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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 26, 2005

Tsunami affects 4389 industries : IDB survey reveals

Online edition of the Daily News: Business: by Irangika Range
The tsunami has affected 4389 industries in the country according to a survey conducted by the Industrial Development Board (IDB). Out of the total affected industries 59 percent are micro scale industries while 38 percent small, one percent medium and one percent large scale industries were affected.

According to the sector-wise analysis food, beverages and tobacco products (12.39 percent), textile and wearing apparel (21.92 percent), leather products (1.64 percent), wood and wooden products (11.44 percent), coir based products (20.98 percent), chemical based products and pharmaceuticals (0.48 percent), rubber and plastic products (0.55 percent), non metallic mineral products (2.92 percent), fabricated metal products (7.27 percent), agriculture and ornamental fishery (1.07 percent), paper and paper products (0.39 percent), handicrafts (2.42 percent), gem and jewellery (3.73 percent), trading, business and services (12.03 percent) and manufactured products (0.77 percent) were among the affected industries.

The survey has also found out that 1.5 percent of employees and employers died and one percent employers has been disabled due to the disaster.

The cost of damage to machinery, tools, equipment, raw materials, and semi finished and finished goods and vehicles has been Rs. 1400 million.

The IDB under the guidance of the Ministry of Small and Rural Industries conducted the survey from January 15 to 30. The industries recorded in the survey are from Ampara, Batticaloa, Colombo, Galle, Gampaha, Hambantota, Jaffna, Kalutara, Matara, Mullaitivu and Trincomalee districts.

These industries have obtained credit facilities amounting to Rs.501 million from financial institutions and invested Rs. 3168 million on their businesses and industries.

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All parties should be involved

ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka 3 - 24 - 2005: All parties should be involved in reconstruction to minimize corruption - TISL: 12:43 GMT.

Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) has urged the government and all concerned parties to approach the reconstruction process in a more participatory manner in order to minimize corruption.

“It is now time to take stock of the reconstruction process and the national and international commitment towards the rebuilding efforts,” TISL said.

“The TISL believes that all stakeholders including the government of Sri Lanka need to frankly critically evaluate their role in the process.”

The organization urged all political leaders, political parties and groups to act with responsibility and give highest priority to the post-tsunami reconstruction effort, while assuring tsunami victims that their voices would be heard in the process.

“It is only with [a] participatory approach that possible corruption could be minimized in Sri Lanka,” TISL added.

“It will be too late in the day unless both the government and donors themselves encourage and facilitate effective participation of the civil society, community-based organizations and professional bodies to be engaged in a systemic monitoring activity that is answerable to the beneficiaries of aid and the public.”

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Friday, March 25, 2005

Post tsunami phase inflationary says Treasury Secy

Daily Mirror: 24/03/2005, By Sunimalee Dias
Treasury Secretary Dr. P.B. Jayasundera on Tuesday admitted that higher inflation in the country was possible in the aftermath of the tsunami devastation and emphasised that stablising macro economic framework and reducing poverty were important.

Addressing a panel discussion on the "Tsunami Disaster and the Recovery Process; Critical Issues Facing Sri Lanka" organised by the Foundation for Co-Existence, Dr. Jayasundera said that initially it was vital that they take stock of what has happened, and what needs to be carried out and the recovery process to be adopted.

He noted that although there would be no immediate set back on the economy this year with a near 6% growth, there was a possibility of inflation in the aftermath of the tsunami.

He pointed out that economy of the country was altogether in a "difficult" situation even prior to the tsunami and that the initial support from the donor community upon request was very much forthcoming.

Dr. Jayasundera said the government made a request for debt relief arrangement and plan for a period of three to five years. This has already been realized for the first year this year and observed that further bilateral discussion need to be taken up in this regard as well, he said.

Speaking on the North and East he said that "even donors have recognized that this is one area where the suffering from the prolonged conflict" while in the rest of the south of the country, poverty was evident. As such Dr. Jayasundera said with the displacement of families and the weakened infrastructure, they have held discussions with development partners to help resolve poverty in these areas.

Finance Ministry Secretary also noted, the rest of the country must continue to strive in their work "buoyantly". He said that they would be seeking aid through consultations and discussions with their business partners towards this end. "Because of the large number of donors involved the fair degree of coordination in terms of programmes is also a critical element," Dr. Jayasundera said at the Foundation for Co-Existence panel discussion chaired by Dr. Kumar Rupasinghe.

Treasury Secretary also observed the Asian Development Bank (ADB) had expressed the fact that "confidence remains high by the donors."

TAFREN Director General Mano Tittawella speaking at the discussion said that the rescue and relief phase was conducted effectively and that presently they were on the reconstruction stage.

He noted that TAFREN had over the last six weeks conducted discussions with relevant parties in a bid to finalise a document relating to the final structure of the planning and implementation process of reconstruction.

Mr. Tittawella said that there was a need to work out how the action plan has be taken up and that the multi donor task force that has come up with the implementation aspect of the plan.

In this regard, he pointed out “if we do achieve this we would be ahead of other countries and I would probably think Sri Lanka is slightly ahead of other countries.”

He noted that without effective planning the obtaining of donor assistance would be “flawed” and asserted, “bad coordination creates a significant amount of overlaps.”

While appreciating the support and assistance received so far for the purpose of rehabilitation and recovery he asserted that there was a need to look at the realist sense of the donor’s pledges.

Mr. Tittawella said that the multi lateral and bilateral organizations and the NGOs and other sections of society must have their own standards and put this into practice through proper implementation for reconstruction.

In this respect, he said they were working out with the donors on the pledges made by them to be realized and ensure that these are targeted towards set projects.

He noted that there would be time lag in delivering the goods as per the construction of houses it would take about one to six months, around two years to construct roads and around three years for the reconstruction of the railway lines.

Director General of the Relief, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction (RRR) Harim Peiris said, “as a nation we can be proud of what we’ve been doing.”

He pointed that there are valid issues that needs to be taken into account at this stage, such as consulting, transparency and the role of the NGOs. “Ultimately this must be recognized although you may have a divergence of opinion” he added.

Speaking on the situation in the North and East, Mr. Peiris said that at the time the tsunami hit this was an area already devastated by the conflict and was having a “vulnerable community”. In this context firstly the government has continued their post conflict and rehabilitation programmes which account for about Rs. 500 million per year.”

He pointed out that some of those details that have been speculated concerning the joint mechanism between the government and the LTTE, it must be noted that the present situation of the talks on this subject is that they are “proceeding smoothly.”

Mr. Peiris said that they were optimistic that it would conclude well and bring about a working system together for the establishment of the joint mechanism.

He asserted that there was no truth to the fact that no one knows of what is happening in the North and East and especially in the uncleared areas regarding rehabilitation and reconstruction, as there is full access to everyone to these areas.

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FORUM-ASIA Open Letter to the ADB

The following mail was circulated through the yahoo group Srilanka-NGO-Link
FORUM-ASIA Open Letter to the Asian Development Bank23rd March 2005
Asian Development Bank is an important partner in the reconstruction of Tsunami-hit areas. Its financial commitment accounts for a significant potion of overall pledges made by governments, intergovernmental and non-governmental donors. Thus, we welcome the initiative of the ADB in conveying a High Level Coordination Meeting on Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of Tsunami-Affected Countries.However, we very much regret the restrictions placed on civil society participation at this meeting, by only allowing civil society groups that the ADB country offices deemed fit, to participate. This procedure automatically excluded hundreds of local, national and regional civil society groups from participating and contributing. This selective way of inviting participants is in contrast to the open and inclusive approach adopted at previous regional forums on post Tsunami work (E.g. Asian Civil Society Consultation on Post Tsunami Challenges and the Forum on Tsunami and Human Rights organized by the Office of the Regional Representative’s of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Bangkok)
Going through the opening address of the ADB President and the ADB Press releases after the meeting, we also see that three very important dimensions highlighted by various stakeholders, particularly affected communities, have not been emphasized in the meeting.
They are:
  1. Human rights implications of the tsunami and it’s aftermath. The meeting seems to have ignored human rights issues related to the tsunami and it’s aftermath, pointed out by many civil society groups and NGOs, as well as the Special Procedures of the UN Commission on Human Rights.
  2. The importance of conflict sensitive and pro-peace rehabilitation and reconstruction – in the context of Aceh and North and East of Sri Lanka
  3. The importance of the participation of affected communities in all rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts, including decision making
We are hopeful that the ADB can review it’s policies and projects, to integrate the above cross cutting principles into their overall tsunami rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts.
FORUM-ASIA is willing to collaborate and dialogue with ADB in this regard and believe that a more inclusive approach will best serve the interests of the victims.
For further details, please contact:
Anselmo Lee, Executive Director Tel: (66-1) 868 9178 alee@forumasia.org
Ruki Fernando, Task Force on Tsunami Challenge –Tel: (66-4) 099 1538 ruki@forumasia.org

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Water, Development and Health

The Island: Feature: 24/03/2005
Of the 1.1 billion people without access to improved water sources worldwide, over 80% live in rural areas. Drinking-water quality is especially difficult to control, and small community water supplies frequently fail on basic microbiological quality. Rural communities have a different relationship to water than do urban dwellers. Water dominates every aspect of their lives. People in the countryside live off the land and depend on water to grow their crops. Scarce water supplies are used sparingly for household needs. Water is the source of their livelihood, and when water is unclean or mismanaged, it becomes a source of ill-health and continued poverty, thus with negative bearing on development. To achieve the international development target of halving the proportion of people without access to improved water or sanitation by 2015, an additional 1.6 billion people will require access to water supply and about 2.2 billion will require access to sanitation facilities.

