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Serving Sri Lanka

This web log is a news and views blog. The primary aim is to provide an avenue for the expression and collection of ideas on sustainable, fair, and just, grassroot level development. Some of the topics that the blog will specifically address are: poverty reduction, rural development, educational issues, social empowerment, post-Tsunami relief and reconstruction, livelihood development, environmental conservation and bio-diversity. 

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Psychological Aftermath of the Tsunami:

The Island: Feature: by Jane Gilbert "07/04/2005 (Counselling and Psychotherapy Journal, February, 2005)

The tsunami disaster has shattered thousands of lives, not just physically in terms of destruction of property and livelihoods but, even more catastrophically, in terms of the loss of loved ones – whole families, children, parents. It is difficult to even begin to try and comprehend the depth of this loss and the overwhelming pain of grief for individuals and communities.

All human beings would experience grief in the face of such appalling loss, but this paper is a note of caution, a reminder that, although grief and emotional distress is a universal human response to loss, the ways in which this is expressed and what means of help might be appropriate`A0differs between cultures. When so much international aid is being provided to devastated communities it is essential to exercise caution when considering how best to support psychological recovery.

Culture and language

Every child is socialised into the culture of their own community. This process provides a child with the fundamental assumptions by which s/he makes sense of human experience, including values, attitudes, ways of perceiving and understanding the world, and, culturally specific ways of expressing emotional distress and what constitutes appropriate healing. All expressions of emotional distress, including the acute grief of the survivors of this disaster, are embedded within, and cannot be separated from, particular cultural frameworks.

People and communities retain and safeguard the knowledge and wisdom of their culture through language. Each of the thousands of languages spoken on the earth defines, in its own way, how things are talked about and what concepts are assumed for making sense of the world. Some of these fundamental concepts are unique to that community’s ways of perceiving the world, and cannot be directly translated into another language without serious loss of meaning. Even apparently "simple" notions, such as stress, anxiety, counselling have no direct equivalent in many other languages.

Each person speaks and experiences emotions, therefore, within the constraints of a particular language and the culture embedded within it. Thus there is an intimate connection between language and psychology. Even those who are fluent in English as well as their mother tongue are more likely to be able to express their deepest feelings most accurately in the language of their childhood. The mother tongue in all the areas affected by the tsunami is not English.

These language and culturally specific psychological factors are fundamental when considering the international response to the terrible grief and psychological distress now being experienced.

The restoration of meaning

Any experience of loss fundamentally disrupts the ability to find meaning. Loss of loved ones, home, familiar surroundings and livelihoods is a catastrophic loss of the meanings which life held before the disaster. Everyone affected will grieve and mourn these terrible losses.

The mourning and emotional distress of people who have suffered this natural disaster are normal reactions to an extraordinary event. Throughout the grief, acute at first, and lasting a lifetime, the primary task, underlying everything to be done, is the restoration of meaning – restoration of meaning in a situation where most of the previous meanings by which life was lived have been obliterated.

Traditional cultural values and traditional family and social role expectations have a crucial role in restructuring life and restoring meaning. Joining with others who have suffered similarly can greatly aid the journey through unimaginable grief.

* The mending of social relations is essential for the expression of grief, the restoration of meaning, and the process of reconstruction.

* The primary role of humanitarian aid for the psychological aftermath of the disaster is to facilitate this process.

Learning from the past

In other complex emergencies there has been much confusion and controversy in relation to the provision of appropriate psychological support. However, reviews of psychosocial programmes provided in Kosovo and Rwanda have clearly highlighted the lessons to be learned in relation to culturally appropriate interventions, and the recent review by WHO (2005) is a welcome acknowledgment of this. Particular concerns have been raised regarding the diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) within large populations, and the need to understand psychological distress as a normal response to abnormal events. The dangers of "medicalising" normal emotional reactions and the risk of the breakdown of traditional community healing mechanisms by the importation of external specialists are also now increasingly recognised.

Individual counselling has sometimes been provided in the past almost as a "prescription" for dealing with all kinds of traumatic experiences, but fortunately it is now recognised that this separation of someone from their social group for individual help can be alien to many cultures and can stigmatise people in their own communities. This is particularly the case in societies where the individual’s recovery is intimately bound up with the recovery of the wider community, as is the case in all the areas affected by the tsunami.

WHO (2003, 2005) make specific recommendations as to how external agencies can assist in the mending of social relations and the re-building of communities. The following section complements those specific strategies and recommendations by highlighting some overarching principles. .

Guiding principles

* Local language, the expression of feelings and concepts of emotional healing within local communities must always take precedence over Western interventions.

* Sufficient time must be taken to understand the cultural context – how are the effects of the disaster being interpreted? How does the particular cultural group express distress? What are the appropriate ways of healing and dealing with loss?

* Every nation and community has its own peculiar "genius", its own ways of thinking, acting, communicating and caring for its citizens. Supporting that unique "genius" is the basis of psychological recovery.

* People themselves are always the experts in their own feelings, and some expressions of distress may be "untranslateable" into Western frameworks.

