<body><script type="text/javascript"> function setAttributeOnload(object, attribute, val) { if(window.addEventListener) { window.addEventListener('load', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }, false); } else { window.attachEvent('onload', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }); } } </script> <div id="navbar-iframe-container"></div> <script type="text/javascript" src="https://apis.google.com/js/plusone.js"></script> <script type="text/javascript"> gapi.load("gapi.iframes:gapi.iframes.style.bubble", function() { if (gapi.iframes && gapi.iframes.getContext) { gapi.iframes.getContext().openChild({ url: 'https://www.blogger.com/navbar.g?targetBlogID\x3d10174147\x26blogName\x3dServing+Sri+Lanka\x26publishMode\x3dPUBLISH_MODE_BLOGSPOT\x26navbarType\x3dBLUE\x26layoutType\x3dCLASSIC\x26searchRoot\x3dhttp://servesrilanka.blogspot.com/search\x26blogLocale\x3den_US\x26v\x3d2\x26homepageUrl\x3dhttp://servesrilanka.blogspot.com/\x26vt\x3d-6055606241811368541', where: document.getElementById("navbar-iframe-container"), id: "navbar-iframe" }); } }); </script>
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, April 02, 2005

Uncreaking prop in tsunami relief ops

Online edition of the Daily News: by Florence Wickramage
Three months have elapsed since Sri Lanka experienced the worst natural disaster in her recent history. The tsunami tidal waves which battered the country's Northern, Eastern and Southern coastlines have left a trail of death, destruction, devastation and despair. Thousands of human lives were lost, property and houses and commercial establishments destroyed, devastated coastal villages and cities, and finally despair for those who fortunately survived the tragedy.

Tsunami has created a host of problems for the Government and the nation. While it is advocated that "we rise up from the ashes of tsunami" - the resurrection has become a slow process. For over three months rows and rows of tents and makeshift abodes dot the tsunami battered landscape.

Adults and children eke out a trying existence in these tents - with no proper sanitation facilities. A sightseeing tour down the southern coastline revealed that different-coloured tents, donated by international non-governmental organisations which mushroomed with the flow of foreign assistance are still in existence.

In a village off Tangalle, we witnessed representatives of a non-governmental foreign organisation working hand in hand with locals to help put up wooden houses for those who lost their dwelling places. Some even said that they sleep under the trees at night until a house- even temporary - could be built.

Housing projects
The prime need of the hour for those unfortunate members of our society are houses - a shelter to protect them and their children for the future. The Government has launched a temporary and a permanent housing programme for the thousands rendered homeless by the tsunami disaster.

The implementation of the planned housing programme focuses on the need for sufficient stocks of timber for the houses including wooden frameworks. The State Timber Corporation has stepped in at this juncture to supplement this need. Since the required large stocks of timber could not be locally produced, arrangements are underway to import timber as a temporary measure.

The State Timber Corporation (STC) gets its timber supplies from forest plantations released to the STC by the Forest Conservation Department. But these forest plantations, within a short period of two months will not be able to yield adequate stocks required for the housing programme. This therefore has prompted the necessity for assistance from foreign and non-governmental organisations for the programme.

The STC has agreed to provide the timber requirements for three thousand permanent houses out of the thirty thousand houses targeted by the Government. It is estimated that 13,000 cubic metres of timber would be required for the three thousand houses, but the STC currently could provide only 3000 cubic metres of wood. To meet the estimated requirements of timber, the STC has made a request to the Environment and Natural Resources Minister A.H.M.Fowzie to release more forest-plantations for timber-harvesting by the Corporation.

For temporary houses, pinus wood would be made available but for the construction of permanent houses the requirement would be around 100,000 cubic metres of solid timber which would include timber for door and window frames too. The STC has deployed one bulldozer and 10 lorries for timber transportation in the tsunami affected areas.

Meanwhile, the Forest Conservation Department releases around 1500 ha. of forest plantations to the STC for timber-harvesting but has now agreed to increase the extent to 2000ha. The timber-harvesting capacity of the STC presently stands at 1000 cubic metres per month as such the STC has had discussions with other private sector timber producing companies to obtain the timber stocks needed for the permanent housing programme.

The State Timber Corporation has also received requests for timber for the construction of temporary toilet facilities, more specially in the Ampara District. For this purpose timber set apart as fuel-wood would be provided.

These demands are to be met in addition to the supplies the Corporation presently makes to various other institutions. Already the corporation is producing timber for sleepers for the Railway Department, electricity posts to the Electricity Department, timber for furniture and fuel-wood and plywood.

At present the STC provides 110,000 sleepers for the Railway Department and 30,000 Electricity posts to the Electricity Department annually.

The timber shortage the country is facing at the moment is due to the haphazard destruction of Sri Lanka's forests, insufficient forest-plantations and illicit logging. Yet with the escalating human population in the country the demand for timber has escalated for building construction work and other developments.

Even without a tsunami disaster, the demand for timber in 1995 was 17 lakhs of cubic metres. By the year 2020 the timber demand would exceed 24 lakhs of cubic metres. As such the STC is pressurised to meet these annually increasing demand.

There are 12 regional offices of the STC throughout the country with 32 timber storage facilities. At present these regional offices supply the country's requirements of timber obtained from forest plantations. The STC produces 7000 cubic metres of sawn-timber per year.

Of the various trees planted for timber, Mahogany and Teak is commonly used for the manufacture of household furniture and Eucalyptus and Pinus wood for temporary housing for the distressed. Apart from forest plantations, around 40% of home gardens also contribute to the production of timber. At present as a short term measure the STC will be importing sawn timber.

The Ampara and Kaldemulla timber producing centres belonging to the STC provide 85% of timber requirements of State institutions but the lack of sufficient quantities of timber has impacted adversely on the designer and the carpentry trades.

Forest cover
Sri Lanka has lost 50% of its original 70% forest cover within a century and the country is losing the left over 20% of forest in large amounts day by day.

The rapidly depleting forest cover has become a priority concern environmentally too and the need to grow more trees is becoming imperative.

To meet the increasing demand for timber the STC has formulated a five year work plan within which rapid planting of new forests will be initiated. In the meantime the Forest Department has agreed to release more forest plantations to the STC for timber-harvesting. Under the five year plan the STC targets a profit of Rs. 100 million per year. Also projected in the development plan is a proposal with Cabinet approval to enable the STC to establish joint manufacturing concerns with private timber companies for the purpose of producing quality products for local and international markets.

With greater emphasis on creating new forest plantations and the protection of other forest cover islandwide, the STC is hopeful that the escalating demands for timber could be successfully met in the near future.

(Information courtesy: Chairman, State Timber Corporation Fuard Ghany)

| Permanent Link


Restoring quality of life of the tsunami-affected

Online edition of the Island: by Dr A. K. L Jayawardana
In Sri Lanka, nearly 40,000 people lost their lives and over a one million were displaced as result of the devastation caused by the Tsunami on December 26, 2004. After three months, 545,000 displaced people are still struggling to come back to normalcy, in resuming their normal lives. Over 100,000 people still live in 257 camps and many are still to find a place of their own. People left the camps not because they had a better life outside but because it was impossible to live in an unorganised and ill-equipped camp. The business enterprises and individual livelihoods that were disrupted by the disaster are yet to come back to normalcy. People live in make shift camps, relatives’ houses, school buildings and even in temples without adequate facilities and source of income. Many shift from place to place, from one relative to another with the hope that they will receive a permanent place to live. Their only consolation is that there lives were saved even though they have lost every thing.

What measures can be taken to manage and possibly reduce the negative impacts of disasters? Disasters are not welcome events and usually when they occur, every effort should be made to reduce the impact of such events. Are we making the right effort to rebuild the lives of thousands of people whose lives are in jeopardy? How successful are we in disaster management ?

Disaster management can be viewed in a number of ways. The more traditional approach has been to regard disaster management as a number of phased sequences of action - or a continuum - as shown in the in Figure 1.

In the more traditional model shown in Figure 1, disaster management occurs in stages which follow each other in a sequence. The pre disaster phase comprises prevention , mitigation and preparedness while the post disaster recovery phase focuses on relief/response, recovery and reconstruction/development .

Sri Lanka did not possess a systematic disaster management program. Before the Tsunami struck Sri Lanka had no pre-disaster risk reduction policies, procedures or action plans on prevention, mitigation and preparedness stages of a disaster management cycle even though several disasters of a lesser magnitude have taken place over the years. As the disaster struck, resources were mobilised for relief and response mainly propelled by many non-government organisations and the public. Government machinery at this stage moved through the CNO. At the second stage through TAFREN, the government quickly framed the rehabilitation phase with a view to reconstruct the devastated areas. However, the movement to reconstruction/rehabilitation stage from the relief stage would take at least 18 months to two years.

Postgraduate Institute of Management (PIM) recognised very early in January 2005 that an immediate need after the disaster is to look at the recovery stage. Many have looked at the final reconstruction stage and were projecting several projects under reconstruction overlooking the recovery process. As Prof. Gunapla Nanayakkara, DIM "A brief survey of post- tsunami responses and activities in Sri Lanka to mange relief, recovery and reconstruction efforts of various actors revealed to us that the nation’s ability to undertake this complex and immediate task was poor and unorganised. As a matter of fact, PIM was in search of an effective program elsewhere for us to establish links with and undertake project in a devastated area. We did not find such a program in government or elsewhere. The Faculty decided to launch its own program incorporating a number of new initiatives so that the Institute’s resources and energy are focused on finding and implementing solutions to the burning needs of the people in the affected areas of the country."

Thus PIM focused on the recovery process through three specific stages; improving camp conditions, providing temporary shelter and restoring livelihood. The objective here was to improve the quality of life of people displaced and living in camps. PIM deployed 182 managers and administrators of MBA and MPA degree programs in six disaster hit districts from Colombo to Trincomalee to take charge of 76 camps for management improvement.