Water and Health for the Urban Poor

Competition for water in the world’s ever-growing cities is fierce. Industry, urban agriculture and households all rely on and demand water to meet their needs. But water is becoming scarce, and this often results in the inequitable distribution of what is available. Municipal water regulations, government subsidies, public and private investment all tend to favour traditional water-supply services which provide piped .water directly into peoples’ homes, but neglect the urban poor. Hygiene practice is closely linked to the availability of water and sanitation facilities. In places where these may be lacking, communal areas which offer facilities for hand-washing, bathing and laundry may effectively encourage good hygiene. For instance, the health of communities can be enhanced if they are able to protect their water sources, dispose of solid waste and excreta, and provide wastewater drainage.

Urban habitats provide breeding grounds for diseases such as dengue fever and filaria. Control methods for reducing breeding-sites for the insect vector is a proven and effective means of cutting disease. Unfortunately, they are difficult to implement in densely-populated shanty towns with inadequate waste disposal.

Trace elements and minerals in Water

Water contains many trace elements and minerals, which may be benign, beneficial or toxic. Everything depends on how much. While some minerals may be beneficial in low concentrations, most can be toxic in excess. Only a few chemicals - for instance, arsenic and fluoride - are thought to be major public health issues. The problems they and nitrate cause are most common in rural areas.

Arsenic in Drinking-Water

One of the worst examples of a do-good project gone wrong is occurring in Bangladesh. About two decades ago, millions of small wells began to be drilled in an effort to provide safe water to the population. At the time, all attention was focused on preventing diarrhoeal disease which ravaged the population. No one, until the 1980s, identified naturally-occurring arsenic as a health hazard. A recent study published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization suggests that Bangladesh is grappling with the largest mass poisoning in history, potentially affecting between 35 and 77 million of the country’s 125 million population, threatening them with potential epidemics of cancers and other fatal diseases. Attacking the problem in Bangladesh is not easy. There are millions of wells and those that are dangerous are mixed in with those that are safe. There are several technical solutions but no single universal method. Well-to-well testing is needed.


Fluoride is present in all waters. Low amounts of this element can be good for teeth. But, excessive amounts of fluoride in drinking-water can be toxic. People with teeth discolored by fluoride are found worldwide, and crippling skeletal effects are prominent in at least eight countries. It is estimated that 30 million people suffer from chronic fluorosis in China where the custom of burning fluoride-rich coal in the household may further aggravate the problem. These issues can be solved and answers are available, but implementing projects, especially in the rural areas where the disease is most prevalent, have often found out to be difficult.


Of all the water-associated tropical diseases, schistosomiasis, a water-based parasitic disease, which is commonly found in some parts of Africa, the Middle East, some Caribbean islands and parts of South America best illustrates the complexities of the various water issues with which mostly the rural poor are faced. For part of their lifecycle, Schistosoma parasites depend on aquatic snails. The disease is maintained through faecal and urine contamination of open waters with parasite eggs, the presence of the snails and frequent water contact for recreational, domestic or occupational purposes.

Water management can play an important role in reducing transmission risks. But it must be combined with drug treatment, the provision of safe drinking-water and adequate sanitation. Health education is also important. Canal lining, regular rapid draw-down of reservoirs, and increased flow rates in irrigation canals all favour snail elimination, but are only efficient if they have a positive effect on agricultural production at the same time.

Indigenous People

Contamination of traditional food sources is becoming an increasing issue of concern among indigenous populations, many of whom derive most of their drinking, irrigation and food from local lakes and rivers. In South America for example, indigenous peoples in the Andes and Amazon regions are exposed to high levels of arsenic and mercury in local water systems and fish. This is creating health problems among children and breastfed infants. For many tribal groups in Africa, unsafe drinking- water and unhygienic handling of food is contributing to high levels of diarrhoeal diseases in infants and children.

Indigenous peoples in rich countries may also live in abject poverty and suffer from the kind of ill-health and economic deprivation that are commonly found in developing countries. For example in Canada where a large indigenous population live, the statistics show that they have a lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality and greater disease burden than the rest of society. However, the outlook for disadvantaged communities in these societies is usually better because of active social support networks.

Dams and Health

The development potential of dams includes irrigation, power generation, drinking-water supply, flood control, navigation, fisheries and recreation. Dam construction has a chequered past because of adverse environmental and health impacts.

The impacts of dams on environmental and social determinants often worsen the health status of vulnerable communities; they transfer hidden costs to the health sector and they undermine the project’s sustainability. For example, in Ethiopia the cumulative effect of microdams translated into a seven-fold increase of malaria transmission in the nearby communities.

Health impact assessment (HIA) provides a well-tested method and procedure for minimizing health risks and maximizing the health benefits of development projects. HIA fits in with prospective environmental and economic assessments. It is an effective decision-support tool, provided recommended mitigating health measures are included in the resulting environmental management and resettlement plans.

Scaling up HIA will ensure improved equity of health benefits of dams and other water-resource projects. It will prevent the transfer of hidden costs to the health sector and it will contribute a great deal to its sustainability.

Solutions most needed

The United Nations Millennium Goals aims to promote development and eliminate poverty nationally and globally. A major goal is to halve, by the year 2015, the number of people who earn less than a dollar a day, who suffer from hunger and have no access to affordable, safe drinking-water.

Providing access to better water for more than 1 billion people cannot be done overnight. Waiting for the ‘big solution’ while ignoring the immediate priorities of the most needy makes no sense. There are many small-scale, cost-effective intermediate actions which can be taken to great effect. Easy, low-cost methods for improving health do exist and can be applied collectively or individually. Water can be purified by means of chlorination and solar-thermal techniques. People can stay healthy by simply washing their hands with soap and water. Government policies can support local initiatives.

Chlorinated Water

Chlorination is a proven means of ridding water of disease causing micro-organisms in piped water supply. But the prevailing wisdom is that chlorinated water should be dealt with after basic water supply and sanitation are in place.

Research carried out by scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, in the United States of America and the Pan American Health Organization looked at how chlorinated water can be provided to poor households through a simple, low-cost treatment and secure storage method. "One of the findings we’ve made is that improving water quality alone does work and we can do this without improving sanitation," says Mark Sobsey, Professor of Environmental Microbiology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, USA. "What we now know is that even in conditions of very poor sanitation and hygiene where people are collecting whatever water is available to use as household water supply, if the water is chlorinated, the water is improved microbiologically and you can find statistically significant decreases in diarrhoeal disease".

Changing Behaviour

"Our research shows that washing hands with soap would probably save half of the deaths from diarrhoeal diseases," suggests Valerie Curtis, Lecturer in Hygiene Promotion at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. "All it requires is soap and motivation." But that’s more easily said than done. Curtis participated in a major three-year study in India, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and West Africa to learn what motivates good hygiene practices. The results are interesting and in many ways unexpected. The research finds that hygiene is a common value around the world. Nobody likes dirt. But, people’s hygienic practices have less to do with health than with social and aesthetic considerations. Mothers want to keep their babies clean because they believe it is a loving, caring thing to do and will make their babies socially acceptable. One Indian mother explains "If my child is dirty, no one will hold him in their arms, no one will love him. And, so I keep my child clean."

There has to be a rethinking of the traditional ‘scolding, moralistic’ approach to hygiene, which hasn’t worked. A number of studies show that people are turned off by dire warnings that they will face disease and death if they don’t change, "their filthy ways". For example, people in Brazil refused to collaborate in a cholera prevention program because they felt they were being accused of being ‘filthy dogs’.