* Appropriate social interventions can have very powerful secondary psychological effects on well being, for example, restoration of normal activities, schooling for children, encouraging active participation in the community, and re-establishing cultural and religious events.

* Access to valid information is essential to reduce public anxiety and distress.

* Networks are crucial. Anything that can be facilitated to help reconstitute family and kinship ties and social and cultural institutions will be beneficial. Maintenance of traditions is central to the struggle to maintain the sense that there is still order in the universe and that life may once again provide meaning

It is essential to take care to avoid the creation of dependency on external knowledge and personnel for psychological recovery, and not to implicitly undermine community structures.

Thoughtfulness, taking care

This paper was written as a plea for careful analysis and understanding of the specific local and traditional ways of grieving and dealing with loss in each of the countries affected by the tsunami. Psychological healing after such catastrophic loss is far more complex than the "technical" problems of physical survival and economic reconstruction, and therefore needs to be approached with thoughtfulness and care.

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Reclaiming Lanka's lost coastal cities

Daily News: Feature: "07/04/2005 by Prof. S.S.L. Hettiarachchi and Dr. S. P. Samarawickrama, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Moratuwa

Many coastal cities of Sri Lanka were severely affected by the Boxing Day tsunami. One of the principal coastal cities devastated was the historic port city of Galle. Incidentally the first recorded tsunami to have affected Sri Lanka was on 27th August 1883, arising from the eruption of the volcanic island of Krakatoa. On this occasion too, unusually high water levels followed by the receding beach were observed in Galle around 1.30 pm.

The water level fluctuations were not severe and there was no inundation. However, on 26th December 2004, Galle received the severe impact of tsunami waves, their magnitude having increased due to near-shore transformations.

On moving towards land the tsunami wave first interacts with the continental shelf during which process the initial transformation takes place. Depending on the physical characteristics of this shelf, part of the energy is reflected and the rest is transmitted towards land. Any discontinuities in the shelf may lead to complex phenomena. Waves diffracting around the southern parts of the island would be further influenced by the complex wave patterns arising from such discontinuities leading to greater impacts. This is an area which needs further investigation.

On reaching shallow water, the speed of the wave reduces but the energy in the wave remains the same due to minimum energy losses, thus increasing the wave height very rapidly and crashing inland with devastating power and destruction.

The wave height prior to the entry to the shoreline is further increased by the combined influence of near-shore coastal transformation processes of refraction, diffraction, reflection, and energy concentration due to reduced crest width within bays.

The near-shore transformation processes are greatly influenced by the shape of the coastline, geomorphologic features and bottom bathymetry. Depending on these features some coastal cities are more vulnerable than others against coastal hazards.

In the context of tsunamis the location of Galle is extremely vulnerable. It lies besides a wide bay and a natural headland on which is located the historic Galle Fort with very reflective vertical non-porous walls on all sides. Furthermore, there exists the Dutch canal west of the headland, conveying water through the city centre. The waves in the vicinity of Galle, which were increasing in height due to reduced water depths were further subjected to a series of near-shore processes which increased their heights even further. The canal was a facilitator in conveying the massive wave and associated flow towards the heart of the city centre.

In the vicinity of the headland on which the Galle Fort is located, the wave energy concentrates due to refraction. These waves then reflected from the vertical solid walls of the Fort and moved around the headland. Such walls reflect almost all the incident wave energy with very high wave heights at the wall itself.

There is hardly any dissipation. On the west of the headland the waves moved ferociously into the Dutch Canal (as captured by the famous ITN cameraman). On the east it moved along the bay. The wide bay in Galle further contributed to the increase in wave height by modifying the shoaling process via reduced wave crest width to accommodate the bay shape.

The combined effect of this phenomenon and the wave coming around the eastern side of the Fort caused a massive wave of destruction along the Marine Drive. It is certainly not surprising that many survivors referred to a moving large black wall similar to that of the Galle Fort.

The city of Galle is one of the many coastal cities around the world, which remains vulnerable against tsunami waves. The poor drainage only adds to the vulnerability. Planning countermeasures

There are many counter measures that could be adopted in the context of coastal zone management, in planning for a tsunami and other coastal hazards that accompany high waves.

These include engineering interventions such as protection structures, strengthening of natural defences and regulatory interventions in the form of extension of the existing 'setback' defence line. These have to be supplemented with efficient evacuation procedures, incorporating, if necessary, planned evacuation structures that effectively integrate with the overall planning process.

It is important that post disaster planning should be undertaken in the context of overall coastal hazards one of which remains Tsunamis, however remote the chances of an extreme event such as that of the 26th December taking place. It is recognised that a Coastal Hazard Protection Plan for a city that is an integral part of an overall Coastal Zone Management Plan has to be based upon Policy and Management Options.

These options reflect the strategic approach for achieving long term stability in particular for sustaining multiple uses of the coastal zone giving due consideration to the threats and risks of hazards.

It is in the above context that attention is focused on three types of interventions for protection, namely those which,

(i) reduce the impacts of tsunami waves prior to reaching the shoreline.

