post- tsunami fishing` communities workshop

FAO-Tsunami reconstruction - helping rural people rebuild their lives: "
7/3/2005. A report from a two-day conference held in Phuket, Thailand intended to facilitate direct linkages between donors and affected fishing communities in the country. " Download the report

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Torn From Moorings, Villagers Grasp for Past

Posted by Ajith Gunaratne at GeoLanka News and Fora: " by Amy Waldman of NYTimes.com, Sunday March 06,
AVALADY, Sri Lanka - This village had been the loveliest of places to live, sitting on a narrow sandbar that extended into the Indian Ocean like a skeletal finger. On one side was a resort-caliber beach, on the other, a lagoon that separated the village from the nearby town. Palm trees dripping with coconuts provided shade. Water glittered all around.
But beauty was not why Santosh Chinnathambi Selvam had decided to return. Nor was the draw purely livelihood, although he, like everyone here, had once done well by the water. It was the idea of community that lured him, even though about one-third of his community was dead. ......

Read more..."

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Microfinance Institutions for Poverty Alleviation

Poverty Preview Document - SDM: "Article by Carmen Villegas, March 02, 2005
Microfinance is the provision of financial services: loans, saving and insurances schemes that are specially implemented to meet the needs of poor households that are traditionally outside of the financial system usually due to low incomes and a general lack of collateral. Microfinance institutions (MFIs) which provide the services often include rural banks, local cooperatives and NGOs (non-governmental organizations). To date, UNCTAD-the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development- calculates that around 7,000 MFIs exist worldwide offering microcredit opportunities to more than 20 million people.1

MFIs often provide a targeted group of poor people a small amount of credit at low, affordable interest rates (often substantially subsidized by the institution) that can then be used by the individual to engage in some productive activity with the goal of improving the quality of their lives and their families lives in the long term. Or else, the credit can also be used to meet more immediate needs such as medicine and food.

The success of the microcredit programs can however, be limited by a lack of social capital, dispersed populations, dependence on a sole economic activity (such as a single agricultural crop), reliance on barter rather than cash transactions as well as the possibility of future crises (such as hyperinflation and civil violence).2

Studies3 demonstrate that the impact of the MFIs increases when they are specially focused on providing credit to women. UNDP-the United Nations Development Program- 1995 Human Development Report indicated that 70% of the 1,300 million people who live on less than a dollar per day are women. This is often the result of women?s limited access to education and resources like land and credit. In addition, the women as a whole tend to spend more of their earnings on the family as opposed to men. Therefore by targeting loans to women, the money is more likely to have a greater impact on the family?s living standard in the long term.

One of the most famous MFIs is the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh. Through Grameen, credit is granted through a system that is based on mutual trust, responsibility and participation of an individual in a five member group (the unique manner in which Grameen bank disperses the loans) formed by the low income individuals seeking to undertake loans from the bank.

The founder of Grameen bank, economist Muhammad Yunus, formulated the idea for the microcredit bank during the undertaking of a research project in 1976. The project aimed to promote banking services targeted towards the rural poor of Bangladesh. Among the objectives of the initiative were to generate self-employment opportunities in a population with high unemployment rates and to discourage the exploitation of the poor by money lenders who in poor communities, are often the only viable alternative for poor individuals seeking loans. Yunnus? project, during the period 1976-1983 proved a success and with the sponsorship of the national central bank and support of various commercial banks, the Grameen Bank Project was transformed into the Grameen bank by government legislation in October 1983. Today, with more than 3.7 million borrowers (96% of which are women), Grameen is Bangladesh?s biggest rural bank. In the last fifteen years the experience of the Grameen Bank has been applied in over 70 countries.

The Grameen Bank has demonstrated that microcredit is an effective instrument for the alleviation of poverty. The evolution of similar initiatives has lead to the widespread use of microcredit instruments within other programs, such as in programs for local development, community organization, various training activities as well as saving schemes for the poor.

Another pioneering institution in the field of microfinance is ACCION International, a non-profit organization based in Boston, United States, that has been granting microcredit since 1973. Intially the program was aimed solely at reducing unemployment and poverty with the United States and has since branched out to the developing world. At the moment ACCION has microfinance programs in 15 Latin American countries, 5 African countries and 33 US based localities, and has benefited a total of 3,2 million people as of 2003.