Evidence is growing that positive messages are more successful than negative ones in producing behaviour change. A three-year study in Bobo-Dioulasso (Burkina Faso) used positive messages to change old entrenched habits. At the end of that period, the people in the study had tripled their use of soap. Curtis says an evaluation of the intervention shows that the money spent on the programme and buying extra soap was less than what families and health agencies had been spending on treating childhood disease. "There was actually a net saving on the overall programme."

Studies show that cases of diarrhoea were cut an average of 35% by the simple act of washing hands with soap and water. Getting people to change their habits represents a big task for health promoters.

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Guidelines for Planning in the Re-building Process

ReliefWeb Open Document
Source: Intermediate Technology Development Group Limited (ITDG)
Date: Jan 2004

This resource pack contains guidelines for planning post-disaster management. Its content draws attention to multiple aspects such as:

This pack has been made to assist those engaged in post-disaster rebuilding.
View the full document (PDF *, 768 KB)

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A "Global Tsunami" Against Children

The following article which appeared in theISLAND 03/24/05 was sent in by Ananda

These mind-numbing statistics form the core of UNICEF’s annual "State of the World’s Children" report, released at the end of last year and debated in a Feb. 17 panel discussion moderated by Elizabeth Gibbons, UNICEF’s chief of global policy. The agencyExecutive Director Carol Bellamy summed up childhood poverty, its causes and its effects - AIDS, armed conflict, child labour, lack of consistent international interest and funding, environmental instability, child trafficking - as a "global tsunami" that threatens to engulf our descendants. The discussion balanced economic theory with conventional wisdom. It included luminaries like Nobel Prize-winner and Columbia University Professor Joseph Stiglitz, and Rebecca Grynspan-Mayufis, Mexico director of the Economic Commission on Latin America and former vice president of Costa Rica.
Unicef defines poverty as ‘deprivation of the material, spiritual and emotional resources needed to survive, develop and thrive, and outlines the seven deprivations that constitute such a condition - lack of shelter, sanitation, clean water, information, nutrition, health and education.
According to the 2005 report, half the world’s children experience these deprivations, concentrated mainly in Africa, South Asia and the Middle East. Childhood poverty should be considered differently from adult poverty, Stiglitz argued, because "children are voiceless. We need to identify their concerns." Lack of services for children in 2005 is a sure indicator of poverty levels among adults in 2025, and Stiglitz maintained that society determines debt inheritance, leaving an undue burden on the present generation of children.
According to UNICEF, the first three years of life are essential to child development. During this time, portions of a child’s brain can double in size, and lack of a strong maternal presence, mental stimulation and play can severely stymie growth. As this generation reaches adulthood and procreates, raising children without the necessary components for a physically and mentally healthy offspring, the cycle restarts. Raising children under the shadow of the seven deprivations leaves them especially open to abuse, which is subsequently passed down to their children like a tragic birthright.
The solution, the panelists maintained, is relatively affordable. Dr. Sanjay Reddy, an economics professor at Princeton and Barnard Universities, said that even small investments can break the cycle of poverty and end the frustrating stagnation many developing countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, continue to suffer. Some of the panelists championed progressive taxation, which would provide health and education for poor children by taxing the wealthy. All agreed that peace is instrumental in economic recovery, because conflict brings a breakdown of markets and health, populating refugee camps and eroding social structures.
E. Valpay K. Fitzgerald, director of the Finance and Trade Policy Research Centre at Queen Elizabeth House, lamented the evaporation of rural financing, pointing to "capital flight" in danger zones, whereby investors pull up their roots, leaving a financial gap that takes decades to bridge. One solution would be to provide incentives to firms and countries to invest on a local level in remote rural areas.
On the topic of child labour, a cruel phenomenon in which 280 million children either voluntarily or forcibly take part, Kaushik Basu, a development economist at Cornell University, gave a particularly impassioned plea to the United Nations delegates in attendance to search for solutions to the crisis. Acknowledging that supplemental income from child labour keeps some families above the poverty line, he urged governments to adopt programmes that provide financial incentives to poor families to keep their children in school and out of the labour force. This strategy has proven successful in countries like Bangladesh, which has employed a food-for-education programme.
A major concern for UNICEF and the United Nations as a whole is the ability of its 191 member states to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), eight objectives with a deadline of 2015. The MDGs include a 50 percent reduction in poverty and hunger; universal primary education; reduction of child mortality by two-thirds; cutbacks in maternal mortality by three-quarters; the promotion of gender equality; and the reversal of the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.
A 2004 report found some progress in girls’ enrollment in primary schools, but areas such as women’s rights, youth unemployment, HIV/AIDS and environmental stability continue to stagnate and even worsen in some regions. Of the 15 key donors involved in the global partnership, the United States is second to last in terms of social expenditure, at 2.5 percent of its GDP - a paltry sum considering that 22 percent of its children live in poverty. Only Mexico had a higher child poverty rate among the donor countries.

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Thursday, March 24, 2005

Call for Vigilance: by MONLAR and ANRHR

LINES Magazine: "Tsunami Update II - January 22, 2005

Call for Vigilance to people of all counties was Sent in to LINES by MONLAR and ANRHR

This follows our information Bulleting ( I), sent about a week ago.

In our previous letter we spoke about the "Issues and New Developments in Relation to process of the Tsunami in Sri Lanka" The alarming new developments that we saw are now being further confirmed,

  1. The Chairman of the Task Force for Rebuilding the Nation stated that the Rebuilding Process after Tsunami would also include the Plans that had already been there before Tsunami. He was obviously referring to the "Regaining Sri Lanka" Strategy and Plans that had been agreed upon at the Previous "Donors Meeting held in Tokyo in June 2003". It should be noted that this Strategy of Economic Reforms that was agreed upon were strongly opposed by the people in Sri Lanka. This strategy proposed by the UNF Government was rejected by the People at the General Elections in April 2004. Chandrika and the UPFA (United People's Freedom Alliance) criticized this economic policy and promised to do differently. The "Budget 2005" proposed in November 2004 was strongly critical of these strategies and reforms. Although the WB.IMF, ADB and the "Donor" Governments such as Japan, USA, and EU were very keen to continue the same it was politically difficult for the UPFA to push this agenda.
  2. Tsunami provided an easy opportunity for both the major parties as well as the big powers of USA, Japan and others to go back to their previous plans.
  3. The plans of the New Task Force were finalized on 15th of January and were announced on the 17th. In a full page advertisement by the Task Force for Rebuilding the Nation in all news papers it stated the Objective as follows,

The introduction or preamble to the objective and action plan of TAFREN is clearly stated as follows. "The best tribute we can pay to those who have lost their lives is to restore life in the affected areas. The economic, social and development activity must continue in order to build a prosperous future for the people who have been affected by this disaster and the nation as a whole.

We need to examine and analyze whether the action plan and the objective in the operational section will enable the nation to pay the best tribute to those who have lost their lives.

Will a new infrastructure and systems to meet the challenges of the 21st century designed to fulfill the dreams and ambitions of a Modern Society enable the people who have been affected by this disaster and the nation as a whole to build a prosperous future? The nation includes the 80 percent of the population in rural areas a vast majority of whom are subsistence farmers, agricultural workers and casual employees. What is modern society? Is it the Western Province? Whatever modern society is, those who have been affected by the disaster and the vast majority of people in the rural areas do not belong to the modern society. Putting in place a new infrastructure and systems to fulfil the dreams and aspirations of a modern society will therefore the irrelevant and harmful to them.

Almost immediately the Government announced that the Construction of the Colombo Matara Super Highway would be included in the rebuilding programme. Within days of these announcements armed police went in to the areas where people were resisting their eviction from land to make way for the highway and threatened them to leave. Those in charge of land acquisition told the resisting communities that their houses would be soon bulldozed. A letter
that was received by some people who faced these threats is sent separately (attached)

Water privatisation policies rushed through.

On 30th December, just 4 days after Tsunami, the Government introduced a policy document on National Water Resourcesand obtained Cabinet approval. This bill initially drafted in 2000 aimed at inviting the private sector for water development and water marketing, in the name of making arrangements for better water management. People resisted this policy and the initial
draft was withdrawn and amended by both governments. The new Government promised that they would not do any water privatisation or marketing of water. However, the ADB continued its insistence that these water policy reforms for privatisation should be adopted and implemented if the Government was to receive the loans. The introduction of Water Privatisation policies on the aftermath of Tsunami was a clear indication that the continuation of the anti poor policies of economic reforms would be integrated with the Post Tsunami reconstruction.