(ii) protect the coastal zone thus preventing the inland movement of tsunami waves.

(iii) mitigate the severe impacts of tsunami waves on entry to the shoreline.

Some of these interventions may be achieved not only by artificial methods via Coastal Engineering Design but also by natural methods.

Typical examples of the first and second types of structures are Tsunami Breakwaters and Tsunami Dikes. Tsunami Breakwaters are constructed offshore to interact with the incoming waves and thereby reducing its energy by efficient dissipation processes. These structures are usually overtopped by tsunami waves but the waves that continue to propagate thereafter have less energy.

It is good engineering practice to encounter tsunami waves in deepwater and reduce its strength before the heights are increased due to complex near-shore processes described earlier. These structures can also be incorporated as part of a coastal development programme such as port development by which means the entire exercise become economically attractive.

Coral reefs depending on their location and geometry can be effective in mitigating the impacts of the tsunami wave prior to reaching the shoreline. The reef system should be of sufficient length to ensure a fair proportion of energy dissipation leading to high hydraulic efficiency. Areas where excessive near-shore coral mining had taken place were severely affected due to the absence of the natural defence system irrespective of its hydraulic efficiency.

Tsunami Dikes are constructed on the shoreline and the structures will prevent the passage of waves and also dissipate energy. In the unlikely event of overtopping of the defences it is equally important to incorporate effective drainage systems without which the catastrophe would be greater.

Natural barriers such as sand dunes have been effective in preventing the inland entry of the tsunami waves. However, if such a system is breached at a weak point there is a high possibility of a progressive collapse of the defence leading to excessive inundation.

Tsunami Dikes of moderate heights will limit the overtopping thus reducing the inundation. Such systems must be able to withstand the overtopping wave forces at crest level and remain stable during the progression of the tsunami.

It also customary to have more robust coast protection structures armoured with concrete armour units which are more stable against massive overtopping waves and efficient in dissipating wave energy. If heavy overtopping is expected it is important that effective drainage is provided for the areas behind the protected area.

Planned growth of Mangroves can be an effective measure in mitigating the impacts of the tsunami wave on entry to the shoreline. A mangrove forest is an efficient natural energy absorber of steady flows and long waves. The natural porous structure of the mangrove forests and their deep roots generate a stable wave absorber.

However it is doubtful whether such a natural system could resist a very large tsunami wave and its effectiveness under such circumstances has to be investigated. The planned growth of mangroves in front of any form of artificial tsunami barriers will absorb part of the wave energy before the waves strike the barrier.

Port of Galle
In 2000, Japanese Port Consultants (JPC) developed a Master Plan for the development of the Port of Galle. In view of environmental issues they recognised that the development should be restricted to a two berth medium size harbour. The Environmental Studies for the project were carried out by the University of Moratuwa.

In order to maintain healthy exchange of tidal flow for the well being of the coral reef system, JPC in consultation with the environmental specialists incorporated an offshore detached breakwater, which coincidentally has all the characteristics of an effective Tsunami Breakwater. It must be admitted tsunamis were furthest in the minds of the engineering and environmental teams at that stage.

By implementing this project with a slightly extended offshore breakwater in the direction of the Galle Fort, the City of Galle will have the benefit of a Tsunami Breakwater as part of a port development project. Once this extension is designed it may be possible to reduce the length of the revetment protruding near the berth. Perhaps a protection wall (tsunami dyke) of modest proportions, along the coastline, can supplement the Tsunami Breakwater.

The design details and the structural configurations can only be determined after carrying out simulation modelling. These are some of the Coastal Engineering mitigation measures, which can be considered in examining the options for the protection of Galle.

These measures will also be effective against potential coastal hazards that have a greater probability of occurrence than a massive tsunami wave.

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Who, What, Where Section Expanded - HIC

The following mail was distributed through the HIC-Sri Lanka lk-relief mailing list. To post a message to this list and or if you want to subscribe to this group send a mail to HIC-LK@googlegroups.com.

Please visit the Humanitarian Information Centre's expanded Who,What, Where (W3) Section


Humanitarian Information Centre for Sri Lanka, No. 12 Gower Street, Colombo-5 , Tel:+94 (11) 2591118/1314, Fax: +94 (11) 258007, Email: HICSrilanka@gmail.com, Website: http://www.humanitarianinfo.org/srilanka

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Friday, April 08, 2005

IDP Assessment

The joint rapid Internally Displaced Person (IDP) assesment by UNHCR and UNICEF has been released. The assesment is based on a surveys conduceted in Amaparai, Galle and Jaffna districts. The report describes the objectives, methodology, background, findings and and a summary or recommendations. The introduction of the report is given below.

The tsunami that struck Sri Lanka on 26th of December killed more than 30,000 persons and initially displaced a further 800,000 according to the figures released by the Government of Sri Lanka. During the following days and nights the survivors of the disaster held center-stage in all media – everybody was concerned about their needs and their stories. Today 518,698 remain in displacement. Most of them are living with friends and relatives, some still in collective accommodation centers or in makeshift camps. What are their concerns, their challenges and their preferences three months on?