Improving camp conditions

In the camps we visited, initial camp conditions were far from satisfactory. There was no proper sanitation facility. In one camp in Galle there was only one toilet for 67 families. In many instances the electricity supply was not available and only a limited water supply was given. People had to live on the ground covered by a 6 foot tent under high temperature and humidity. There were no communication facilities or sometimes not even a decent place to cook their food. There was hardly a focus on camp administration, supplies and storage or health care. Grama Niladharis had to bear the major burden moving from one camp to another and they did not have sufficient resources to meet the needs of thousands of people. Managers and administrators of PIM MBA and MPA groups virtually took over the camp administration in many of camps assigned to them.

As Welithara Sirisumana Thera of Koduwa Gangaramaya said: "If not for the PIM staff that assisted our temple we would not have been able to look after the families in the Goduwa Gangaramya Temple. The inmates had only one toilet. PIM managers provided with more toilets and a proper place to cook food. They gave us a mobile phone so that at least we have contact with the outside world. They worked as it is their own place and looked after the needs of the affected people. We are thankful to Prof. Gunapla Nanayakkkara for helping this temple"

Managing the camps

The teams managed the camps and improved camp conditions by managing the basic needs such as water, sanitation, health care. Teams held discussions with Divisional Secretaries, Grama Niladharis to resolve many issues related camp administration, distribution of food items, allocating lands for temporary houses and providing livelihood to the displaced families. PIM partnered with private sector organisations in providing temporary shelter and communication to camps. For example, PIM in association with Dilaog GSM provided communication facilities to the camps assigned to PIM managers.

Worldwide children constitute more than half of any given displaced community. Children affected by displacement face serious threats to their safety, development and physical and mental well –being. PIM managers paid special attention to the displaced children. They looked into their welfare, continuation of studies and keeping them involved in day-to-day activities. Several children programs were conducted in camps.


Providing Temporary Housing

In a short period of 10 weeks, PIM has contributed significantly to the rehabilitation process. The student groups have put up 143 temporary shelters, in areas such as, Kosgoda, Akurala, Kahawa, Balapitiya, Amablangoda and restored normally in six temples occupied by displaced persons. Temples faced many difficulties in accommodating the displaced persons. They did not possess sufficient resources to manage hundreds of families. Temples were unable to perform its normal functions and obligations to the society as no devotee can come and worship in a place surrounded by hundreds of people. People were not aware that many of our temples drifted away from the Buddhist society and came to be identified virtually as a refuge camp. PIM managers thus focused on getting temporary accommodation for the displaced persons in temples. They were able to provide alternative accommodation to displaced persons at Divigala Aranyasenasanaya, Kosgoda; Brahamanawatte temple, Balapitiya; Kuruppukanda Viharaya, Seengama Kusumaramaya and Sudeeraramaya Temple, Kahawa. These temples are now in a position to serve the needs of the Buddhist people.


Helping families to restore livelihood

One of the key objectives of the Camp Management Program was to restore the livelihood of displaced people. They were keen to restart their livelihood and to earn a living. Majority of them were fishermen and many others had different occupations ranging from motor mechanics, fruit vendors to tailors. Firstly, PIM managers analysed the skills of camp inmates and clustered them to different occupations. Secondly, they prioritized the specific need and identified beneficiaries who are in immediate need to resume their livelihood. Thirdly they sourced donors and funds and helped the people to restart their livelihood.

Launching development projects to restore livelihood

A major component of the government‘s reconstruction program is business development. Two types of development efforts seem essential: restoration of destroyed or damaged business enterprises or units, and new business enterprises. PIM focused on micro business, small and medium scale enterprises and policy and program development. PIM managers initially moved on to restore businesses so that people will benefit immediately by getting back to their normal livelihood. Projects were identified in Manufacturing sector, Fisheries sector, Housing sector, Small Business, Education and Social Reconstruction. PIM initiated the development projects through funds provided by Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA ), Export Development Board (EDB), Japanese Tree of Life and individual contributions from Rev. Alberglicci Ferruccio from Italy.

In the manufacturing sector one of the main projects is restoring the coir industry which has virtually come to a stand still. PIM moved to establish a 300 machine coir manufacturing cooperative society at Kulleegoda, Akurala and at Matara. In addition PIM distributed over 200 machines to displaced persons at Ambalangoda, Balapitiya and Kahawa. Project was funded by EDB.

A major project undertaken by PIM managers at Kahawa was to restore two Ma Dal boats at Kahawa and Hikkaduawa which will benefit over 50 families. The project cost is Rs one million which include the supply of nets. One of the two boats was delivered in early march to the Kahawa Cooperative society.

Adventist Development and Relief Agency ADRA , of the Czech Republic funded another major project in fishing sector at Kalutara for the manufacture and delivery of twenty ,18.5 feet boats complete with engine and nets to displaced families at Ethagama Kalutara.

PIM is initiating the restoration of identified small business and plans to establish Pre- Schools for children affected by the Tsunami at Ambalangoda, Balapitiya and Kahawa. Assisting small business entrepreneurs will include working with selected business persons , developing proposal documents , working with commercial banks and overseeing the setting up of the business from location identification to launch of commercial activity. The Pre-schools will be established based on the international standards and are expected to provide high quality education to the children.

Rehabilitation and political leadership

Interventions are needed after a disaster occurs. In many ways this is the most difficult period for the victims. Disaster management, as shown by the examples, requires effort and commitment by the various role players. The capacity must be built to handle such events, and training programmes are essential. Duplication of efforts should be minimised and financial resources appropriately controlled.

It is important to note that disasters are non-routine events that require non-routine responses. Governments cannot rely on normal procedures to implement appropriate responses - they will need to learn special skills, techniques and attitudes in dealing with disasters. They need to develop a policy based on the action plan rather than having the policy first. We need leaders who can work with people where things happen rather than working through safe remote-control arrangements.

Postgraduate institute of Management spent nearly Rs 30, million in 10 weeks in rehabilitating camps, providing temporary shelter and restoring livelihood of displaced persons from Colombo to the Trincomalee district through 186 managers and administrators .PIM in this short period has shown the country what can be achieved through sheer dedication to purpose , and with innovative ideas to formulate effective solutions and executing them with speed and targets in mind.

The writer is a Senior Consultant in Quality and Productivity Management and is the Director of the Disaster Management Program of PIM .

| Permanent Link


Need for gender awareness in re-building

Online edition of the Daily News: by Chandani Jayatilleke
Three months have passed since the tsunami catastrophe devastated the lives and the properties of the coastal population of the island. The tsunami was not only unprecedented and unexpected, but also did not discriminate on the basis of age, sex, religion or socio-economic status. The poor and rich, old and young, men and women all had to undergo the same dreadful experience of death and loss of loved ones and belongings.

That is not all. The fear of earthquakes and tsunamis still haunt the minds of people living in the coastal areas and it, now, appears to be a lifetime threat.

Like any other disaster, the impact of the tsunami was felt differently by different sections of society. And it created an enormous challenge to communities, civil society groups, development agencies and the Government. Numerous agencies and individuals have attended to the immediate relief measures while a massive reconstruction and rehabilitation process has also begun.

With international and local aid coming in and volunteers rushing to offer their services, the priorities have shifted beyond relief to reconstruction and rehabilitation. Despite good intentions in rehabilitation work, there is always the risk of certain issues being neglected.

For instance, gender - addressing women's issues in disasters - is a key area where there will be gaps unless given specific attention.

Although disasters create unfortunate situations for both men and women, the negative effect on women can be different due to their socially assigned vast roles and responsibilities.

Women, usually take an active part in community disaster response initiatives in many communities and countries. They certainly play a lead role in such processes. But, unfortunately, women are rarely represented and sometimes markedly absent in decision-making processes in Sri Lanka.

Intermediate Technology Development Group (ITDG), an organisation working on gender issues (and many other development programs) says that none of the post tsunami assessments done so far by various institutions, has addressed or tackled gender issues adequately.

"Many international and local development organisations have carried out post tsunami damage and needs assessments. But they have not looked into the gender issue.

There is extremely limited gender-specific information and analysis on the role of women in the damaged economic sectors such as fishery, tourism and agriculture," a spokesperson for ITDG said.

She added that the reconstruction and rehabilitation interventions address the basic needs common to all, varying from shelter, food and medical assistance. "But the attention is poor when it comes to issues specific to women such as security and safety, hygienic conditions and need for legal services," she stressed.

There should be more gender-sensitive programs to help women and girls who survived the tsunami. Women survivors have already undergone many traumas due to extra family burdens created by the calamity. Women are more vulnerable to post disaster issues and the relief and reconstruction efforts must meet their specific needs and entitlements, she said.

The security and safety factor should be taken up with much care, as many women have suddenly found themselves the heads of households. "Previously they would have had well secured homes, in the presence of their husbands and fathers. Now that they (husbands and fathers) have gone with the water. Women need lots of support to rebuild their families and communities," the spokesperson said.

On our visits to several tsunami affected areas over the last three months we noticed the courage with which the distressed women have to continue their lives with the remaining few resources. Some have lost their children, some husbands, others everything. But they had much courage to go on.

Women, by nature, live with such courage. In a crisis situation, they have an amazing ability to come to terms with their woes.

"Many women whom we met at different camps told us that they want to get on with life. They were no longer prepared to sob and weep over the unfortunate incidents. However, they sought Government and organisational help to rebuild their lives and families. Secured housing was their main concern.

This is where the gender-sensitive programs should come in, according to ITDG. "Women have to be guaranteed equal access to resources, a right to security and freedom from violence - coupled with the right to gain access to land, the ownership, of which is often in the husband's name."

Ignorance of gender differences leads to insensitive and ineffective operations that largely bypass women's needs and their potential to contribute to disaster relief and rebuilding activities.