The "Rebuilding the Affected Area" plans produced by Dept of National Planning, Ministry id Finance and Planning - January 2005 has included a whole series of "Re-establishment of pipe borne water supply scheme" in 10 Districts Hambantota, Colombo, Gampaha, Puttalam, Ampara, Matara, Galle, Tricomalee, Batticaloa, Kalutara, Jaffna and Mullativu.

If these proposals are really aimed at rebuilding the damaged water supply systems for the affected people this is appreciable. However, if this is a case of utilizing the situation and the rebuilding process for building the type of water infrastructure that were planned earlier in order to build infrastructure for big private water companies to begin marketing of water
it is a total abuse of the Tsunami relief assistance. The rushing of the Water Resources Policy, to meet the deadlines laid by the ADB, creates a suspicion that the poor people in the urban areas will soon be compelled to pay heavily for their drinking water to private and local water businesses. The declaration by the task force that previous plans would be integrated in to the Tsunami rebuilding plans confirms these fears.

Proposal to Sell away of the Eppawela Phosphate Deposits Revived

At a public gathering at Narahenpita on 16th January as reported in Lankadeepa - a major Sinhala Daily in Sri Lanka, the President made this statement. She said that it was a big mistake not to utilize the rich natural resources in the country and Tsunami was a way by which Nature
punished the country for not utilizing these natural resources. She said, "It has been founded that we have rich natural Gas in our seas, There are very valuable gems not yet unearthed We are only scratching the surface. If we go deeper as is done in African countries we can find enough wealth to last all our life."

"There is a great mountain of Phosphate in the North Central Province. A Buddhist monk and a few others were shouting against the utilisation of these deposits. It was stopped. I am also answerable for this mistake. We get frightened when they shout. We will not do this in the future"

"If this small group of protesters shout on the streets again we will not put them in Jail. We will lock them up in a hotel and we will give them good food, and then we will continue our work"

She was referring to the huge protest movements in the country that included people of all sectors, scientists, scholars and clergy that protested against the selling away of National Resources and violation of Human Rights. led by the ANRHR. This was not a hundred or two hundred people but over two hundred people's organisations covering all sectors of society.

The Post Tsunami rebuilding plans include the building of 8 new fishing harbours and rehabilitation of 13 Fishery harbours that were damaged in 8 Disrticts There were previous proposals to build big, modern fishery harbours to be built by big companies to anchor big fishing vessels. This was to attract big fishing companies for deep sea harvesting There were
earlier threats of thus displacing the small scale fish workers. The movements of fish workers such as the National Fisheries Solidarity were campaigning to protect the fishing rights of small scale fisher communities. These proposals combined with the rushed decision not to allow the fisher communities to resettle in the coastal belt increases the fears and suspicions

Tourist Hotels promoted in the coastal belt.

From the beginning the Government and the "new rebuilders of the nation" have repeatedly stated that the continuation of tourism and tourist hotels in the "protective" border of 300 meters would be encouraged. President stated that the repairs and reopening of the Hotels within the border would not be prevented. Budget for Tourism for 2005 has been doubled. On 18th January 2005, as stated in - Daily News ( Sri Lanka ) on January 21, 2005,
the Minister of Tourism, Anura Bandaranayake said, "Sri Lanka has many properties away from the coast. Tourists still prefer to visit the hotels on the coastal belt and this is one reason we want to have flexibility on this 100 meters proposal"

So, it is clear that the whole plan is one of driving away about 800,000 small scale fish workers and their families from their livelihoods and settlements near the beaches in order to clear the beaches and the sea resources of the people living on the sea, to make way for rich tourist
businesses and big fishing industry.

Elections to be postponed for 5 years and the Big political Parties to unite

The Big Private Businesses represented by the Joint Business Forum ( JBIS ) has been saying repeatedly that the two big rightwing political parties should join if the economic reforms of Neo Liberalism is to succeed in Sri Lanka. Tsunmai provide the opportunity to the WB, IMF and other powers to intervene in bringing about this united. Mr. James Wolfensohn the President
of the WB visited Sri Lanka immediately after Tsunami and met only the President, Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition and left . We feel this visit was to finalize the above agreement. UNF that proposed the "Regaining Sri Lanka" is now extremely happy that their plans that were defeated by the people have now been totally accepted by the UPFA that
promised to do otherwise.

A few big NGOs that have had a practise of working in close collaboration with the WB, IMF and other powers, that have been campaigning for the "unity of the big parties" as necessary for the continuation of the peace process , without raising issues of economic policies and economic justice to the poor, have now begun to play a prominent role in this united approach of the
two big parties. Similar measures have been adopted to get some of the Journalists not to raise these essential questions for protection of the interests of the victims of tsunami and of other natural and socio political disasters.

The situation in other affected countries such as India, Indonesia and so on are not very different in any way. In this situation of danger, it is urgent and absolutely necessary for the local people, their movements for justice should unite with the global efforts towards Working for Justice for the Tsunami survivors in South Asia and else where. Close monitoring of these
developments and building pro people solidarity is one of the top most priorities is a disaster worse than Tsunami is to be prevented.

We appeal to all people of good will of all countries to insist on justice to Tsunami victims by demanding the Governments of the respective countries be vigilant about the abuse of the funds contributed by their people.

Update III - will include the proposals of People's Organizations
represented by MONLAR and ANRHR

Written by:
Sarath Fernando
on behalf of
Movement for National Land and Agricultural Reform and Alliance for
Protection of national Resources and Human Rights."

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How Godawaya village got back to its feet

Online edition of Daily News - Lakehouse newspapers-23/03/2005:(Source: ITDG Puwath)

Godawaya is a small fishing hamlet located between Ambalantota and Hambantota. About 187 fisher families inhabit this village. As a result of the tsunami devastation on December 26, the fisherfolk in this community too lost means to their livelihood - the one day boats, oru, nets other fishing gear and the 37 sheds that had storage and other facilities for them. Houses which belonged to three fishermen were completely destroyed too.

The villagers were feeling helpless and uncertain. The village temple-Godawaya Purana Raja Maha Viharaya, located on top of a small rock near the beach was their refuge.

The village was at a standstill for two weeks. In this uncertain situation ITDG in association with CEYNOR met with these villagers to talk about the possibility of initiating the repairs of the boats.

The villagers responded positively despite the prevailing dismal situation. The villagers not only had the will but the potential too.

There were fishermen in the village with the technical knowhow to attend to repairs in boats. The guidance and material provided to them by ITDG and CEYNOR helped these villagers to recover fast.

The villagers with a technical knowhow on fibre glass boat repairs were facilitated to learn the technical terms, fibre glass molding, assessing and estimating the repair cost and finally to have their own workshop to attend to building and repairs of fibre glass boats.

This process took off the ground within a very short time, mostly due to the co-operation and support from the experts available within the village. There was expertise available on fibre glass technology and engine repairs.

Dhammika, apart from his involvement in the fishery work, is also a mechanic, who attends to engine repairs of one day boats. Dhammika has a small workshop in his house.

He had been a radio technician while being a fisherman. Knowledge in electronics had motivated Dhammika to try his hand in engine repairs.

He had undergone a two-week training in engine repairs and fibre glass moulding at the Fishery Training Institute. Today, many of the fishermen from neighbouring villages such as Kirinda, Pallamalala, Tangalle and Hambantota get their engines repaired from Dhammika. Since, many of the requests are from tsunami affected victims, he charges only a nominal sum which is about Rs 750 per each boat.

For an engine overhaul a sum of Rs 1,750 is charged. Dhammika works with Sunil and Ranjan who attend to the fibre glass repairs.

Although their main occupation is fisheries, currently both of them are involved in repairing of boats. Ranjan has mastered the art of fibre glass moulding while working in a fibre glass factory in the Middle East. Sunil like Dhammika has undergone a two-week training programme in fibre glass boat building conducted by the Fishery Training Institute.

Today many of the villagers work alongside Sunil, Ranjan and Dhammika in repairing the boats. Assisting Sunil, Ranjan and Dhammika in this activity has been a hands on experience and a capacity building exercise for the villagers in Godawaya. It has given the villagers a new lease of life. They no longer wait for assistance from outside.

Some organizations have supplied boats to these villagers, which however do not suit their needs. The opportunity provided to repair and restore their own boats was more appealing to these villagers than being passive receivers of aid.

The guidance and facilitation provided for this community in Godawaya has helped the villagers to realize their own potential. Now they are no longer a burden to the country's economy.