While much has been done, especially to meet the most immediate needs, very few attempts, if any, have been made to systematically collect first-hand information on what IDPs themselves think of their situation and their options. Yet the need for internally displaced persons to have their voices heard is in itself an important element in the healing and rehabilitation of persons and communities in any post-conflict or post-disaster situation. It is an important step in ensuring that people are allowed to take charge of their lives. It entails building on individual and communal capacities and potentials rather than side-stepping and making them passive spectators to processes that so fundamentally affect their lives. Furthermore, international human rights standards recognize the right of displaced persons to fully participate in the planning and management of their return, relocation and reintegration (See UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, Principle 28).

It is in this spirit that this survey has been initiated and conducted. However, the bold but simple aspiration has been to provide a platform for persons displaced by the tsunami to have some of their concerns documented and voiced at a national level. This is a first step in collecting this data, which will be followed up at a later stage.

The survey, jointly undertaken by UNICEF and UNHCR, is limited in scope and geographical coverage. A total of 226 families displaced by the tsunami have been interviewed in Ampara, Jaffna and Galle. In addition, 76 host families have also been interviewed. Thus a total of 302 interviews were carried out for this survey.

Download the full report

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OCHA Mid Term Review

Find below the executive summary of the OCHA Mid Term Review. The report contains a review of the current plans and reviews, revisions to the common humanitarian action plan, and a table listing current projects and their estimated budgets.

The tsunamis triggered by last December’s massive earthquakes off the coast of northern Sumatra caused unprecedented casualties and damage. The response too was unprecedented. The reaction of foreign governments, UN, NGOs, the Red Cross movement and individual donors across the world exceeded in scale and scope the response to any other natural disaster in history.

Requirements for Sri Lanka through the Indian Ocean Flash Appeal totalled US$ 157,250,671 (UN only – US$ 155,723,646) and as of 1 March 2005, contributions had reached US$ 128,478,571 (UN – US$ 122,258,657)1. Funding level stands at 77% (total shortfall – US$ 39.4 million, UN only – US$ 34 million). While humanitarian emergency operations have been in general well funded (see table of MTR Budget Revisions by agency), sectors such as critical infrastructure/environment, shelter/NFIs, restoration of livelihoods, agriculture and capacity building remain under funded.

Immediate emergency humanitarian needs have generally been met in terms of quantity. Vast operations in the aftermath of the disaster succeeded in preventing further deaths. Direct food distribution and the introduction of ration cards served to avoid famine and collective health initiatives managed to stop any outbreaks of disease. As the Flash Appeal was launched on 6 January, 637 camps and welfare centres as well as thousands of relatives and friends provided temporary shelter to 572,578 displaced persons.

To date, in most affected areas, people have been given access to sufficient and adequate water supplies, although in many camps, the standard of sanitation facilities has not yet reached an acceptable level. The clearing of debris has been completed along the main roads and temporary measures are in place where road access is deemed essential. Early recovery efforts have included capacity building and the restoration of health and educational facilities, infrastructure and sanitation. More than 85% of the children in tsunami-affected areas are back in school. Furthermore, general food distribution is gradually shifting towards more targeted feeding programmes for vulnerable groups and self-sustainability projects such as Food/Cash for Work.

With more than 180 agencies and NGOs now operating in Sri Lanka, coordination remains a major challenge as well as an opportunity. Existing coordination mechanisms have been streamlined and reinforced, information flows have been captured, and a strategy-planning calendar has been approved by the UNCT. Having entered a transitional stage, the post-tsunami relief and recovery effort faces even bigger challenges. It has become evident that much stronger efforts are needed to ensure smooth transition from relief to recovery. In anticipation of a Government National Reconstruction Plan (not ready as of 30 March), much more has to be done on optimising sectoral and overall coordination with authorities at all levels. Priority in this regard should be given to issues related to transitional shelter, ensuring adequate sanitation conditions and start-up of livelihoods activities.

The extension of the Flash Appeal to the end of 2005 will allow more precise targeting and better implementation while reducing the adverse impact of limited local absorbing capacities. However, while aiming to focus on extended relief and early recovery, the Mid-term Review cannot at this point address in a comprehensive manner the task of ensuring a smooth transition from relief to recovery in general. The reason for that is threefold: a) the National Reconstruction Plan is yet to be finalised by the Government; b) the results of the Second Phase of UN/International Financial Institutions (IFI) led Needs Assessment will be coming in by the end of April; and, c) UN “3W” (Who, What, Where) survey including NGOs is yet to be completed. The UNCT, therefore, decided for a “zero option” in terms of increasing requirements. As the above missing elements will become available, a 24-month UNCT Transition Strategy from relief to recovery will be drafted by the end of May 2005 in consultation with the Government and other major stakeholders. The Transition Strategy will include the original six months of the Flash Appeal. In parallel, efforts are being made to address unmet emerging needs, for example, FAO is developing a project in agriculture using own fund-raising mechanisms, and UNHCR has reallocated funds from shelter-related transport to protection.