Unlike many other microcredit institutions, ACCION believes that microcredit must be financially sustainable. This includes finding alternative means of funds other than reliance on private donations and government aid which they believe are not sustainable in the long run. ACCION designs its programs with the aim that the programs will become self-sufficient in a three to five year term. Based on the idea that a commercial bank can be oriented towards the poor while at the same time, be lucrative, ACCION has contributed to the creation of commercial microfinancial institutions like BancoSol in Bolivia, Mibanco in Peru, SogeSol in Haiti, Banco Solidario in Ecuador and Financiera Compartamos in Mexico.

Another good example of a financial services provider for poor families is the International Foundation for Community Assistance (FINCA), that initiated its activities in 1984. This institution grants microcredit mainly to women.

FINCA became famous because of its launch of the Village Banking method. The village banks are credit and saving organizations of between 10 and 50 members, generally mothers, who jointly manage a microcredit, saving and mutual support system. The group?s members administer the system and guarantee each other?s loans. The FINCA?s Village Banking method has been implemented in more than 32 countries worldwide."

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WFP Situation Report: March 4th

The lates WFP situation report released on the 4th of March can be accessed here.

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Monday, March 07, 2005

Training camps to fast track skills development for tsunami affected people

Online edition of Daily News - Lakehouse newspapersBY SARATH Malalasekera
''THE OPA joined with the DTET for organising training camps to fast track skills development for tsunami affected people at 14 technical colleges of the DTET in the coastal region of the country.

For this purpose the OPA received Rs. 3.7 million from Velsen in the Netherlands, said Netherlands Alumni Association Lanka President (NAAL) S. P. C. Kumarasinghe.

The aim is to enable the affected people to rebuild and repair their homes destroyed by the water. Hands on training will be done by the staff of the DTET for over five days for a total of 40 hours and will cover skills in brick and cement block laying and painting (masonry), plumbing, electrical and wiring and carpentry.

Each centre will train four groups of 15 in the area of training and in the first round it is expected to train around 840 people.

A successful first round will pave the way for second and third rounds of training. It is hoped that most of the trainees would subsequently want to acquire further training and be certified as craftsmen to embrace the acquired skill as a permanent vocation.

The trainees will be given an allowance during their training period. On successful completion of the training they will receive a basic tool kit for the trade and a working overall and also a certificate of competence.

They will have the opportunity to upgrade their skills following advanced courses in selected trade later on at the same centres, NAAL President said.

The locations of the DTET Training colleges- Ratmalana, Matara, Ampara, Trincomalee, Kalutara, Beliatta, Mirijjawila, Jaffna, Balapitiya, Weerawila, Samanthurai, Galle, Embilipitiya and Batticaloa.''

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Impact of the tsunami on natural ecosystems of Sri Lanka : Lessons learned

Online edition of Sunday Observer - Features: " by Dayananda Kariyawasam, Director General of wildlife Conservation

The tsunami devastated the coastline of Sri Lanka, impacted several protected areas managed by the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC), namely Ruhuna National Park Blocks I and II. Yala East National Park, Bundala National Park, Hikkaduwa Marine National Park, Pigeon Island Marine National Park, Kudumbigala Sanctuary, Nimalawa Sanctuary, Lunama-Kalametiya Sanctuary, proposed Rekawa Sanctuary and Turtle Refuge and Kokilai Sanctuary.

In view of this, the Director General of DWC appointed a seven member committee under his chairmanship, to assess the impact of tsunami on these protected areas and to make necessary recommendations for monitoring the recovery of these ecosystems as well as to identify short and long-term restoration activities that need to be undertaken by the DWC to ensure the long-term viability of these protected areas.

The committee comprised H. D. Ratnayake, Co-chair Person (DWC) S. R. B. Dissanayake (DWC), Dr. Channa Bmabaradeniya (IUCN Sri Lanka), Ravi Corea (Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society) Dr. Prithiviraj Fernando (Centre for Conservation and Research) Prof. S. U. K. Ekaratne (University of Colombo), Dr. U. K. G. K. Padmalal (Open University of Sri Lanka) and Dr. Devaka Weerakoon (University of Colombo).