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Reconstruction – New Challenges, New Directions

Lines Magazine: Our two decades of experience with the suffering that accompanied war has not made the suffering caused by two hours of Tsunami waves any easier to bear. This mind numbing grief; our individual and collective experience of loss, will remain with us as we move forward.

We have started moving forward – we can never fully restore what the Tsunami has taken, but we can extend our solidarity to survivors, do whatever is possible to at least mitigate the trauma of the past, and begin to rebuild our communities for the path ahead. To date this has involved relief efforts addressing immediate needs, and, already, plans for reconstruction to sustain long-term resettlement.

These relief and resettlement efforts do not take place in a socio-historical vacuum. Struggles over inter-ethnic justice, neo-liberalism, economic distribution, the disempowerment of women, caste bigotry and such have shaped the Lankan political landscape in significant ways over the last decades and even the tsunami cannot wipe out the imprint of these fault lines on the country’s socio-political structure. These struggles from the past will reach forward to shape future possibilities. However, the tsunami also adds a new context that comes with its own challenges and opportunities.

In this context, taking account of the past, while also responding to the new challenges and opportunities that have arisen from the tsunami, we would like to advance our vision for post-tsunami rebuilding and reconciliation. It is a vision committed to democratic participation, economic justice, inclusion and peace building:

Democratic participation in planning and implementing reconstruction
Most of those affected by the tsunami were marginalized communities that have been fundamentally disenfranchised from decision-making processes that have shaped their life possibilities, including their vulnerability to natural disasters. In the past this vulnerability has been enabled and exacerbated because civil society more broadly, and marginalized communities in particular, have been excluded from democratic ownership of planning processes; rather, planning has been captive to the aggressive territorial ambitions of those holding political office and military command, or the acquisitive commercial agendas of those wielding economic power. The acute vulnerability exposed by the tsunami’s destruction calls for a fundamental challenge to this modus operandi. Efforts to make reconstruction initiatives transparent and accountable to those most affected by them will be hard fought by those who have the most control of such processes – the GOSL Task Force to Rebuild the Nation’ has been peopled with the business elite and made accountable solely to the President; the TRO receives millions of dollars with little accountability to the people in whose name the money was raised; INGOs shaping relief operations are accountable only to donor priorities in the global north. International agencies have crowded out local civil society initiatives rather than enabling community led processes; the GOSL and the LTTE, have both pressed centralization as the dominant ethos within each of their circuits of power. Yet, what we need is coordination not centralization. We need relief resources that enhance democracy, not relief resources that empower the Lanka’s elites and advance donor agendas. We call for local ownership of rebuilding processes; we call for rebuilding that is premised on local communities’ own needs and aspirations.

Economic justice in planning and reconstruction initiatives
Over the past decades, the coastal poor have confronted multiple adversities – the economic ravages of war, including the transformation of fishing waters into naval battle fields; structural adjustment policies that maximized the economic burden borne by the poorest; environmental destruction of the coastal eco-system through the largely unregulated exploitation and destruction of natural resources; a precarious dependence on the tourism industry’s informal labor sector and others. These are both symptoms of structural marginalization and its result. Tragically, post-tsunami reconstruction plans may deepen the economic exploitation of these communities; observers have warned that the government may fast track the world bank conceived, donor endorsed, anti-poor “Regaining Sri Lanka’ program under cynical cover of ‘post-tsunami reconstruction’; plans are already afoot for supporting the tourism industry at the expense of fishing communities; the alarm has also been raised about the possibilities of graft and corruption by the powerful; thousands of displaced stand vulnerable to being dispossessed of their land along the coast. Moreover, reconstruction looks like it will be handmaiden to a neo-liberal economic agenda that will once again marginalize and further impoverish the most vulnerable. We call for reconstruction initiatives to be made transparent and accountable to the coastal poor so that there can be ongoing monitoring and assessment of the distributive impact of reconstruction programs. At its best, post-tsunami reconstruction processes could provide an opportunity to\begin engaging with the structural causes of poverty; more immediately, economic planning should at least, aim at enabling dignified sustainable, livelihoods for the working poor with a secure safety net that can mitigate the impact of events such as the tsunami.

Inclusion and pluralism in planning and implementing reconstruction initiatives
Struggles over received hierarchies and structural marginalization have been a recurrent feature of Lankan politics at many levels. Notwithstanding changes in the legal status and accompanying protections, these deeper structural and ideological marginalizations persist. Already, in the post-tsunami phase we have seen that women have to struggle on issues that range from sexual violence in refugee camps to inclusion at all levels of policy making on relief and reconstruction. Caste prejudice has been an issue in housing the displaced and policy making regarding resettlement. Minorities have alleged discrimination in aid allocation. Thus at many levels the patterns and modalities of relief have compounded caste discrimination, women’s marginalization, children’s vulnerability and inter-ethnic grievances. Against this backdrop, we call for fair and equitable aid distribution; we call for vigilance about the impact of reconstruction and resettlement plans in reproducing marginalization and exacerbating underlying social tensions, including ethnic demographics. We urge that reconstruction-planning processes be structured to proactively solicit the input of marginalized groups within local communities. Participation and influence should become a reality for the most vulnerable, not just the most vocal and visible.

Peace building and demilitarization in planning and implementing reconstruction
Many of the areas most affected by the Tsunami were precisely those that had suffered the brunt of political violence over the last two decades - in some cases victimized by the fighting in the North and East, and in others by the political violence of the late eighties in the South. Even over the course of the three year cease fire that had preceded the Tsunami, the region had suffered scores of political assassinations and thousands of cases of child recruitment; the Norway facilitated peace process virtually sanctioned this ground level militarization as long as the formal ceasefire was still in force. While some semblance of normalcy had been restored to the rest of the country, in the North and East civil society had been crushed by hyper-militarization, dissent had been suppressed by the threat of violent sanction, and a culture of fear remained the norm. Tragically, predatory militarization seems to be the norm for the post-tsunami landscape as well - from US troops wading onto beaches in Galle to efforts by GOSL and the TRO/LTTE to assert military control over refugee camps, to the LTTE’s recruitment of tsunami orphans. Against this backdrop, we call for the demilitarization of relief and resettlement operations; we call for reconstruction initiatives to be placed under civilian administration with maximum accountability and citizen access; these efforts should integrate reconstruction initiatives with efforts to demilitarize public life and restore civic trust. Equally, we call for fundamentally reframing the peace process to encourage and include greater civil society input and grassroots peace building.

As we try to come out of the double tragedies of war and the tsunami, civil society’s dynamic and generous response to the needs of Tsunami relief provide an opening for the demilitarization of public life and the promise that something positive can be reclaimed even from this bleakest of tragedies. Over the last month, stories of loss have been accompanied by stories of hope and inter-ethnic solidarity. More significantly even, against the odds of war and communalism, over the last twenty years the multi-ethnic region along the eastern coastline continued to sustain a fragile but resilient strand of commitment to inter-ethnic justice and pluralism. In honor of the dead then, let us make this moment of collective mourning also an opportunity to make a commitment to an ethos of pluralism, human security and democratization.

Vasuki Nesiah S. Nanthikesan Ahilan Kadirgamar

Co-Editors, lines magazine (www.lines-magazine.org; Email contact@lines-magainze.org)

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Sri Lanka Tsunami Study - USGS WCMG

Tsunamis and Earthquakes - 2005 Sri Lanka Tsunami Study - USGS WCMG: "On December 26, 2004 the deadliest tsunami in the history of the world hit Sri Lanka, triggered by a massive earthquake of moment magnitude 9.0--the largest earthquake recorded worldwide in 40 years. (See also, the USGS Web Site on the earthquake; and Tsunami Generation from the Sumatra Earthquake.) The tsunami was observed worldwide.
Hardest hit were Sumatra (death toll greater than 170,000), Sri Lanka (death toll greater than 31,000), Thailand, and India. From January 9-15, a multi-national team of scientists visited Sri Lanka to document the effects of the tsunami and provide government officials a summary of preliminary results of the surveys. This was the third group that documented the tsunami in Sri Lanka.
The Geological Survey and Mines Bureau of Sri Lanka was the first scientific agency to respond to the tsunami. They sent four teams to survey the east, south, and west coasts of Sri Lanka. Later, from January 4 to 6, a Japanese team led by Professor Kuwata, Kyoto University, made measurements on the west coast of Sri Lanka. This report presents initial findings from two US Geological Survey scientists, Dr. Bruce Jaffe and Dr. Robert Morton, who were members of a Sri Lanka International Tsunami Survey Team (ITST) that collected data to improve the understanding of the December 26, 2004 tsunami.
The primary goal of the Sri Lanka ITST was to assist Sri Lanka through its scientific expertise, especially in developing new techniques for disaster mitigation and prediction. It our hope that the findings of the Sri Lanka ITST will help in planning for future tsunamis in Sri Lanka and in other tsunami-prone regions of the world."