"Considering these facts, we believe that the Government and NGO officials working with the affected people would recognise and address gender issues and look into special needs of women," the ITDG spokesperson said.

As a prelude to promote this concept among the decision-makers and officials concerned, ITDG introduced a video called 'Facing Disasters, Making decisions - Gender dimensions in disaster management' in Colombo this week. With the launch of the video, ITDG hopes to continue their campaign, highlighting the importance of gender issues in the wake of tsunami rebuilding.

| Permanent Link


Tsunami-hit farmers could lose growing season

Online edition of the Daily News; POOR Sri Lankan farmers in tsunami-hit areas whose homestead gardens and small farms were destroyed now face losing a whole season's crops unless they are helped immediately, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations said today in a press release.

The first growing season since the disaster struck is due when the monsoon rains begin later this month. It is estimated that around 40 percent of the affected lands are suitable ready for cultivation.

There is an immediate need to rebuild fences to protect crops from animals, repair pumps and agro-wells, supply farmers with tool kits, seeds and fertiliser. If the farmers do not start planting now, a whole growing season will be lost.

According to Government and FAO estimates up to 10,000 hectares of coastal agricultural land was damaged by the tsunami that washed debris and salt on average half a kilometre inland destroying paddy fields, small commercial vegetable farms, grazing land and tens of thousands of tiny homestead farms.

In addition the waves swept away farm equipment, tools, seeds and seedlings leaving the farmers with no means to restart their livelihoods.

"Whilst the fishing communities of the shores suffered the most in the tsunami, we must not forget poor farmers of the coastal regions who lost all their livelihoods in the tsunami but who have so far received little attention from the international community," said FAO Country Representative Pierre Gence.

Since the beginning of the emergency, FAO has trained more than 100 local government officials to use equipment to test the soil for salinity in all the affected districts and advised on how to remove salt from soil so that farmers did not plant crops only for them to die.

Some tsunami-hit districts like onion producing Trincomalee and the country's rice heartland of Ampara are now ready for planting so that the farmers who have lost everything can start to rebuild their livelihoods.

Based on an estimate of four months of an annual average production these farmers have faced a total income loss of 1,085 billion rupees ($US 10.9 million) since December 26. Subsistence farms of tiny plot of land that feed whole families formed the bulk of the damaged land.

"Most of the seeds and cuttings were lost so the planting material has to be supplied from other areas. People want to start these farming activities quickly because it is their livelihood," said Dr. Sithamparapillai Gnanachandran, Provincial Director of Agriculture for the hard hit East and Northern Province.

The first priority is to fence in the homesteads, leach remaining salt from the soil and repair water pumps and other equipment farmers managed to salvage.

For those farmers too traumatised to return to their coastal farms or those who no longer have any homes to go to, funds are required to supply them with potted plants so that they can begin growing green leaf vegetables and other plant to supplement their diets in the IDP camps.

"It will act as a kind of therapy for them, give them something to take their minds off their troubles and look to the future," said Gnanachandran.

| Permanent Link


Reconstruction not matching fund flow, say EU delegates

Online edition of the Daily Mirror: Members of the European Parliament (MEP) who toured the tsunami-affected areas of Galle and Trincomalee to observe the implementation of projects funded by the European Union expressed surprise at noticing that despite the size of the problem and the amount of funds available, little reconstruction work had been commenced.


This appeared to be due mostly to the absence of a clear perspective on land ownership or clearance, especially given the new circumstances created by the obligation to re-locate outside of the immediate coastal areas, they said.


The MEPs felt that faster decisions on the field could be easier with a coordinated central or provincial planning from the government, a press release by the European Union stated.


A working group from the European Parliament's Delegation for relations with the countries of South Asia and the SAARC region visited Sri Lanka recently. The group led by Ms. Neena Gill (UK), Chairperson of the Delegation included six other Members of the European Parliament from five different political parties, Jan Mulder of the Netherlands, Jo Leinen and Thomas Mann from Germany, Ms. Jean Lambert of the UK, Eoin Ryan of Ireland and Ivo Belet from Belgium.


The MEPs visited the Parliament Monday, where they called on Deputy Speaker Gitanjana Gunawardana and also met Housing and Construction Minister Ferial Ashraff, Cultural Affairs and National Heritage Minister Vijitha Herath and representatives of all political parties. They also met Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and UNP MP Milinda Moragoda.


However the group appreciated the basic relief operations carried out including the maintaining of an overall acceptable level of public health.


The MEPs noted that the affected persons showed lots of energy and were optimistic despite their sufferings. Good examples cited were the youth taking on responsibilities in education and public health in the welfare centres and fishermen repairing their boats with the assistance Fisheries Ministry staff.


The group also felt that the information on the needs and actions should be channeled to easily to ensure that NGO aid was directed to areas that needed it most. Besides reconstruction itself, action from local or central authorities to provide the necessary means to the tsunami-affected to regain their livelihoods by themselves was a must, the MEPs observed. The Parliament members had also felt that attention was required to make sure children were able to attend school, including the provision of transport where necessary. The group noticed that the public generosity for the tsunami victims might over-shadowing the plight of the war-effected who have been enduring similar sufferings for several years.


The MEPs decided to commit themselves in their parliamentary activity to make the Europeans aware that there were people in other countries requiring help, so as to avoid creating imbalances and tension and contribute to a better life for all. They will communicate their conclusions to the European Commission, which manages the budgets for humanitarian and reconstruction aid.


The group also had extensive discussions with a number NGOs and UN agencies working with tsunami-affected as well as war-affected refugees. These professionals confirmed that they had been able to carry out their relief operations in the LTTE-controlled areas as well as in government-controlled areas without encountering any obstacles.


The Parliamentarians expressed their support to the establishment of a joint mechanism to ensure equitable allocation of funds for reconstruction to all districts and communities according to their needs.


Logistical problems and the lack of communications infrastructure appeared to be a major difficulty, particularly in the North and the East, where the absence of UN flights was a major hindrance, the group stated.

| Permanent Link

Friday, April 01, 2005

Humanitarian Situation Report - 25 - 31 March

ReliefWeb � Document Preview: "Source: United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Date: 31 Mar 2005

Overall Situation

The latest government figures, from 24 March, put the total number of tsunami-related IDPs at 516,130 with 95,824 housed in 262 camps and 420,306 staying with family and friends. The highest numbers of IDPs are in Galle, Ampara and Trincomalee.

Clashes between the Special Task Force (STF) and LTTE on 28 March resulted in protests and unrest in the camps of Ampara, including the burning of tyres and blocking of roads. UNICEF reported that the clashes took place following the LTTE recruitment of a child who then ran away and sought protection with the STF. The STF arrested the LTTE cadre and clashes ensued. The UNICEF office in Ampara was informed of the abduction of two other children by the LTTE on 27 March. UNICEF is monitoring the situation closely and meeting with various counterparts to ensure the protection of children in camps.

Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) has called for tightening the grip against possible large scale corruption in the post tsunami reconstruction. The NGO said the three-month anniversary of the tsunami is a "time to take stock of the reconstruction process and the national and international commitment towards the rebuilding efforts." TISL urges all political leaders, political parties and groups to act with responsibility to give highest priority to the post tsunami reconstruction effort, while providing the victims with the assurance that their voices would be considered in the process.

Coordination and common services

IOM transport assistance during the past week to the Government of Sri Lanka, international agencies, NGOs and other organizations included a total of 69 lorries of medical equipment and relief supplies -- 40 for the Ministry of Health; ten for CARE International; six for OXFAM; five for IFRC; seven for other NGOs, and one for the Prime Minister's Office. In addition, five vans were provided to the Commissioner General of Essential Services to be used for relief work for the next two months.

According to UNICEF, little progress has been made in moving its relief supplies from the Colombo seaport over the course of the week. Most items have been authorised for clearance by customs officials, but they wait in the port for inspection by Navy officials.

Food security

The World Food Programme reports the total number of tsunami-affected people receiving food assistance amounts to 950,000 with WFP providing assistance to 915,000 of them.

WFP has provided 25,907 metric tones of food since the tsunami struck.

WFP and World Vision launched on 22 March, a school-feeding programme for students between the ages of five-and-ten years of age. The programme provides school children with 500g oil and 500g sugar from World Vision. WFP provides 6kg of corn soya blend (CSB) per child. In Galle district, the programme targets 30 schools reaching 10,000 students. This is a one-time only allotment with students provided with a two-month take-home ration package of CSB.

WFP is transporting supplies of nutritious biscuits to all districts affected by the tsunami in preparation for a school feeding programme in those areas which is scheduled to begin at the end of April.

Health

In Ampara, the local health service is coordinating the distribution of insecticide-treated mosquito nets by a number of agencies including: UNICEF, 20,000 nets, GOAL, 20,000, Merlin, 2,450, MSF, 3,900, ICRC, 5,000, LIONS, 15,000 and Medair 4,268. The total mosquito net requirement for the district is 83,802.

The Department of Health, following an IOM request, supplied Samaposha, a local nutritional food aid, which IOM staff distributed to children under three-years old and pregnant women in Soodaikudah IDP camp, Muthur, Trincomalee district.

The NGO Merlin has started a pilot project in Kalmunai Division for the treatment of medical waste. This model may be replicated in Batticaloa in the future as well.

Water and sanitation

UNICEF has created a form to collect information to record water and sanitation activities within all divisions of Galle district. CHF has distributed the forms in Balapitiya and Ambalangoda and is in the process of making sure the survey is completed in all divisions.

In Batticaloa district, a bathing area has been completed for a transitional IDP camp in Aarayampathy. Two other bathing facilities are currently under construction. Buckets were distributed to 73 families who were previously staying with friends and family and suddenly moved to the camp.