Thus, through the Mid-term Review, UN and its partners appeal to donors to consider proposed original projects, which have remained under funded. The Mid-term Review will also create the necessary momentum to define the Transitional Strategy, which the extended timeframe for implementation of the Flash Appeal will feed into. The Strategy, part from being a programming/coordination instrument, will also be used as a fund- raising tool to approach donors with a consolidated set of appropriate projects.

Download the full report

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Parliament Select Committee on Natural Disasters

Sri Lanka Parliament Select Committee on Natural Disasters was setup to investigate whether there was a lack of preparedness to meet an emergency of the nature of the Tsunami that struck Sri Lanka on December 26, 2004 and to recommend what steps should be taken to ensure that an early warning system be put in place and what other steps should be taken to minimize the damage caused by similar natural disasters.
Eleven meetings have been held so far. Here are the summary reports of the meetings posted on the committee's website.

First Meeting of the Select Committee – February 17, 2005
The first meeting of the Parliament Select Committee on Natural Disasters featured presentations by academic experts on topics related to natural disasters in Sri Lanka.
Mr L R K Perera, Head of the Geology Department, Peradeniya University spoke about the Geology of Earthquakes; Mr Sarathchandra Weerawarnakula, Director of the Geological Survey & Mines Bureau spoke about the Past, Present and Future in terms of the tsunami; Mr G H P Dharmaratne, Director General of the Meteorology Department spoke about Extreme Weather Events; and Prof Kapila Dahanayake, Senior Professor of Geology, University of Peradeniya gave an overview of the tsunami disaster and discussed landslides.
They all emphasized the need for nationwide awareness programmes to educate the public on natural disasters and an effective information dissemination system should a disaster occur.
L R K Perera
Sarathchandra Weerawarnakula - GSMB Presentation
Mr G H P Dharmaratne
Kapila Dahanayake

Second Meeting of the Select Committee – February 22, 2005
The second meeting of the Parliament Select Committee on Natural Disasters afforded committee members the opportunity to clarify queries with the experts who had delivered presentations during the first meeting.
The main concerns brought up were whether there was prior knowledge that Sri Lanka was within an earthquake zone and thus prone to tsunamis, and whether more people’s lives could have been saved since there was a time lag between the tsunami hitting the northeast coast and southern coast.
The Geological Survey & Mines Bureau and the Meteorology Department recommend that Sri Lanka set up a strong national multi-hazard warning system, join an international tsunami warning system, develop a good communication and information dissemination network, and carry out frequent awareness programmes for disaster preparedness, not only about tsunamis as they are rare phenomena, but for storm surges and cyclones as well.

Third Meeting of the Select Committee – February 24, 2005
The third meeting of the Parliament Select Committee on Natural Disasters was attended by representatives of the Armed Forces and Police.The officials present were Vice Admiral Daya Sandagiri, Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy; Lieutenant General Shantha Kottagoda, Commander of the Sri Lanka Army; Air Marshall Donald Perera, Commander of the Sri Lanka Air Force; Chandra Fernando, Inspector General of Police; Jayantha Wickramaratne, DIG Crimes; Major General Susil Chandrapola of the Sri Lanka Army; and Major General T T R de Silva of the Sri Lanka Army.
The Chairman of the Committee, Mr Mahinda Samarasinghe, took this opportunity to commend the efforts of the Armed Forces and Police in the aftermath of the tsunami, and emphasized that this meeting was not one to highlight shortcomings but to gather knowledge for future reference.
It was concluded that there was a definite lack of knowledge about the tsunami phenomenon and lack of preparedness on the part of the public and authorities.
Thus the Armed Forces and Police believe that educating the public on environmental phenomena, responsibly utilizing the media, coordination amongst different authorities, and developing community-based awareness systems are the best methods to tackle future natural disasters.

Fourth Meeting of the Select Committee – March 1, 2005
Representatives of NARA (National Aquatic Resources and Research Development Authority), the National Disaster Management Centre, International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) as well as a psychiatrist attended the fourth meeting of the Parliament Select Committee on Natural Disasters.
Dr Kapila Perera, Chairman of NARA and Mr N D Hettiarachchi, Director of the National Disaster Management Centre, both stated that although their respective organisations had the appropriate expertise, they were understaffed and lacked resources to provide better service.
Dr Perera emphasised the importance of having a central authority that links all institutions and contingency plans together, in order for the efforts in evacuating people, in case of natural disaster or emergency, to be coordinated.
Dr Athula Sumathipala, a psychiatrist attached to the University of London, assessed the harm caused by the tsunami from a psychological point of view. He stressed the need to develop a forensic and genetic facility in Sri Lanka to enable victims to be identified, which would give surviving relatives closure and the opportunity to formally bury their loved ones, instead of a mass burial. He also recommended that the mental health sector be strengthened at a grassroot level by training teachers and members of the armed forces.
The representatives of the IOM and UNDP highlighted the requisite for developing expertise in the field of disaster preparedness in Sri Lanka.
NDM_INDIA MHA_18th Mar'05