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Water in rehabilitation

Online edition of Daily News - Lakehouse newspapers- 23/03/2005: by Tharuka Dissanaike

Yesterday was World Water Day. This year it would be pertinent to reflect on the rebuilding process and the short term needs of the hundreds of thousands displaced by the tsunami.

Water and sanitation, needless to say, have been crucial issues in the immediate aftermath of the disaster. It was a failing of all the relief structures and efforts that it took a long time for temporary camps and tented communities to acquire proper sanitation facilities. It took weeks to build temporary toilets in refugee areas leading to many other problems.

Even now many refugee camps have very minimal sanitary facilities and very little privacy for females using these facilities. In a country with a history of refugee conditions due to war and natural disasters, it is sad indeed that these basic requirements are taking so long to materialize.

The process of rebuilding and relocating entire villages away from the coastline is bound to take many months. If we compare with a disaster of somewhat similar scale, the rebuilding of damaged homes of the Gujarat earthquake of 2001 took until last year- and this with minimal relocation.

We hear of NGOs, charities and foreign organizations who have completed building a few homes here and there, but in the entire scenario these are but drops in an ocean. So if the actual rehabilitation and relocation is going to take a long time to realize, the people must be settled in a comfortable manner in their temporary locations. This has to include a good supply fresh water, proper sanitation and comfortable spaces so that people can live in these shelters without undue stress until their homes are rebuilt.

There was a recent story of displaced residents of Telwatte, Akurala and Peraliya occupying a neighbouring estate in protest of the terrible conditions of their temporary dwellings. This kind of reaction would become more common unless people are settled into a better type of temporary shelter.

With inter-monsoon conditions setting in, life under a tent has become unbearable for people in this worse affected stretch on the southern coast. Thunderstorms lash though tents and flood the entire compound. Their meagre belongings, salvaged from the wreckage and bought or donated as compensation, are at threat again from rain and this situation will only worsen when the south west monsoon sets in.

When rebuilding or relocating, it is important that homes are protected from the more common disasters- flood and drought. While preparing for another possible tsunami may be the priority for some sections, it is obvious that these people suffer more regularly from heavy rain and monsoon floods and water scarcity in drought times.

Scarcity is common along the coastal belt from Tangalle to Mulaitivu. So rehabilitation for this area should incorporate good practices like rainwater harvesting, either individually or in a community pond. In the more flood and cyclone prone areas of the south-west and east coast, there have to adequate protection against the monsoon ravages and seasonal floods.

These good practices should be insisted upon -that is the government's job in overseeing and supervising the multitude of organizations that now have a hand in rehabilitating communities and rebuilding homes for the tsunami affected.

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Disaster management — an unmitigated disaster?

The ISLAND Sri Lanka, 24/03/2005, by Amrit Muttukumaru

Though difficult to believe, after more than two and a half months of the most devastating natural disaster the world has ever encountered, Sri Lanka which next to Indonesia’s Aceh Province was the worst affected with the tragic loss of around 50,000 persons and almost two million displaced, destitute and affected is still groping its way in disaster management. There is no consensus even in regard to the numbers affected by the tsunami. Under the circumstances, one would have imagined that in tandem with emergency relief and the initial installation of at least a rudimentary early warning system for natural calamities, the government would have given top priority to the setting up of a national agency appropriately structured with the required checks and balances to coordinate the entire gamut of disaster management consisting of inter alia, early warning systems, law and order, emergency relief, counselling, reconstruction and rehabilitation. Instead of such a structure, what we have is a confused maze of stifling centralisation largely manned by people whose main credentials are servile loyalty to the executive president. The confusion is such that even the poorly structured Centre for National Operations (CNO) which was evidently a mere component of the Task Force for ‘Rescue & Relief’, has now been disbanded after a brief existence of one month amidst a rare instance of public candour by a senior bureaucrat that only 30 % of those affected have received government assistance as at 2nd February. Its functions, whatever they may have been, have been ‘handed over to the line ministries’.
If proof is indeed needed, this clearly indicates that there is little appreciation of what it takes to effectively manage a disaster of this magnitude, made infinitely more complex by the existence of a parallel administration under the control of the LTTE in vast areas affected by the tsunami in the north-east of the country. The country’s administration woefully inadequate in the best of times, just does not have the wherewithal to cope with a disaster of this magnitude. Yet, there has been no meaningful effort to get the required foreign expertise for this purpose.
Not withstanding this, the government insensitively claiming in a cavalier fashion that the relief phase is successfully completed has embarked on a highly questionable multi-billion dollar reconstruction plan with tsunami donor funds hatched by the presidential task force to ‘Rebuild the Nation’. This task force comprising largely of a motley group of businessmen has presented its staggering US$ 3.5 Billion plan for reconstruction and rehabilitation within a mere 10 days! World Bank president James Wolfensohn at a press briefing after his visit to the tsunami hit countries stated, "You’ve got to give the community a chance to heal first, to decide how they are going to live and what their needs are. This is not something that can be done in five minutes." Maybe he had Sri Lanka in mind!
The peril of ignoring such sound advise is seen in the uproar caused when the plan for the Siribopura township in the Hambantota area was recently unveiled by the president on 19 January. This, after all, was going to be the blueprint for the other townships! Surely, this task is far more complex than making unconscionable profits largely as a result of state patronage and the exploitation of a hapless workforce which is the norm in our conflict of interest ridden private sector more intent on extracting concessions for itself on the back of the tsunamis.
As if all this were not enough, there are serious doubts on the integrity of the audit firm selected by the UN to audit worldwide the utilisation of donor funds. The UN is well aware of this and it is hoped that they will do the right thing. In terms of inequity, it is hard to beat the phenomenon where the north-east which has suffered possibly as much as 70% of the damage, being in receipt of perhaps only 25% of the highly insufficient sum expended so far in relief by the state in the context of persistent squabbling on the establishment of a joint mechanism to coordinate this in the vast areas controlled by the LTTE. The hurriedly prepared re-construction plan while only giving at best a token recognition for the views of those affected in the south have dispensed with even this for the north-east. Another mass of confusion with explosive potential is in regard to the coastal buffer zone. Amidst all this there are charges of brazen corruption levelled by no less an entity than a key constituent part of the ruling coalition.
It is noted that in the midst of continued untold immense suffering by the displaced, only a relatively token sum has been committed for relief while a large sum is committed for reconstruction—with new infrastructure gobbling up almost 44 % of the whopping US$ 3.5 billion bill. Can anything be more preposterous? One shudders to think as to how the plan was prepared for the north-east of the country!
Management Nightmare
In the absence of an overall coordinating mechanism with effective decentralisation to the south and substantial autonomy to the north-east, we have a surfeit of institutions involved in disaster management. They include - National Committee on Disaster Management comprising of the leaders of parliamentary political parties, cabinet sub-committee headed by the Prime Minister consisting of eight ministers, task forces of- ‘Rescue & Relief’ / ‘Logistics and Law & Order’/ ‘Rebuild the Nation’, line ministries, District / Local Government agencies and a number of other state agencies which include the UDA, Coast Conservation Department, Ministry of Social Welfare, Ministry of Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Refugees and the Peace Secretariat.
There is also a clear duplication of functions in many instances. For example, The Centre for National Operations (now defunct) set up under the President "to coordinate all operations related to the Tsunami disaster" was a mere component of the Task Force for ‘Rescue & Relief’ while the subject of ‘logistics’ is under a separate Task Force for ‘Logistics and Law & Order’! To make confusion worse confounded, the Cabinet sub-committee consisting of eight ministers, headed by the Prime Minister has a similar objective - "to manage and coordinate disaster relief in the affected areas ".
Both task forces for ‘Rescue & Relief’ and to ‘Rebuild the Nation’ had the function to "coordinate all donor assistance`85in consultation with the Ministry of Finance & Planning, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and relevant Line Ministries" in the absence of the Secretaries concerned in these task forces.
It is, indeed, hilarious that the senior bureaucrat who in addition to being the Commissioner-General of Essential Services and Chairman of the Task Force for Logistics and Law & Order and currently also responsible for Relief had seriously announced on 2 February that he will carry out the presidential directive to increase his self admitted paltry coverage of 30% of relief to tsunami victims achieved in more than 30 days to 75 % within a mere 7 days! It is perhaps not for nothing that the editorial of a prominent English newspaper of 1st November 2004, long before the tsunami, while categorising people as workers, shirkers and jokers, placed this individual in the ‘joker’ category! This is stated only to highlight the pathetic ground reality in the ‘management’ of the most devastating natural disaster the world has ever encountered.
The upshot of this confusion and mismanagement is that the sufferings of those affected who are already traumatised is worsened, due to living conditions of tens of thousands in tents which are like boiling cauldrons during the day. Even the relief being provided is meagre and has political undertones. There seems to be no general urgency to provide the appropriate temporary shelters until permanent homes are built. The same applies to the severely disrupted livelihoods. It is reported that more than 100 containers with relief goods are lying uncleared in the Colombo port due to the consignees mainly consisting of local NGOs being unable to pay the import duties and other charges levied on these humanitarian items. Surely, prior to clearing, couldn’t their authenticity be verified and if genuine released devoid of these charges? We need to be mindful that there could be dire social consequences as a result of all this. Many of those who have lost their loved ones and homes are seen whiling away their time in emotional distress at the sites of their previous homes staring vacantly into the coastal horizon. It is still not appreciated in Colombo that we are sitting on top of a very unpredictable volcano. If not for the selfless services rendered by concerned individuals and community groups particularly during the initial period, the medical services and the potable water being provided by some foreign NGOs without seeking any publicity, the position would have been significantly worse. On the other hand, one suspects that disproportionate sums of donor assistance are frittered away on personnel costs. This includes the UN agencies and some of the larger NGOs both local and foreign.
The UN which has been given the responsibility of coordinating worldwide, the prudent utilisation of the Billions of Dollars received / pledged in Tsunami assistance has still not put in place at least in Sri Lanka the necessary oversight mechanism to ensure transparency and accountability. The utilisation of funds received from countries, multilateral agencies and most importantly from the thousands of emotionally driven concerned citizens of the world, demand nothing less. Going by the sad plight of the displaced, more than two and a half months after the tsunamis, in the context of the tens of millions of dollars already received from various sources and several more in pledges, one wonders as to what is really happening to these vast sums and why the government is seeking donors even for the construction of temporary homes? Are these monies being spent or not spent?
If spent, it is clearly not visible at ground level. What one sees, is continued assistance by individuals both local and foreign, small communities and a handful of NGOs. A commendable service being provided by some foreign NGOs is in respect of water purification and its distribution as well as medical services. One also wonders what the new luxury SUVs with the emblem of foreign NGOs and the UN agencies, cockily crisscrossing the roads in the affected areas with their complement of passengers are really doing? How cost effective is the exercise and cannot people in the locality better accomplish this at a fraction of the cost? It is reported that the monthly rentals of residential properties in affected areas have reached dizzy heights due to heavy NGO and UN demand. Similarly, it is also reported that local labour is being paid sums well in excess of market rates. If these sums really reach our workers without any leakages along the way, it is most welcome! It is hoped that the UN supervised utilisation of the billions of dollars of tsunami donor funds, do not result in another scandal like the Iraqi ‘oil-for-food’ programme. Why cannot the UN on a country basis, have websites with regularly updated data at least in terms of receipts and expenditure? Serious fault lines in the integrity of the audit firm selected by the UN to audit the same worldwide are not a good omen!
The information provided on the websites of TAFREN and the now defunct Centre for National Operations (CNO) are to say the least most superficial. Will the business ‘leaders’ at TAFREN responsible for this tolerate the same in their own establishments? This writer in his article titled: ‘Tsunami Disaster-Reconstruction: Some Proposals for TAFREN’ published in the ‘Daily Mirror Financial Times’ of 28 January 2005, gave his proposals to ensure transparency and accountability through an appropriate website. Unfortunately, TAFREN does not seem to be interested in even considering such proposals.