Shelter and non-food items

Seven recent graduates of a training programme in Colombo run by the Transitional Accommodation Project (TAP) have been assigned to TAP offices in Galle District. Two of the graduates will be placed in the Government Agent's office to deal with administrative issues, and the others will be placed in division offices. The principal duties of the TAP graduates will be to assess the suitability of land for resettlement and assess the status of camps.

IOM reports that it has constructed a total of 945 temporary shelters to date, including 364 in Ampara, 130 in Batticaloa, 180 in Trincomalee, 203 in Matara, and 68 in Kalutara. It has also constructed 18 temporary school structures including 13 in Ampara and five in Batticaloa. IOM has also constructed 148 toilets, 58 showers and various communal areas, children's play areas, and health centres.

The Women's Coalition for Disaster Management (WCDM) in Batticaloa has issued an appeal for more thorough consultation, particularly with regard to the construction of shelters in Thiraimadu. WCDM urged that the tsunami- affected communities should be involved in decision-making about their resettlement sites, allocation of plots as well as the design and construction of shelters.

Education

Alliance Development Trust is distributing 2,000 school kits to the Paddiruppu Zonal schools. They are cooperating with the zonal department of education for the distribution.

To date, UNICEF plans to construct a total of 227 temporary school shelters. Eighty-two of them have already been built.

Adopt Sri Lanka, a Galle District NGO, is assisting the Ministry of Education and local school authorities by assessing the needs of schools in the district for additional assistance.

Over 76,000 lunch boxes, water bottles and pencil cases have been distributed over the past two weeks by UNICEF for use by school children in all districts. In Trincomalee, UNICEF has distributed 77 steel cupboards to 38 tsunami-affected and child-friendly schools in the district for the storage of school material.

Livelihoods

In a ceremony on 20 March at the Fisheries Department in Batticalao, CORDAID handed over 250 fishing nets to those fishermen who still possess boats. Another distribution of both boats and nets will take place next month for those who lost everything.

Vocational training programmes are being conducted in such trades as carpentry, masonry, house wiring, welding, plumbing, aluminum fitting, motor rewinding and tailoring in Batticaloa, Ampara and Trincomalee districts by WUSC, YMCA, Technical College, WWDF, PADRO, and Sarvodaya. The training is for unemployed youth and women, for both pre-tsunami and tsunami-affected IDPs. The courses which normally runs six-to-nine months are being shortened to respond to the immediate demand for skilled trade laborers who are much needed in the reconstruction process.

Protection

Four times more women than men were killed in some areas hit by the Indian Ocean tsunami, according to a report recently issued by Oxfam Community Aid Abroad. The report says such losses amongst the female population will creating long-term social problems for devastated communities as they try to rebuild. The report suggests the imbalance in deaths occurred because many men were working inland or fishing offshore when the waves hit, while the women were at home. It also said men are more likely than women to know how to swim and to climb trees to reach safety. The report was based on research carried out by Oxfam in local communities devastated by the tsunami in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India. In Sri Lanka, camp surveys suggested a "serious imbalance" in the number of men and women that survived, the Oxfam report said, and called for aid agencies to be aware of the gender imbalance when planning disaster relief operations.

As of 24 March, 27 unaccompanied children, 1,271 separated children, and 3,930 children who lost one parent had been registered, according to UNICEF. Follow-up work on these children is progressing well. Also by 24 March, follow-up visits had been conducted for 26 unaccompanied children, for 1,042 separated children and for 1,537 children who lost one parent. Some 221 separated children and 52 children who lost one parent are now benefiting from Fit persons court orders.

Three trishaws have been supplied by UNICEF to the probation offices in Galle, Hambantota, and Matara Districts to facilitate their child protection work, including the follow-up of unaccompanied and separated children and of children with one parent. Two additional trishaws have been ordered for Tangalle and Balapitya and are expected for delivery shortly."

| Permanent Link


Tsunami: what are the economic consequences?

Overseas Development Institute-UK (ODI): "The Indian Ocean Tsunami: what are the economic consequences?

1. These notes are based on research by ODI staff on the economic and financial consequences of natural disasters.1

2. The geographical scale of the disaster is unprecedented, the loss of life immense and the level of physical damage very significant.


3. However, so far this is not the worst such disaster in modern times - the cyclone and storm surge that hit the coast of Bangladesh in 1970 killed at least 300,000 people. As that disaster showed, many of those killed are poor, and living in places with weak record systems: we will never know the full extent of the loss of life.


4. The immediate relief needs in the Indian Ocean are large and complex, and there will be a long term need for rehabilitation and reconstruction in the areas affected. The disaster is complicated because there are the effects of the earthquake near the epicentre (Aceh) and the widespread effects of the tsunami wave. In effect, there are two disasters, a very severe earthquake as well as the effect of the tsunami.


5. It is important to understand that natural disasters on this scale have less visible, but critically important, economy-wide (macro-economic) effects. This is because of the impact of damage to productive sectors (fishing, tourism) which generate jobs, tax revenue and foreign exchange, but also because government expenditure has to be diverted from other uses.


6. At the same time, the size of these secondary impacts depends very much on the structure of economies and on their resilience. The effects are greater when: other sectors depend very much on the affected sector (e.g. tourist hotels are one of the main markets for food or handicraft production); or the impact on government expenditure is large; or if government finances are poorly managed. In general, more developed economies are more resilient than those that are less developed.


7. As a general rule, the macro-economic effects of natural disasters tend to be relatively short-lived. The research evidence is that it is unusual to find significant decreases in national income or drops in the growth rate from sudden impact earthquakes, tsunamis or tropical storms. Indeed, in some cases, natural disasters have had a positive effect, because of increased spending on the rehabilitation of infrastructure.


8. In the case of the Indian Ocean tsunami, the countries affected cover a wide spectrum. The most vulnerable is probably Somalia, a very poor country, with few resources no effective government and many people dependent on the affected sectors. The Maldives will also be very badly affected, because of the dependence on tourism. Aceh is suffering all the effects of a major earthquake, with rescue and rehabilitation hampered by isolation and poor governance.


9. In other countries, the effect is likely to be more localised, though no less catastrophic for the individuals and communities concerned. Some countries are lower middle rather than low income countries (e.g. Thailand, Sri Lanka); most have well-diversified economies; most also have reasonably well-performing governments, with at least some response capacity, and also active civil societies. In all countries, it is important to emphasise that the main response will come from governments and people themselves.


10. The effects will be most severe where a large number of people, infrastructure (roads, railways, ports, electricity, telephones, water supply, sewage disposal) and economic activity (fishing, tourism) are concentrated along the coast. The effects are likely to be relatively most severe for small island economies and regions dependent on the sea and near the epicentre of the earthquake (Aceh, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Maldives).


11. In the longer term, those most seriously affected will be:

Poor coastal communities especially fishing communities where families will have lost their breadwinners, homes, boats and equipment, and face debts for boats and equipment lost, also those on the margins of the tourist economy.
Smaller, remoter economies especially
- Aceh (remote, poor and with severe governance problems because of the struggle for greater local autonomy and the wider near chaotic economic situation in Indonesia);
- Andaman and Nicobar Islands; and
- The Maldives because of its smallness and overwhelming dependence on disaster-affected tourism and the sea (economy and government finances could be very severely hit in short term).
12. Tourism is likely to recover quickly because: tourist operators and tourists are largely insured for loss and the bigger companies for disruption to business; multi-national tourism has the internal funding and can raise finance for rapid reconstruction; and demand will revive because a 1 in 1000 year event will be quickly forgotten.


13. The greatest challenge will be in ensuring that the poor, especially those in fishing, on the margins of the tourist economy and in remoter areas are helped to recover.


14. As far as aid is concerned, the research evidence is that the immediate response to natural disasters involves some new money, but that rehabilitation needs are often met by switching aid money between uses rather than increasing total aid to the countries affected. In this case, the level of need suggests that aid for both humanitarian and rehabilitation purposes should be additional. WHO has emphasised the importance of aid for health and sanitation in the immediate aftermath of the tsunami. The EU development and humanitarian commissioner, Louis Michel, has emphasised the need for a seamless link to longer term rehabilitation.


15. There are some important lessons for the future. The international community must
- invest much more in globally monitoring natural hazards that can cause disasters;
- help developing countries that under invest to provide warning systems2
- invest in protecting lives and livelihoods (Coastal embankments break the force of storm surges and tsunamis).
- The poor, who are most at risk and most vulnerable to the effects of disasters, need insurance. 2005 is the International Year for micro-credit. A major effort is needed to ensure that those successfully providing micro-credit to millions of poor people, such as the Grameen Bank BRAC and Proshika in Bangladesh, are able to include insurance in their loans and then have the funding in place and guarantees to withstand the effects of disasters.

16. The UN Kobe Conference in January on reducing the impacts of natural disasters offers an opportunity to look more carefully at these issues.

Notes:
Some facts about the countries:
Sri Lanka: population 20m; GNI per capita $930;
Thailand: population 62m; GNI per capita $2190;
Indonesia: population 212m; GNI per capita $710;
Maldives: population 300k; GNI per capita $2350;
Tamil Nadu: population 60m; GNI per capita (India) $540;
Somalia: population 9m; GNI per capita - not available but probably around $100


1. The author, Dr Edward Clay, Senior Research Associate, Overseas Development Institute, London [ e.j.clay@odi.org.uk ] and colleagues have been working on the economic and financial consequences of natural disasters for the last decade and results are summarised in a World Bank publication that can be accessed via the ODI web-site - or directly:


http://www.odi.org.uk/speeches/disasters_2004/natural_disasters_report.html

The full report on the study can be found on the World Bank's Publications web-site at:
http://www-wds.worldbank.org/servlet/WDS_IBank_Servlet?pcont=details&eid=000
012009_20040420135752


Charlotte Benson and Edward Clay, 'Beyond the Damage: Probing the Economic and Financial Consequences of Natural Disasters', Humanitarian Exchange, no. 27, July 2004. (see http://www.odihpn.org/)

Charlotte Benson and Edward Clay 'Understanding the Economic and Financial Impacts of Natural Disasters' just published by the World Bank (ISBN: 0-8213-5685-2 SKU: 15685)

2. Warning systems work: The numbers killed by the cyclone in Bangladesh - 300,000 plus in 1970 dropped to 138,000 in 1991 and since then fatalities caused by more recent storms have been few. The Mont Pelé eruption killed everyone (22,000) in St Pierre the capital of Martinique except a convict in the gaol, but the Soufrière Hills eruption going on since 1995 on Montserrat has killed only a handful who had been warned to evacuate
Click here for printable PDF version



30 December, 2004"

| Permanent Link


Italian skills to identify tsunami risk areas

Online edition of the Daily Mirror: By Sajeewan Wijewardana
The Italian government yesterday submitted proposals to the Parliamentary Select Committee on natural disasters, one of which related to identifying tsunami risk areas so that a blanket evacuation of people in any future tsunami threat would not be necessary.