Fifth Meeting of the Select Committee - March 3, 2005
Professor Kapila Dahanayake, Head of the Department of Geology in the University of Peradeniya, Mr D W R Weerakoon, Director General of the Irrigation Department and Mr G T Dharmasena, the former Director General of the Irrigation Department made their presentations at the fifth meeting of the Parliament Select Committee on Natural disasters. Representatives of the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) and the IOM (International Organisation of Migration) also attended the hearings.
Prof Dahanayake, who had the opportunity of visiting Japan to see how the country’s tsunami warning system and emergency preparedness plans worked, shared his experience with the Select Committee. He emphasised that it is the combination of setting up a tsunami warning system linked with the media to disseminate news, the preparedness of local authorities and medical teams to handle a crisis, and educating the public of what to do are key to minimising the devastating impact of a natural disaster.
Mr D W R Weerakoon spoke about the secondary effects the tsunami had on the country’s irrigation system. He stated that according to the Atomic Energy Agency, earthquakes and earth tremors are increasing and this can have an accumulated effect on Sri Lanka’s dams. Thus inundation mapping on the occurrences of flooding and dam break studies are being conducted by the Irrigation Department for research purposes.
Mr G T Dharmasena stressed that floods and landslides cause loss of life and destruction to livelihood in Sri Lanka every year. Hence he highlighted the need to have emergency preparedness plans for people who live in areas that are prone to natural disasters.

Sixth Meeting of the Select Committee - March 7, 2005
Issues of land use and disaster management were taken up at the sixth meeting of the Parliament Select Committee on Natural Disasters.The Director of the Land Use Policy Planning Institute made several recommendations to the Select Committee on how to mitigate natural disasters; one of which was the importance of implementing a proposed national land use policy. He also stressed the necessity of preparing scientifically based zoning plans for land use - demarcating separate zones for residential, agricultural and other areas. The misuse of land, he said, along with the destruction of natural buffers like mangroves have led to an increase in the magnitude of natural disasters.
Mr Nishantha Kamaladasa, Director of the Centre for Housing, Planning and Building and the Director of Sri Lanka Multi Hazard Disaster Mitigating Project, drew on his wide experience in disaster management for his presentation. He spoke on the basic paradigms of a natural disaster and the need to have a coordinated disaster management mechanism in place. He also spoke of the vital role the media played in the aftermath of the tsunami through the dissemination of news and the role it can play in the future. He stated that the three key means of mitigating a disaster are detection, judgment and implementation.
Mr R M S Bandara, Deputy Director General of Land Resettlement, focused on the threat landslides pose to the country. His department is working on a strategy to minimise the occurrence of landslides and study potentially vulnerable areas. He said the objective of any disaster prevention mechanism was to study, analyse and recommend the evacuation of people living in natural disaster prone areas.In addition, representatives of the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) and the IOM (International Organization of Migration) attended the hearings.

Submissions to the Parliament Select Committee on Tsunami
Warning System – Issues
Warning Systems

Seventh Meeting of the Select Committee - March 9, 2005
Mr Nimal Seneviratne, an expert on earthquakes from Faculty of Engineering, University of Peradeniya, Mr Nihal Rupesinghe and Mr A A Viraj Dias from the Central Engineering Consultancy Bureau (CECB), and Malith Mendis, Chief Executive of the Hydraulic Group, made their presentations to the Select Committee.
Mr Nimal Seneviratne, an expert on earthquakes from Faculty of Engineering, University of Peradeniya suggested that all experts should collaborate under one umbrella. He also stated that although focusing on emergency management was important, priority should be given to risk management. The use of science and technology as the basis of disaster reduction, having a volunteer programme and having meteorology data available through websites were some of the recommendations made by him.
Mr Nihal Rupesinghe from the CECB focused on landslides. He said that some natural disasters have a slow onset, referring to the time gap between the earthquake in Sumatra and the tsunami hitting the east coast of Sri Lanka. Natural disasters cannot be prevented but its impact can be mitigated if an early warning system is in place. He also said that a proactive approach is needed from the disaster situation to being prepared for any crisis in the post disaster period.Mr A A Viraj Dias from the CECB spoke about mitigating disasters through science and technology. He began by posing a question - how can science and technology contribute to improved safety for the greatest number of people? He stated that through a system of mapping and having an early warning system, disasters could be mitigated. For this to work, having a direct linkage to a global warning system is a necessity.
Mr Malith Mendis, Chief Executive of the Hydraulic Group, said that as a consultant in coastal engineering, vulnerability mapping is important. He said that identifying vulnerable areas is key in lessening the impact of a natural disaster. He also emphasised that the psychological impact cannot be measured in scientific terms, expressing the need to take disaster preparedness to grassroots levels.
landslide operational