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Tsunami and Matara

Rahula College [Matara - SriLanka] on Cyber Space:
Part 1 - Tsunami and Sri Lanka
The tsunami caused by a sudden earthquake in the sea near the Isles of Nicobar on 26th December, 2004 did not cease even until it reached the far off island of Sri Lanka, thousands of kilometres away from the quake's epicentre. Being the second in the list of most severely affected countries, the small island with no prior experiences of such sudden disasters had its worst-ever tragedy. Therefore the loss was huge -- more than two thirds of the country's coastal areas were mercilessly washed away to the sea.

Part 2 - Tsunami and Matara
As for the city of Matara, the tsunami has not shown any difference. The waves caused serious damage to the city -- especially because many of the city's important buildings are situated near the shore. Although the number of deaths reported from the district is something more than a thousand, it is said that there are many lost people yet to be found.
Three leading schools in Matara, namely St Servatious' College, St Mary's Convent and Mahamaya Balika Vidyalaya, are severely damaged but reconstruction work has begun and the schools will be conducted as usual in the near future. Many deaths were reported from the Matara market wherein a large number of people had gathered by then. A person who had been in the market at the time of the incident said:

“The first wave wetted my trousers. I and many others who were in the market began running. We had no clear idea of what was happening. We just ran as others did. An agitated bus driver recklessly reversed his bus to escape, crushing the woman who ran with me to the ground. The wires of the high-tension line fell on running people....It was horrible!“

Among other places damaged are the Kachcheri and the High Court. Hundreds of homes have become flat to the ground. However, the sources say that the damage caused by the tsunami has become a minimum due to the fact that it was a public holiday - a poya day. Had the incident occurred a week later, the school vacations would have ended by then and several thousands of innocent school children would have washed away by the monstrous waves. Also the beach road is several times busier on non-holidays.

Part 3 - Tsunami and Rahula College
The Rahula College was not directly damaged by the tsunami. However it lost some valuable lives (as described in The Lives We Lost). Nevertheless Rahula College played an important role in providing accommodation for the tsunami victims. Probably it's the first refugee camp to be set up in the district, as its doors were open for the homeless people even from 9.30 a.m. on that day. About 2500 people were accommodated in the school premises. The principal, the staff, the Old Boys and its students actively participated in treating the people well. It would be unfair not to mention the sacrifices of teachers by providing food for the doctors who led a medical campaign inside the college. It was one of the few permanent medical camps held in Matara districts. Officers from Red Cross Association were present.
On 23rd of January, soon after the tsunami victims left the school premises, the teachers, parents and students led a giant campaign in order to clean the school. They did their task so well to ensure that no harmful germs, etc. would no more be there in the school. This is the first time that Rahula College had to face such a situation. The hard work of the school principal, the staff and all those who supported so to make everything a success is really praiseworthy.
by Thameera

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Rebuilding Sri Lanka - TAFREN

A High-level Coordination Meeting on Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Assistance to Tsunami-Affected Countries was held in Manila on the 18th of March 2005.

The development community’s response to the tsunami disaster has now shifted from the relief phase to the rehabilitation and reconstruction phase. Jointly prepared needs assessments have been largely completed and the preparation of projects has begun. The international community must carry the significant momentum of the initial relief effort into a longer-term program of rehabilitation and reconstruction – to restore livelihoods, rehabilitate communities, re-establish social services, and rebuild infrastructure.

The purpose of the meeting was to provide a forum for regional coordination and information sharing to ensure effective recovery efforts and avoidance of wasteful duplication and overlap during the medium term.

Follow this link to download the presentation made by the Chairman of TAFREN Mr. Mano Tittawella.

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HIC Updates

The Humaniatrian Information Cetnre (HIC) has the following updated situation reports

23 Mar 2005 Tsunami Displaced Population District Overview Map
23 Mar 2005 Updated Contact Directory
23 Mar 2005 OCHA Situation Report
22 Mar 2005 IOM Situation Report
22 Mar 2005 Assessment Forms

The following is a list of papers that are in their Reference papers page

FAO Specifications of Fishing Gear
Ampara district - pdf (64 KB)
Batticaloa district - pdf (51 KB)
Galle district - pdf (38 KB)
Hambantota district - pdf (47 KB)
Jaffna district - pdf (29 KB)
Kalutara district - pdf (34 KB)
Matara district - pdf (45 KB)
Mullaitivu district - pdf (35 KB)
Trincomalee district - pdf (42 KB)


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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Beyond Relief

WorldChanging: Another World Is Here: "Leapfrog Nations - Emerging Technology in the New Developing World

What if relief and reconstruction efforts aimed not just to save, but to improve the lives of the victims of this week's disaster?