This proposal relating to detailed coastal modeling was endorsed by scientists at yesterday's meeting where Geological Survey and Mines Bureau (GSMB) Director Sarath Weerawarnakula said once a detailed map is completed, blanket evacuation of coastal residents would not be necessary.

At Monday night's evacuation, all coastal residents were asked to leave for higher ground two kilometres away since Sri Lanka lacks accurate data on which areas are at risk from tsunami waves.

"We are getting tremors every now and then. The coastal people are in continuous fear. It is better to do this modelling and prepare a map so that we know which areas are at risk. Then we don't need to ask every one to leave," Mr. Weerawarnakula said.

The Italian government's set of proposals was officially handed over to Parliamentary Select Committee Chairman Mahinda Samarasinghe by Italian Ambassador Salvatore Zotta in Parliament to be included in the recommendations of the committee.

Endorsing the proposals Mr. Samarasinghe pledged that he would ensure that they will be taken up at the highest levels of the government. An acknowledging letter was requested by the ambassador and Mr. Samarasinghe promised that it will be sent.

The three proposals are to be financed from the funds of the Sri Lanka’s debt to Italy which has been remitted to be utilised for post tsunami projects.

"Sri Lanka has a debt of 7.3 million euros to Italy. We remitted the debt, on condition it is used for post tsunami projects such as this one. The Finance Minister is aware of this agreement," the ambassador told the parliamentarians.

Italy is a nation well experienced in dealing with all forms of natural disasters ranging from tsunamis to floods, he said, adding its advanced mapping technology was in high demand even in Japan and the United States.

The proposals were prepared by four university professors in Italy, experts in disaster management, after an Italian team had met and held discussions with Parliamentary Select Committee members, Science and Technology Minister Prof. Tissa Vitarana and professors from Peradeniya, Moratuwa and Colombo universities.

The first proposal is to provide Sri Lankan authorities with a set of high accuracy digital elevation and digital surface and terrain models of the coastal areas between the shoreline and 10 kilometres inland. The models will be fashioned from aerial and satellite data, with the latter processed by the use of 'proprietary codes' internationally patented by Italian universities and exclusively owned by them.

The initial target area is the coastal stretch between Galle and Batticaloa, a distance of about 300 kilometres. A second run will be carried out with the newly acquired space data which will refine and extend the model to the remainder of the Sri Lankan coast.

The second proposal calls for high-level government officials in Sri Lanka to proceed to Italy and exchange disaster data with Italian universities.

The final proposal is for a course to be conducted in Sri Lankan universities, starting in the academic year 2005/2006, to be of 3 to 4 years duration. It will focus on theoretical and practical knowledge of emergency management and natural disaster mitigation, particularly from meteorological and oceanographic hazards, active and passive preventive measures, including the planning of services and infrastructure capable of sustaining multidisciplinary monitoring of selected hazards and finally scientific and technical support to overcome physical and psychological trauma. The academics are to be provided by Italian universities.

| Permanent Link


Tsunami scare & Lessons to learn

Sent by Ajith Cooray
The general public was informed of a possible Tsunami threat through the media on the night of 28th march. People living close to the costal line were told to move in to the inland as far as 2km. The TV stations continued to broad cast the up dates even after their schedule closing time. The President & The Prime minister came on air.
People were scared & panicked. Telephones were jammed since every body started calling their friends & relatives. Since it was in the night many would have thought their loved ones could be a sleep. Few deaths were reported. After 3hrs. It was reported that there is no Tsunami situation.
It is sad three months after the Tsunami we still do not have a system (civil defense system) in place as to how the citizens of this country should act in a Tsunami situation, in an earth quake or floods.
Such systems should be simple to understand and follow, with optimum effect.

• Initial wakeup call (alert)
• Listen to broadcast
• Do’s
• Monitoring
• Back home

Initial wakeup call (alert)
Incorporate the places of worship where people first run to, in to the system. Look in to the possibility of using the “Bells” in these places to alert, If there are factories around workout a system to blow their sirens.

Listen to broadcast
Workout a centralized broadcast system for TV & Radio so that people could listen to one message & not conflicting messages & instructions.

Do’s
What to take
What to look for
What to check before you leave
Where to move (go)
Move to safe location (These could be pre identified locations)

Monitoring
Stay put
Listen to news
Avoid rumors
Listen to dead lines

Back home
Come back once dead lines have passed

Implementation

• Workout the System
• Educate the public
• Conduct drills

Workout the System
Get participation from Civil defense personnel

Educate the public
Print & Electronic Media
Village level gatherings
Posters & Leaflets

Conduct drills
Street level manageable units

Cost

Everything has a cost. Cost of prevention is less than cost of rebuilding the lives & families.
Will the Politicians and the civil society attend to this urgent need before it is too late again?

| Permanent Link

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Tsunamis, earthquakes, their intensity and periodicity

Online edition of the Island: Feature: by A. Denis N. Fernando. Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences

The Geomorphology of the island reflects the different natural forces that operated on it over geological time that resulted in determining its present shape and form. The high degree of correlation between lithology, landform, soil vegetation etc provides us not only the information of the interior of the Island but also its coastline. MAP I indicates the Geomorphology of the Island. It comprises plains, ridge and valley systems, and Valley systems, plateaus, and mountains. It is the coastal plains that play the key role in the study of the effect of Tsunami. The boundary between the land and the ocean is not static but dynamic, it moves with the tide and cyclonic storm surges and other forces that act upon it like earthquakes and Tsunamies caused by underwater earthquakes.

The Island has a building coastline in the eastern, seaboard from Panama northwards up to the Jaffna Peninsula. Similarly the Western seaboard a building coastline northwards of Chilaw to the Jaffna Peninsula, while the Southern coastline is an and submerging coastline, clearly reflected when we study the river profiles especially at its mouths. In addition in the southern sea bed we have enormous submerged canyons from Panadura, to Yala also confirming the subsidence of the southern coastline.. The coastline of Sri Lanka indicates varying coastal Geomorphological features clearly seen on the Aerial Photographs and satellite imagery. We notice the river mouths , spits, lagoons , swamps, wetlands dunes estuaries etc that react differently to the storm surges and cyclonic activity and other ingress from the sea because of their different natural resistance, when the sea overtops the high tide level and proceeds inland.

A short digression to history reveals that after the change ‘in the river course of the Mahaweli Ganga in the 13th century the Dry zone was virtually abandoned the people shifted from the Ancient Hydraulic Civilization in the Dry Zone to the Wet Zone and built new capitals in Dambadeniya, Yapahuwa, Kotte finally in Kandy. In the meantime there were foreign incursions and in, the time of Parakramabahu VI 14th century) these incursions were suppressed. The warriors who suppressed them were settled by the King along the coast, which they even occupy today. During the Colonial period all the Forts and manor houses of the period were also located in the coastal regions. With the development these areas in more recent times they were also occupied by other citizens, while- in more recent times were drawn by the hotel industry displacing the poorer sections of the traditional coastal dwellers.

Today the Population of Sri Lanka is about 20 million and the coastal Zone comprises about a fourth of the countries population and a fifth of the country’s land area. Fisheries activity has been the economic activity from which about a on people are dependent on it and derive their livelihood from the sea. In more recent times with the development of the Tourist industry sponsored by local and foreign entrepreneurs there is competition for the sea shore for recreational purposes and entertainment. In the process the government sponsors the new Tourist industry as it brings more foreign exchange at the expense of the fishing industry from which the poorest of the people deprive their sustenance, and we cannot sacrifice industry and people involved in it to earn 30 pieces of silver from the tourist industry.. One must not forget that Marine fishery accounts for nearly 100 % of the counties fish production and about a on persons deriving their lively hood from economic activities of this zone and we cannot therefore afford to deprive them of their livelihood to earn a few dollars from the tourist and the entertainment industry that benefits and affects only the upperclasses of society.

I would give Just two examples to illustrate It. In Negombo, which is well known for its fisheries activity, from time immemorial there was a special quarter where the fisherman used to dry their fish and nets. This was acquired by the Brown's Beach hotel and the land appropriated for its use right up to the sea, The fisherman had no place either to dry their fish or their nets. They stared to use the famous seabeach beside the Negombo Fort and the Rest house depriving the Towns folk of the seabeach for recreation and the weekly music entertainment they enjoyed for generations, as the beach was used thence as a fish market and the drying of fish that emanates and unusual stink which kept the citizens away. In course of time the Lagoon also became a mass sewerage pit with no plans for even developing a harbour for the several boats that used it. Though plans have been drawn to develop the lagoon by opening the ancient second outlet to the sea so as to flush the lagoon using the tides from ancient times, but nothing has been done.