The Marine National Parks received little direct impact. However, they suffered from secondary impacts such as smothering of coral reefs by siltation resulting from turbulence created by wave action as well as runoff from land, and damage arising from man-made structures such as fish nets and concrete pillars washed out into the ocean with the receding wave.

The impact on terrestrial ecosystems though considerable, was localised to low lying areas mostly associated with lagoons and estuaries.

In the Ruhuna National Park Block 1, the area impacted inclusive of the beach, was 790 hectares. Nine major sites of sea incursion were identified. These were Palatupana-goda kalapuwa, Kuda Seelawa, Maha Seelawa, Uraniya, Buttuwa, Beeri kalapuwa, Patanangala, Gona Lahaba and Kalliya, all of which are lagoons or bays with direct sea frontage.

In the Ruhuna Block II six main areas of impact were identified, namely, Yala wela, Pillinewa, Agara Eliya, Uda Pottana, Gajabawa, and Kumbukkan Oya estuary. In Yala East, the Kumana lagoon was impacted by the tsunami wave. Apart from this, the Lunama-Kalametiya Sanctuary and Proposed Rekawa Sanctuary and Turtle Refuge were considerably damaged. In all of these areas the vegetation was impacted much more than large animals or birds.

Three types of impacts on vegetation were identified. The most obvious was the complete or partial uprooting and breaking of trees due to the force of the wave close to surrounding the shore, and along the central region of flooding, leading to death, complete drying and subsequent defoliation of trees.

The other two types of damage were deposition of sand carried inland with the wave, and inundation with seawater, which heavily impacted the understorey vegetation such as grasses and herbs.

A number of fresh water tanks and water holes in Yala Block 1 were impacted to some degree by the tsunami. Pattiyawala, Diganwala, Yala Tank, and a number of smaller water holes were completely inundated, and the Patanangala and Uda Pottana tanks were breached. A few other water holes received minor incursions of seawater but were not impacted to any significant degree. While small patches of mangrove vegetation such as was in Maha Seelawa were almost completely destroyed, the larger tracts as in Pillinewa, Gajabawa etc. were relatively intact with damage only to areas close to the sea.

The direct impact on animals was less pronounced compared to the vegetation. Very few large animals were found to have perished due to the tsunami. However, small saline sensitive animals such as land snails and frogs, as well as small mammals and reptiles such as rats, mice, snakes and lizards have been heavily impacted.

Some animals like birds, small mammals and reptiles appear to have benefited from the damaged vegetation as they were observed to use the tangled masses of vegetation as nesting sites and hiding places. It was observed that most of the terrestrial ecosystems have already started to recover, especially the grasses.

Another important finding of this initial assessment was that natural ecosystems have functioned as the first line of defence against the tsunami wave. Especially the sand dunes have withstood the force of the wave very successfully, and if not for them, the southern and southeastern coasts would have received a higher level of damage.

Other coastal and offshore ecosystems such as beach vegetation, mangroves, and coral reefs have also provided protection to the coastline where these ecosystems were preserved in a relatively good condition. On the other hand in areas where natural ecosystems have been degraded due to over utilisation, the damage to the coastal areas has been more extensive. It has also become apparent that these natural ecosystems can offer a greater resistance against this kind of natural disaster rather than man-made structures such as breakwaters and rip rap structures that are in place to prevent erosion.

Based on the findings of this initial study, the committee members have also provided number of recommendations as to what actions are needed to restore the natural ecosystems in the impacted protected areas.

Once general recommendation that emerged from all the studies is the need to remove artificial debris from all impacted areas. This action has become critically important in the off shore areas such as Hikkaduwa Marine National Park where the artificial debris that got washed out from the land has become a major threat to the coral reefs.

It was also felt that information on the natural recovery process could be offered as a part of the visitor experience to the impacted National Parks, and to use this opportunity to create awareness among park visitors as to the impacts of the tsunami on the park, including the establishment of a tsunami exhibit in the Ruhuna National Park.

It was also decided to carry out a limited amount of restoration work for facilitate functional needs such as clearing of small areas to improve road accesses and wildlife viewing. Finally it was decided to establish a long-term monitoring program in selected sites of the impacted protected areas to systematically investigate and document the response of natural eco-systems to tsunamis and the recovery process. "

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