This might not seem like the time to look ahead. The situation all around the Indian Ocean is grim: the bulldozers are digging mass-graves for as many as 100,000 bodies; at least a million people are homeless, hungry and utterly destitute; clean water and sanitation facilities don't exist; disease is beginning to break out; and relief is still far off for too, too many people. This is a full-blown global crisis.

But this is exactly the right time for foresight.

For one thing, history shows that the world tends to lose interest in disasters in developing world once people stop dying in large numbers. If we don't think now about our commitment to helping these communities recover and rebuild after the immediate crisis has passed, we never will.

And the ruined cities and villages lining the shores of the Indian Ocean are now home to some of the poorest of the world's poor. In many places, traumatized people, who had very little with which to earn their livelihoods to begin with, now have nothing left at all. Add to this the long-term challenges they face -- like decimated local economies, massive pollution (and some new industrial accidents), declining fisheries and forests, lack of capital and, perhaps most ominously, the rising seas and catastrophic storms they can expect from global warming -- and their fate may not be an enviable one.

But that fate is not written in stone. We can still change it. What if didn't just do something to help, but did the right things, and did them fully? What if we looked at this relief and reconstruction effort as a chance to not only save lives (and of course that must come first) but to truly rebuild coastal Southeast Asia along more sustainably prosperous lines? What if we made the commitment to take what are now some of the most ravaged, destitute areas on Earth, and worked with the people there to reimagine and rebuild their communities to be the cutting edge of sustainable development?

What if we made not just relief but rebirth the new measure of our success?

There are reasons to believe we could do it.

Delivering relief aid is a job of staggering proportions in a disaster of this size, and it will continue for months. As I've written before, the demands we put on aid workers are insane. "They have to fly in to remote corners of the Earth, where nothing, not even clean water, can usually be expected, and create an entire city from scratch, restoring order, throwing up tents, digging latrines, finding and filtering water, treating the wounded and diseased, counseling the grieving, and finding ways to bring shell-shocked people back to emotional engagement with their own lives. This is perhaps the hardest work on Earth, and the people who do it -- the bluehats and doctors without borders, the aid workers and missionaries -- are the closest thing we have to unquestionable heroes."

Let's give them tools to do their jobs better. Innovate and improve the relief effort, right now, from the start. Take ahold of the best innovations around and spread them as quickly as possible: employ better logistics methods, get aid workers better information about conditions on the ground and provide better and smarter disaster medical care to the victims.

Refugee camps can themselves become engines of transformation. At least a million have been made refugees by this tragedy: we can reinvent the refugee camp, and turn it into a launching pad for reconstruction.

We can't yet expect camps like this--

One possibility is the compostable tent city. In this model, the tents themselves would be treated cardboard shelters -- like Icopods (which resemble paper geodesic domes) -- which provide basic shelter and last for a couple years. The shipping containers and packaging for medical goods and food would also be treated cardboard. When the tents wear out and the packaging is discarded, though, it shows its true nature -- for each panel of cardboard would be impregnated with appropriate local seeds, spores of topsoil fungi and harmless fertilizing agents, so that by tearing them up and watering them, refugees could start gardens, complete with mulch, fertilizer and the microorganisms good soil needs. Even clothing and blankets can be designed to be composted as they wear out. The entire transitional tent city can end up plowed into gardens as the refugees settle in to stability -- and food is not all that can be grown. Fast-growing, salt-absorbing hybrid shade trees can go in as wind-breaks, helping to check erosion and desalinize the soil. If nearby areas have been mined, refugees can also broadcast the seeds for land-mine detecting flowers, local wildflowers which have been smart-bred to change color when they detect nitrogen dioxide in the soil (a chemical leaked by the explosives in the mines as they decay), like those being developed by the Danish Institute of Molecular Biology. More, some have proposed land-mine eating flowers, plants that'd send their roots towards explosives and grow around them, aiding their decomposition and perhaps triggering their explosion. Finally, if the land has been heavily polluted (a frequent consequence of war and civil unrest) specially-bred versions of hearty weed-like native plants which can slurp heavy metals out of the soil, concentrating them for safe disposal, even later reuse, and keeping them out of drinking water.
--but that doesn't mean that we can't do a hell of a lot better than the current reality: grim, sprawling, muddy, overcrowded and septic tent cities where services are rare and opportunities to actually work to improve one's life are few and far between. Tent cities now are often nothing more than places to warehouse people we don't care enough about to much notice. We can do much better.

Beginning with how we build these first, temporary camps, we can think differently about the goal of relief and reconstruction:

"Encouraging communities to be active participants in the rebuilding is key to creating sustainable solutions and to reducing the impact of a disaster. Representatives from the International Red Cross (IRC) spoke at the (last) World Urban Forum on disaster relief and noted the new city of Ciudad Espuma in Honduras - built after Hurricane Mitch swept through in 1998 - was the best example of a "disaster reduction initiative". The 14,000 families who has lost homes had rebuilt their own houses with an awareness of the potential of future disaster."
New approaches to working with design for the very poorest can involve the refugees from this disaster in the reconstruction of their own lives. Microlending programs can be quickly established to provide capital for transitional small businesses, and combined with recovery aid to reunite farmers and fishermen with plows and nets.

One of the first steps should be to get the kids learning again. As Forced Migration Review (perhaps the most disturbingly-titled social studies publication in the world, if ya' really think about it) says, by creating "safe zones" for kids, and providing access to essential knowledge, educators not only help the whole community return to a sense of psychological stability, but can save a generation which might otherwise be lost. Indeed, by involving elders and parents in the process, a whole community can be moved out of traumatic shock into action.

Meanwhile, technology and collaboration can also help the refugees process the emotional damage and mentally begin rebuilding. Cheap, discardable videocameras could offer them the opportunity to record their stories, in order to begin healing and take an inventory of the skills the refugees bring. Open source textbooks rendered into the local language through collaborative translation can help spread literacy and education quickly through the population. Telecentros and other community technology resources can help bring real opportunity even to impoverished rural people, while, in the bigger picture, helping to redistribute the future.

A primary goal of the first couple year's of relief and reconstruction work should be to help arm these communities with the expertise, technology and capital to "leapfrog" over older, out-moded, costly and centralized technologies and start right in on building lives of sustainable prosperity.

This process should start the moment boots hit the ground. Relief is not simply about saving lives (though that is of course the top priority) -- relief is also the first step in the reconstruction. In the next months, vast efforts will go into building roads, air strips, water and power systems, emergency clinics and other infrastructure to support relief efforts. With that in mind, big international NGOs ought to be thinking, whenever possible, about the long-term utility of that infrastructure to the local communities. Can these huge investments be structured in ways that not only save lives today, but improve the community tomorrow.

An example: many relief efforts should include solar energy, right from the beginning:

"A viable use for PV is to meet the emergency demands in large-scale disasters, where power will be out for long periods of time and survivor support is difficult to provide due to the extensive area destroyed. Massive infrastructure damage makes refueling generators a challenge, as pumping stations are often inoperable and roads impassable. Power distribution lines are difficult to fix because of the impassable roads, much less transporting materials for reconstruction. When a disaster strikes an island and the port is destroyed, shipping fuel for generators becomes a problem. ... There are inappropriate applications for photovoltaics in response to disasters. The large-scale power needs of sewer and water facilities, hospitals, large shelters, distribution and emergency operations centers are better met with gasoline or diesel generators in an emergency."
But solar panels don't just fill many emergency roles better than generators could. Widespread use of solar energy in the disaster relief efforts will also provide kernels of equipment, infrastructure and expertise around which communities can build distributed energy systems -- the kind of systems more likely to work for many developing world communities in the long run. They can become a sort of seed-stock for new developing world smart grids, LEDs, access to computation and communications, village technologies and renewable energy, even better shelter -- the "bright lights, small villages" strategy.

Then, as the rebuilding commences in earnest, people can aspire to really move forward. There's no reason why the area which now lies ruined could not be something like a technologically empowered Costa Rica in ten years: prosperous (at least by developing world standards) and green, reasonably stable and well-governed, prepared for future disasters, and choosing its own future.

Let's not just "restore to them an equal portion." Instead, let's give them the opportunity to imagine an entirely new future. Let's not stop at saving lives and easing suffering today so they can return tomorrow to poverty in the shadow of an increasingly angry climate. Let's go farther. Let's change the dynamic. Let's help them make themselves into the stories we tell when we want to explain how things can be made better, the examples of how lives can be improved -- a better future made real where today there is only misery.

Posted by Alex Steffen at December 29, 2004

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