Select comm presentation



Eighth Meeting of the Select Committee - 10, March 2005
Chairman and Deputy Chairman of Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT) Mr Anil Obeysekera and Mr Chandrasena Maliatta, Dr Hans Wijayasuriya, CEO of Dialog, Mr Malith Fonseka, General Manager of the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB), Kirthi Jayawardena, Additional General Manager for the Generation Sector, CEB, Mr Ranjith Gunewardena, Additional General Manager for Transmission, CEB, Mr G M Wijeykone, Additional General Manager for CEB, and a representative from the IOM attended the eighth meeting of the Parliament Select Committee on Natural Disasters.
Mr Malith Fonseka, General Manager of the CEB stated that their immediate reaction to the tsunami was to safeguard the Kelanitissa Power Station and disconnect power supply. He said that currently the overwhelming need is to have extensive reinforcement for the new housing and infrastructure. Based on that they have the ability to redraw power lines.
Mr Kirthi Jayawardena, Additional General Manager for the Generation Sector, CEB spoke on the gravity of a dam failure and the need to safeguard it. He said that priority should be given to having a Reservoir Dam Conservation Project in order to prevent such a disaster from occurring. Speaking on behalf of the CEB, he said that they have laid down procedures whereby they warn people living in vulnerable areas about when there is a threat. However, the system is localized.
Mr Anil Obeysekera, Chairman of SLT, said that although they had a warning system in place, their system was not built to cope with a disaster in the proportions of this tsunami. All the equipment and the SLT buildings were affected in the coastal areas of the country, in many cases they were washed away. Although their system was paralyzed, they reconnected telephone lines within four days. He also stated that SLT was capable of providing telecommunication facilities to affected areas now.
Mr Chandrasena Maliatta, Deputy Chairman of SLT emphasised the need to separate risk management and disaster management, and also to have an emergency system in place to warn the public of a disaster.Dr Hans Wijayasuriya, CEO of Dialog, represented the private sector at the hearings. He said that if a disaster is localized, his mobile company immediately blocks the phone lines so the emergency services get priority. During the recent tsunami, both SLT and Dialog did not do this on humanitarian grounds. He recommended use of mobile networks as a tool to warn people of an impending disaster and that public education was key in this regard. He also stressed the need to have a responsible source of authorization for the required information to be disseminated.

Ninth Meeting of the Select Committee - 17 March 2005
An Italian delegation led by the Italian Ambassador to Sri Lanka, HE Salvatore Zotta, and comprising experts in the field of disaster management made their presentations to the Select Committee at the ninth meeting. Professor Kapila Dahanayake, Senior Professor of Geology from the University of Peradeniya and Dr Lochana Guneratne, Architect and Urban Planner also attended the meeting.
Professor Jeninee began by giving an overview of the recommendations the Italian delegation had to make. She stated that they would like to adopt an exchange programme to share cultural and scientific knowledge between the two countries. She then outlined the disaster prevention plan that is in place in Italy.
Professor Feruchchi spoke on the need for a digital model construction, focusing on geomorphological studies on the coastal belt of Sri Lanka. He stated that the Italian government would like to extend their cooperation to Sri Lanka in going forward with this system. Digital monitoring of a country done by an overhead satellite can identify areas vulnerable to natural disasters.
Professor Kapila Dahanayake said that Sri Lanka has the appropriate mechanisms in place but it needs to strengthen it by focusing on all natural disasters. He stated that education is the key with regards to mitigating the impact of natural disasters and thanked the Italian delegation for the assistance offered.

Tenth Meeting of the Select Committee - 22 March 2005
Dr Greg French, the Australian High Commissioner for Sri Lanka, Mr Matthew Hyndes, Deputy High Commissioner for Sri Lanka and Mr Alex Knox, an AusAID programme development officer made their presentations to the Select Committee along with Dr N P Wijeyananda, former Director General of the Mines Bureau and experts from the Meteorology Department.
Dr Greg French, Australian High Commissioner for Sri Lanka, thanked the members of the Select Committee and the Government of Sri Lanka for their assistance and generosity to Australian nationals who were affected by the tsunami. He also stated that he was in communication with the Federal and State governments on the proposed visit of a Sri Lankan delegation to Australia to learn about how disaster management is handled in Australia and the mechanisms in place to support it.
Dr N P Wijeyananda, former Director General of the Mines Bureau, spoke on the seismological movements in Sri Lanka. He stated that although Sri Lanka has the University of Peradeniya and the Mines Bureau monitoring the local seismological movements of tectonic plates and the Pallekelle Station in collaboration with the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) monitoring global seismography, they currently operate separately. In order to pinpoint the epicentre of an earthquake and the danger it could pose to Sri Lanka they need to pool resources and work together. He also stated the importance of having access to other seismography stations globally and having a coordinated centre to receive the information and disseminate it to the relevant authorities.
Disaster Management Committee selected