The second example is the development of the tourist complex at Bentota. I was commissioned and assigned the task of conducting a Hydrographic Survey of the- Bentota shoreline in the mid 60’s which comprised an area of 5 miles of coastline and stretching half a mile into the sea. The report recommended that the, spit of the river not to be built upon .However the first that the Tourist Board did was to build hotels on the spit And today the Tsunami has done the need for not taking scientific advice into consideration.. Today it is unfortunate that with thirty pieces of silver one could do anything that is not socially desirable by looking after the interests of foreign entrepreneurs and local investors whose interest is only to make a quick buck.

In 1982 I compiled a book on the Ancient Hydraulic Civilization of Sri Lanka which was published by the Sri Lanka Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. This contained MAP 2 a map showing the distribution of Earthquakes epicentres around Sri Lanka compiled by the National Earthquakes Information Service of the US Department of the Interior up to 1979. This contained 15 epicentres of Earthquakes around Sri Lanka of which 4 Earthquakes had intensities between 5 and 6 on the Richter Scale. As- there was no indication of an intensity more seven which is usually destructive that causes the damage. I had therefore to turn to the historical records that recorded the severe damage by Earthquakes in Sri Lanka in the 2nd century BC, as well as the devastating effect of the change in river course of the Mahaweli Ganga in the 13 the century.

History records that in the century B.C. in the Eastern. Seaboard in Kalyani Kanika in the time of King Kelanitissa Tsunami occurred inundating that several townships had been destroyed and is recorded in me Mahawamsa. The location of Kalyani Kanika has been established using scientific evidence including coastal hydraulics sea currents and its location determined in the eastern southern seaboard. History records that Viharamahadevi the daughter of King Kelanitissa was set afloat at Kalyani Kanika to appease the Gods and was brought to shore by sea currents, which landed her in Kirinda. King Kavantissa thereafter married her and a new dynasty of mixed parentage was established between the Naga Dynasty the Greek Bachies.

A closer examination of Ptolemys’s Taprobane indicates Kirinda is in the Bay of Cetcum promotorium and the names and the locations of townships of the people who inhabited this area is indicated therein.

However today this promontory is no more and comprises the rock outcrops of the Little Great Bassess. Map 3 indicates the southern seaboard and the inundated area of the Kalyani Kanika Kingdom of King Kelanitissa the that of King Kavantissa, which coastline has now been washed away and is indicated in red. Statistically the return period of such an event is of the order of 2200 years.

It must also be recorded here that the Eastern Sea board is also subject to Cyclonic winds during the Northeast monsoon which strike this area severely with a periodicity of about a quarter of a century which have been recorded by the Meteorological Department. I was witness to one of the severest to hit the south eastern coast in 1978 where the eastern coastline from Batticaloa up to the interior of Maduruoya Dam site was affected where even the elephants had no fodder to eat and had to resort to eating the teak plantations for the first time. Some action has to taken by government like an effective warning and evacuation plan designed to be followed by the people of the area during such times.

The 13th century change in the river course of the Mahaweli Ganga due to an Earthquake resulting in the abandonment of the dry zone by the people and the shifting of the capital from Polonnaruwa to the Intermediate and Wet Zones to Dambadeniya, Yapahuwa, Kotte etc.

The accompanying aerial photograph indicate the old and present river course of the Mahaweli Ganga that changed course in the 13th century.

Aerial Photograph showing old and present river course of Mahaweli Ganga

Ancient Mahaweli flowing from West to East and Present Mahaweli flowing from South to North at Somawathiya

While Map 4 indicates the ancient chaityas prior to the 13th century that lay beside the old Mahaweli Ganga called Phasis fluvius or the River of the Persians by Ptolemy. These ancient Chitiyas lay like a string of pearls abandoned beside the old Mahaweli Ganga, with not a single chaitiya beside the present river north of Polonnaruwa. The return period of such an event occurring again of the order of over 2000 years.

| Permanent Link


Keep the public informed

Online edition of the Island: Feature: We have powerful media for communication, such as newspapers, television, radio etc. to pass on any information to the general public. However, regrettably the importance of providing timely information to the public is not realised by the relevant authorities

For when there are changes in customs levies or statutory taxes, proper and timely information should be given to the public for the following purposes:

(1) For due compliance.

(2) To make representations if there are any adverse effects.

(3) To change prices, invoices etc.

(4) To avoid penalty, red notices etc. for non-compliance, which result in embarrassment.

Our literacy rate is high and we must admit that people gather first hand information from the newspapers. Therefore, it is the duty of the relevant authority to provide such information to the public

I am surprised to hear that the Provincial Councils will be increasing their turnover tax rate from 1% to 5% for some items effective 1.4.2005. Provincial council rates are not announced at the Budget proposals annually. Therefore, it is very important that any change in the rates should be conveyed to the public through the media.

In fact a gazette notification has been issued on 15.12.2004 pertaining to the increase from 1% to 5%. They have fulfilled the statutory obligation only. However, you will admit that only a very small percentage of the pubic will get the opportunity of reading the gazette. On the other hand if it was a press notification then more people would have the opportunity to see it.

The following steps should have been taken by the Provincial Councils in this regard-.

(1) Proper publicity in the newspapers stating the relevant gazette notification.

(2) Brief announcements on Radio and TV.

(3) Issue of circulars to the Trade Chambers with request to advise their members.

(4) Issue of circulars to the tax payers when forwarding the Annual Returns.

The intention of this article is not to criticise the relevant authorities, but only seek their assistance and to ensure a better understanding is maintained with the public at large for due compliance of statutory requirements.

S. R. Balachandran,

Council Member

The National Chamber of Commerce of Sri Lanka

| Permanent Link


Call for a single authority to coordinate emergency broadcasts

Source: ReliefWeb
Sri Lanka calls for single authority to coordinate emergency broadcasts
by Amal Jayasinghe
COLOMBO, March 29 (AFP) - Sri Lankan legislators called Tuesday for a single body to issue warnings on potential natural diasters after broadcasters complained of a lack of information about Monday's tsunami alert.
The lawmakers held the previously scheduled hearing a day after a huge earthquake off Indonesia triggered tsunami alerts and evacuations in several Indian Ocean countries including Sri Lanka.
Thousands of people were urged to evacuate coastal areas in broadcasts late Monday but some media outlets said access to information was haphazard.
The head of the state-run Independent Television Network, Newton Gunaratne, told the lawmakers that after broadcasting warnings for coastal residents to move to higher ground they were unable later on to get information on the status of the possible tsunami.
"We could not find any authority who was willing to say it was safe for people to go back," Gunaratne said. "That is why we need a centralised system from where authoritative information can be obtained."
Another state broadcaster said the country's Geological Survey unit had only one telephone and it was impossible to reach them on Monday night.
Mahinda Samarasinghe, chairman of a bipartisan committee, endorsed the call for a unified authority to provide information.
"We are looking at what happened yesterday to prepare for any other disaster and that is why we need to look at the shortcomings and problems," Samarasinghe said during a public hearing in parliament.
Police said the evacuation was orderly but unconfirmed reports said there were two deaths in the east of the island.
Buddhist monk and legislator Athuraliye Ratana said there was panic on the streets overnight after the initial warning, but thereafter people were largely left to their own devices.
"Several people sheltered at Buddhist temples," the monk said. "We didn't know for how long these people were going to stay and what steps to take next. We had no information after the initial warning."
The top official for media policy said the government will seek a public service clause in licenses issued to broadcasters, requiring uniform disaster alerts.
"In the licenses we have issued so far, this problem has not been addressed," said media ministry secretary W. B. Ganegala. "But in the future we will include that. We are working on that."
There are two state-owned and six private television channels and around a dozen private radio stations in Sri Lanka.
The lawmakers also criticised the island's cellular and fixed-line phone networks which buckled under heavy call traffic after radio and television announced the potential tsunami threat.
Nearly 31,000 people were killed when giant waves lashed much of the island's coastline on December 26 following a submarine earthquake near Indonesia.
Monday's quake was less intense but the authorities issued the tsunami warning as a precautionary measure and lifted it nearly five hours after the quake.
aj/ejl/sm
Copyright (c) 2005 Agence France-PresseReceived by NewsEdge Insight: 03/29/2005 04:44:22

| Permanent Link

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

OXFAM Manager on BBC

Sources: BBC 26/03/2005
Scot in Sri Lanka mercy mission
David Crawford Oxfam Country Programme Manager - Sri Lanka

David Crawford, from Glasgow, works for Oxfam in Sri LankaAlmost three months ago, I landed in Sri Lanka to take up my post as Country Program Manager for Oxfam.
The Boxing Day tsunami had struck this country only a week before, killing more than 30,000 people, leaving hundreds of thousands homeless, and millions of people in need of emergency assistance.
During my three decades in the humanitarian field, I have seen war, famine, and natural disaster wreack unimaginable suffering on innocent civilians on a massive scale.
But I had never seen such total destruction before in my life. It was like someone had dropped an atomic bomb on Sri Lanka's coastline.
Having not been here when the wave hit, any words I have for that awful moment will not fully describe what the tsunami did to communities already struggling to survive poverty.
'Awful dread'
However, the words of one of Oxfam's team members who responded on that dreadful day, Sureaka Navaranjini, of our Killinochi District office, captures the horror and helplessness that came ashore along with the tsunami.
She said: "We are used to displacements and war but not on this scale - it was unlike anything before.
"One woman came to us and pleaded that we help her find her baby but he had gone.
"As we approached the beach all I could see was vehicles parked down the sides of the roads and ambulances with sirens racing past us.
"It gave me the feeling of awful dread."
We want the people of Sri Lanka, especially the poorest and most vulnerable, to be stronger than they were before the wave came
The scope of the tsunami's impact was unprecedented, but Oxfam, fortunately, with nearly 30 years of experience in Sri Lanka and more than 80 staff positioned throughout the country, was as ready to act as we could be.
From our four district offices, staff and local partners, many of whom lost their own houses and neighbours, pulled themselves from the wreckage and began to assist the survivors.
Our constant training and planning for all manner of disasters enabled Oxfam's resources on the ground, especially our local knowledge of the area, to deliver critical services, like water and sanitation, almost immediately.
Given the dire nature of the emergency, Oxfam flew in extra people, water and sanitation equipment, and other supplies.
In the mere 90 days since Boxing Day, Oxfam teams have become operational in eight of the 14 affected districts.
Working in conjunction with local Sri Lankan partner organisations, we are reaching more than 200,000 people with clean water and sanitation, temporary shelter, cash grants to help rebuild their livelihoods, and distributions of basic items such as cooking stoves and mosquito nets for infants.
Our 250-plus staff of water engineers, shelter specialists, logisticians and public health experts (which includes a large number of Sri Lankan nationals) have been working night and day since the tsunami.
They are meeting their targets, and getting this tough task accomplished. I hope they know how proud I am of them.
Now, the emergency phase is coming to a close and a larger challenge lies ahead: rebuilding the lives and livelihoods of the people hit hardest by the tsunami.
Oxfam's goal is not to reconstruct the status quo in Sri Lanka, rebuilding slums back into slums.
We want the people of Sri Lanka, especially the poorest and most vulnerable, to be stronger than they were before the wave came.
Poverty, not surprisingly, is what made so many of these communities so susceptible to the tsunami in the first place.
Already we are building temporary shelters in several districts, setting the standard for how these houses should be designed and built by the aid community in Sri Lanka.
Immense compassion
Livelihood programs have helped get fishermen back on the water.
And cottage industries, especially lace making and coconut husk drying, businesses that largely benefit women, are up and running again in many places because of the support you have given Oxfam.
The immense compassion and generosity of the Scottish people, and the whole world for that matter, in the days following the tsunami will not soon be forgotten.
But with your giving comes a great responsibility for groups like Oxfam.
We must turn your hard-earned pounds into hope. That's why you gave them to us.
In Sri Lanka and across the Indian Ocean region, Oxfam is keeping our promise to get the job done now, making a real difference here in the lives of hundreds of thousands of people who have lost everything and, for many, everyone they had. I see both our success and the challenges that lie ahead every day I am in the field.

| Permanent Link


Two authorities, two coastal zones, more trauma for the displaced

Online edition of the Sunday Island: Feature: 27/03/2005 by Ruana Rajepakse

It was recently announced that the Urban Development Authority had delegated to the relevant local authorities its powers in regard to the coastal zone. The local authorities are accordingly charged with enforcing the 100 metre no-construction zone in the South and, theoretically at least, the corresponding 200 metre zone in the East.

Among the incidents reported after this delegation of power is that of a local authority in the Kalutara District prohibiting persons who are still living in the zone from repairing their damaged toilets.

While directives of this sort may have a farcical ring to readers, they pose a severe problem to those at the receiving end. If obeyed, such directives are likely to lead to serious health and sanitation problems in the tsunami-affected areas.

However the bottom line is that such directives are presently being issued without any legal authority. No regulations pertaining to 100 or 200 metre "buffer" zones have yet been gazetted.

Furthermore, the UDA and any local authority acting under powers delegated by the UDA can only prohibit "development activity" from being carried out without a permit. "Development activity" as defined in the UDA Law No. 41 of 1978 as amended by Act No. 4 of 1982 does not include "the use of any land within the curtilage of a dwelling house for any purpose incidental to the enjoyment of a dwelling house, not involving any building operation that would require the submission of a new building plan."

In other words, it does not include the clearing out, repair or reconstruction of an existing toilet or any part of an existing house.

However the present legal predicament over the "buffer" zones does not end there. Let us take the legislative history in sequence.

The UDA was created by Law No. 41 of 1978. Under this law, whenever the Minister in charge of urban development "is of opinion that any area is suitable for development, he may, by an order published in the gazette, declare such area to be an Urban Development Area."

Initially, by Government Gazette No. 4/1 of 30.09.1978, Colombo and a number of other major towns were listed as such areas and this list was extended from time to time.

In 1981 the Coast Conservation Act was passed for regulating and controlling development activities within the "coastal zone" and for preparation of a "coastal zone management plan".

This "coastal zone" is defined in the body of the Act itself as "the area lying within a limit of 300 metres landwards of the Mean High Water line and a limit of 2 kilometres seawards of the Mean Low Water Line", with certain special provisions for the measurement of the zone where there are rivers and lagoons.

The coastal zone as thus defined is to be inventoried and managed by the Director of Coast Conservation in terms of a "coastal zone management plan" that has to be revised every four years. This plan and every revision thereof is put up for public comment for 60 days prior to being submitted to Cabinet for approval.

As part of this plan, it has been the practice of the Coast Conservation Department to impose reservations ranging from 55 to 200 metres along different parts of the coast depending on local conditions. This included reservations in urban areas that formed part of the coastal zone.

In December 1982 the then Minister of Urban Development ("R. Premadasa") issued a gazette notice under section 3 of the UDA Law declaring the "Coastal Zone of the Republic of Sri Lanka" to be an "urban development area". This coastal zone is defined in the gazette as "the area lying within the limits of 1 kilometre landwards of the Mean High Water line of the sea."

Thus there are now two coastal zones having different metes and bounds, and falling under the jurisdiction of two different public bodies.

Hitherto this 1982 gazette does not appear to have been used in a manner that cut across the functions of the Director of Coast Conservation. Even when the Coast Conservation Department last revised its Management Plan in 2004 (some time before the tsunami) it is this department that prescribed the coastal setback limits for the towns including Colombo (55 metres).

After the tsunami the UDA appears to have been seized by a takeover mentality and is now seeking to impose the 100 and 200 metre setback limits on the strength of the 1982 gazette.

However others object, saying that a mere gazette notice issued in 1982 cannot override the substantive provisions of an Act of Parliament, namely the Coast Conservation Act of 1981, under which the coastal zone is defined and the Director of Coast Conservation is given the exclusive power to determine what type of development will be permitted within it.

The fact that no gazette has yet been issued, three months after the tsunami, appears to indicate that the Government’s legal experts are having some difficulty with it.

Meanwhile, the contents of the proposed gazette have been published by TAFREN in a full page advertisement, as if they were law, and are as follows:

The 100 metre buffer zone will apply to the districts of Killinochchi, Mannar, Puttlam, Gampaha, Colombo, Kalutara, Galle, Matara and Hambantota. The 200 metre zone will apply to the districts of Jaffna, Mullaitivu, Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Ampara.

The TAFREN advertisement states that no "development activity" will be permitted in these zones except for coast conservation structures and vegetation; activities in connection with the fisheries industry such as harbours, piers, anchorages, warehouses and ancillary facilities; agricultural activities approved by the Coast Conservation Department; historical monuments and archaeological sites; and essential infrastructure facilities.

In fact several of these exempted items do not even fall within the definition of "development activity" in terms of the UDA Law and thus illustrate the anomaly of trying to give effect to coastal buffer zones through that Law.

Meanwhile sources at the Tourism Ministry have been quoted in the media as saying that tourist hotels would be exempt from these regulations, thereby increasing the confusion and the heartburn felt by ordinary residents.

A further touch of farce was added recently, when officers of the UDA and the Coast Conservation Department who had both started putting markers indicating the 100 metre buffer zone, ended up drawing two different lines. As a result some persons who had thought they were putting up houses outside the buffer zone were suddenly told they are within it and asked to demolish their structures.

This kind of approach not only adds to the trauma of the displaced, but also strains the patience of those foreign and Sri Lankan groups that have been organizing, financing and often physically participating in the rebuilding effort.

Clearly there must be only one authority in charge of the coastal zone, and one definition of the metes and bounds of that zone.

These events also raise a major policy issue as to whether there is justification for departing from the concept of integrated coastal zone management under the Coast Conservation Act, in favour of a policy of coastal zone evacuation which is what the UDA policy amounts to. Furthermore, does the State have the land and financial resources to undertake such a massive relocation; and if not, will many people be left in a state of limbo for years?

In January, the Asian Development Bank, Japan Bank for International Cooperation and World Bank jointly released a "Preliminary Damage and Needs Assessment" for post-tsunami Sri Lanka.

Referring to the 100-200 metre no-construction zone, the report observes that "Even if this is not implemented as a blanket rule, but only applied in specific high risk areas, there will be considerable relocation of people."

Elsewhere the report calls for a multi-hazard risk approach to ensure that communities and assets are less vulnerable to impacts of future disasters "while balancing the costs of excessive resettlement".

It also calls for local communities to be consulted, and empowered to make their own decisions. The report also declares that "communities should be assisted to return to their original homes as swiftly as possible wherever possible."

Thus coastal zone evacuation is not what the donors envisage. Nor is the proposed buffer zone going to save lives in the event of another tsunami, as it is widely acknowledged that the waves went in much further than 100 - 200 metres in most areas. For disasters on the scale of a tsunami there is no substitute for early warning and speedy evacuation.

On the other hand it has also been observed that the preservation of natural barriers such as sand dunes and vegetation were more effective than distance in mitigating the force of the waves. Coastal communities can be actively involved in environmental preservation projects, on the lines of participatory forestry projects.

In short there are many ideas that need to be discussed and evaluated in order to reach the best consensus. The Coast Conservation Act has two salutary features in this regard: Firstly it requires an overall management plan to be prepared on a scientific basis with surveys, inventories of resources and proposals on dealing with human settlements, land use, tourism and the like. Secondly, it allows 60 days for public discussion of the plan before it is finalized, thus complying with international best practices of public consultation and participation.

Following the tsunami there will obviously need to be a revision of the 2004 Coastal Zone Management Plan. This could form the basis for a scientifically sound and socially conscious discussion of how best to rebuild and preserve this devastated area within a realistic budget framework.

Critics will no doubt point to shortcomings in the work of the Coast Conservation Department, particularly the fact that many unauthorized structures were allowed to come up on the beaches. However, there is no guarantee that similar lapses will not occur in the proposed 100 and 200 metre buffer zones. Residents of Colombo will be aware of the many violations of UDA zoning regulations that are presently taking place in the city.

This is a problem of law enforcement that must be tackled separately. First one must ensure that the law is validly enacted and based on sound principles.

| Permanent Link


Private Sector Still Eyeing to Own Every Drop

The following was sent in by K. S. Yapa
WORLD WATER DAY-ASIA: by Anil Netto

PENANG, Malaysia, Mar 22 (IPS) - Selling water rights to private institutions and then having people buy them back again is an issue that keeps rearing its ugly head at every World Water Day, which falls on Mar. 22.

Goaded by international financial institutions and corporate interests, regional governments are pressing ahead with plans for more private participation in water services. And yet all across Asia, water privatisation schemes are failing to deliver clean and safe drinking water to communities, despite forcing consumers to pay for a basic human right.

''If you look for a water privatisation arrangement that works ... I cannot think of any,'' Manila-based Mary Ann Manahan, a researcher with Focus on the Global South, told IPS in a telephone
interview.

In contrast, the sterling performance of some major publicly managed water utilities in Asia has demolished the argument that private sector participation is the only way to improve efficiency.

Cities like Osaka, Phnom Penh and Penang, where water is publicly managed, have outperformed Jakarta and Manila, two cities with massive privatisation arrangements in several key sectors.

Osaka, for instance, has a non-revenue water level (NRW) - an indicator of the level of unaccounted water and lost income due to leakages and unpaid bills - of seven percent. This is an outstanding performance.

Phnom Penh records an NRW of 26 percent and Penang a commendable 19 percent. In comparison, Jakarta has NRW of 51 percent and Manila 62 percent.

The British-owned Thames Water Plc and the French operated Suez- Lyonnaise respectively operate the largest water privatisation schemes in Jakarta and Manila.

The Public Services International (PSIRU), based in Britain, which analyses the privatisation and restructuring of public services around the world, revealed in a recent study that Sri Lanka's capital Colombo, where water is publicly managed, has a water leakage level of only 23 percent compared to a leakage level of 35 percent for the city of London covered by Thames Water Plc.

''There has been an extremely high failure rate for private concessions and long-term BOT (Build Operate Transfer contracts) which may get worse if Suez and Thames leave their contracts in Manila and Jakarta,'' said the study.

And yet, privatisation schemes are being pushed with vigour by international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, coupled with lobby groups such as the Global Water Partnership and the World Water Council. Manahan points out
that the World Bank has increased its lending on water projects from 546 million U.S. dollars in 2002 to three billion U.S. dollars in 2005.

''But there is no clear indication that this has led to cleaner, more affordable water for people on the margins,'' she said.

In addition, the European Union has come up with initiatives in the World Trade Organisation to prise open national water services to the big foreign players. Indeed, since the mid-1990s, developing countries have been coaxed to privatise water services through 'public-private partnership' or private sector participation.

But many of these schemes in Asia have had disastrous results: soaring water tariffs, unmet targets, and crippling financial losses and debt.

Faced with embarrassing results, several Western multinationals that once thirsted for water privatisation projects in Asia have tried to make a quick exit from loss-making or problem- saddled privatisation agreements in Asian countries. Instead, they are now restricting themselves only to sure-fire problem-free projects or 'safer' markets like Japan and South Korea.

Critics of water privatisation complain that it tends to focus on urban consumers whereas the vast majority of those who most need water live in rural areas.

Worse, privatised water operations are diverting water in rural areas to urban centres, said Kuala Lumpur-based economist Charles Santiago, coordinator of Monitoring Sustainability of Globalisation.

''They do this in two ways: by actually channelling water meant for rural areas into urban areas and by ground water mining in rural areas (for use in producing) bottled water, which is largely
consumed in urban areas,'' he told IPS.

The experience in cities across Asia and elsewhere is that when multinationals enter the scene or when private participation is introduced, water tariff rates invariably soar.

For instance, in Manila, the government touted water privatisation as the solution to a looming water crisis in the Philippines. ''They promised there would be no price hikes in water for five years,'' points out Manahan. ''But within three years, they filed for tariff increases.''

Instead of the promised lower rates, Maynilad Water Services, which holds Manila's west zone concession, raised tariffs by as much as 400 per cent between 1997 and 2003. Manila Water Company, the east zone concessionaire, raised water tariffs by 700 percent in the same period.

When Manila's privatised arrangements failed, the eventual 'solution' by the Philippine government was 'rehabilitation'. But Manahan prefers to call a spade a spade. ''It's a bailout,'' she said starkly.

But civil society groups are making their voices heard. In Manila, they have filed a petition in court to oppose the ongoing 'rehabilitation', arguing that it is against public interest and would only burden consumers and taxpayers.

In Thailand, thousands of workers protested against the government's privatisation policy in early 2004 - though the Thaksin-led administration has since reiterated its plans to press on with privatisation.

In Malaysia, a newly set up Coalition Against Water Privatisation, made up of 26 civil society groups, is opposing the government's plan to privatise even more publicly owned water utilities in the country.

Manahan has her own solution to the dilemma facing many Asian governments.

The Focus on the Global South researcher points to the example of Porto Alegre, Brazil. Water services in Porto Alegre were private until 1904, then the city took it over.

In the participatory budget process the city people get together in meetings throughout the year and decide where the investments of the Municipal Department of Water and Sanitary Sewage are going to be made. Between 1989 and 1996, the number of households with access to
water services rose from 80 percent to 98 percent, while the percentage of population served by the municipal sewage system rose from 46 percent to 85 percent.

''My bias would be to call for a democratisation in decision-making on how water should be managed in the community,'' said Manahan. ''Water is such a basic need, it should remain in the
hands of the public.'' (END/2005)

| Permanent Link


Policies and Practices never effectively implemented

Online edition of the Sunday Times: Financial Times:
Most Sri Lankans, including the Government, Officials, Judiciary, Regulators, Law Enforcement Officers, Business, Professionals, Consumers and Civil Society pay little attention to promulgated policies and practices. These remain merely as adornments in print and not guiding core principles embedded in societal values.

The initiators and promulgators of national policy need to understand that any policy is not worth the paper written on, unless there is effective communication, awareness, buying in by the public on the basis of its essential nature and acceptance by all as a core value of society.

The newspapers last week reported the true reflection of policies in practice. A full-page advertisement announced the draft National Policy on Sand as a Resource for the Construction Industry. Another news report quoted the Chief of the Judicial Services as holding the law enforcement chiefs accountable for the failure to implement judgments and allowing the illicit mining of river sand. The law enforcement officers then lamented on their inability of enforcement due to politicians and bigwig cops backing the illicit miners of river sand.

The story and saga is not limited to sand alone but spreads to every such policy whether it be the protection of the environment and ecology, safety and security of road users, mining of gems, exploitation of timber, dumping of garbage and pollution, admittance of children to schools, health care or even the solvency and security of financial service institutions.

The policy paper on sand has no reference to a strategy that will assure the enforcement automatically by society through a buying in process and acceptance as a societal norm. The paper proposes monitoring using the mechanism of oversight Ministers in charge, Standing Committees, law enforcement officers and Regulators. "If you wish to ensure non enforcement of a policy then give the responsibility to a Minister, set up a monitoring committee, set up a Regulatory Authority, look up to the police and the judiciary to round up and punish offenders," says the Wise Old Owl.

How come all knowing leaders in government and officialdom forget the need to communicate in order to assure effective awareness and buying in by the young to old of their societal accountability to assure the use of sand as a renewable resource? By merely writing a policy that there are significant dangers of the present illicit mining of river sand, dangers of exploiting sand beds and dunes around rivers and seashore and also the danger in haphazardly using sea sand, none of these risks can be eliminated.

It is the same story when it comes to regulations applicable to food. A mere gazette notice on food labeling issued earlier in the year setting out that no one should erase or obliterate any labels, compulsory requirement to specify set declarations in one or more languages, refrain from selling beyond expiry periods, display special identifying marks, refrain from indicating references from Medical Associations or references to "natural" products will not assure compliance by the importers, manufacturers, distributors and retailers. The proof of above is evident to any person visiting shops and super markets. One has to wade through a stack on a rack to find amongst expired and overprinted stocks, an item of food that has a reasonable period to run. One can then imagine the expiry dates of items served cooked and converted!

Control of rabies, dengue and malaria, drinking and driving or even driving recklessly cannot be assured by laws and regulations. Environmental pollution, conserving scarce energy sources and prevent destroying forests along with valuable endemic medicinal plants, birds, butterflies and frogs cannot similarly be left to regulations.

One of the key responsibilities of policy makers and regulators is to build awareness and involve civil society in the enforcement process. Whilst persons of all age groups can be made stakeholders in this process, especially children, teachers, religious leaders and mothers can be valuable allies.

In a nation where " Leghgha and Bhaya" or " Shame and Fear" have faded away with civil society experiencing years of civil war, lawlessness, crime, corruption, nepotism, indiscipline and ability to tide over any situation with money and power, it is obvious that policies, practices and regulations are only for some and not for others.

Cannot the terms of reference in attempting to develop policies, practices and regulations contain a few questions before terms are drafted? How can we get these communicated? How can we assure maximum buying in? How can we make civil society and identified target groups become flag bearers and enforcement champions of the policy?

All policy makers must understand and leverage the power of "Social Marketing" as the way forward in enforcement and every policy, practice and regulation must be accompanied by a social marketing strategy setting clearly the target groups and civil society champions of enforcement.

(The writer could be reached at - wo_owl@yahoo.co.uk).

| Permanent Link

Powered for Blogger by Blogger Templates