11th Meeting of the Select Committee – 24 March 2005
Representatives of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Mr Kamal Kishore, the Regional Disaster Reduction Advisor and Mr Ramraj Narasimhan, Consultant on Disaster Management along with Mr Jeff McMurdo, Programme Official, and Mr Robert Thomson, Consultant for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) made their presentations to the Select Committee.
Mr Kamal Kishore, Regional Disaster Reduction Advisor, UNDP presented a report titled ‘Towards Effective Early Warning System’. He started by saying that 90% of natural disasters worldwide were hydro meteorologically related and any early warning system should be focused on that. He also stressed the importance of having four key components - preempting, forecasting, communicating and acting - within such a system. Dwelling on his expertise he feels that the only way to survive a chaotic environment is through a complex yet adaptive system that provides relevant information to people on the ground. His presentation also drew examples from other countries that are prone to natural disaster and how they have adapted. Featured in his presentation was that although creating public awareness is an imperative, it is equally important for dissemination of information by scientists to be understood by the people affected.
Mr Robert Thomson, Consultant for IOM, made his presentation on Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) in Sri Lanka in the context of the tsunami. He stated that coordination of all stakeholders within a disaster is important because a lack of it affects the long-term recovery and reconstruction of a country. He observed that the existing disaster management structure was too weak because it had no legal mandate and there was no national policy plan in place. He also spoke of the imbalance in the distribution of relief aid and that there was no consultation with the affected community with the issue of permanent settlement. He also stressed the need for the government to impose standards regarding the reconstruction phase and to also monitor and evaluate the quality of construction work. Speaking on IDP’s he stated that Sri Lanka had a unique problem to deal with, as both IDP’s from conflict zones and the tsunami zones require the same relief.

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Seminar: Cost Effective Alternative Roofing Materials

The following seminar notice was distributed through the SriLanka-NGO-Link mailing list.

Date : 29th April, 2005
Time : 9.00 am to 5.00 pm
Venue : Hotel Galadari

We are pleased to inform you that this Chamber will present the above Seminar with the sole objective of Identifying cost effective alternative material to Asbestos Roofing and to enlighten the participants on strengths weaknesses of the roofing material available in Sri Lanka.

We intend inviting;
* Representatives of NGO's presently engaged in Relief, Reconstruction andRehabilitation operations of the Tsunami affected areas.
* Heads of statutory agencies involve in Construction, Urban Development,Housing, Re-Construction etc.
* Senior Medical Professionals.
* Architectural and Engineering Professionals.
* Construction Contractors.

We shall be extremely happy to receive your fullest support and assistance in the organizing of the above seminar by way of providing resource personal, sponsorships or financial assistance as this is the first awareness campaign ever to be undertaken in Sri Lanka. We look forward to your immediate reactions.
Best Regards
Dakshitha Thalgodapitiya
CEO/Secretary General
Chamber of Construction Industry Sri Lanka, 65, Walukarama Rod, Colombo 3. dakshi@sri.lanka.net , cci@sri.lanka.net.

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Thursday, April 07, 2005

OCHA Humanitarian Situation Report

ReliefWeb � Document Preview � Humanitarian Situation Report - Sri Lanka: 01 - 05 Apr 2005: "Source: United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
Date: 05 Apr 2005


The remains of 16 tsunami victims, still unidentified after extensive forensic testing, but believed to be foreigners, were buried in a Colombo cemetery on 1 April. The remains of 53 other tsunami victims who are foreigners but unidentified remain in mobile refrigeration units in the city.

The International Development Association (IDA), an arm of the World Bank, and the Sri Lankan government signed an agreement 1 March on the US $150 million Tsunami Emergency Recovery Project (TERP). Of the US $ 150 million US $75 million has already been allocated for reconstruction programs in health, education infrastructure, roads and housing under the TERP-Phase One which was signed in February. The remaining $75 million provided under the TERP Phase Two will be utilized for the construction of houses, improvement in infrastructure and the rebuilding of livelihoods. Of that US$75 million, US$30 million is in grants and the remaining $45 million in concessional loans.

Overview of activities

A workshop on livelihoods and employment generation was held by the Taskforce for Rebuilding the Nation (TAFREN) with the support of the ILO, UNDP and the World Bank in Galle District last week. Among the participants at the "Workshop on Rapid Income Recovery Programme Restoration of Livelihood," were relevant district government departments including those for district planning, fisheries, road development as well as from representatives from UN agencies, NGOs, and from the banking and commercial business sector.

As part of the government's cash-for-work programme, Christian Children's Fund is employing approximately 400 people in Matara District at a rate of 400 rupees (US$4) per day. In another cash-for-work programme GOAL an NGO based in Ireland, is employing approximately 350 labourers in various shelter, drainage and road rehabilitation projects.

UNICEF and Save the Children have compiled data on child protection in Matara District. Save the Children conducted a Protection Workshop last week with 22 camp managers on protection issues including conflict resolution and child protection.

Main challenges and responses

In Batticaloa the Government Agent has revived its Infrastructure Taskforce which is now working with a newly established debris clearing group. It is estimated that some 80 per cent of tsunami created debris in Batticaloa remains to be cleared, and is becoming an environmental concern.

Through USAID funding, and with the support of the Sri Lankan Army and the Navy, clearing operations began on 1 April of the Batticaloa lagoon. The debris clearing operation is expected to take two weeks.

World Vision reported a Hepatitis A outbreak in one of the camps in Cheddipalayam, Batticaloa District, which UN agencies attribute to poor sanitation. The outbreak was brought under control and various agencies and NGOs are following up by examining the issue of waste disposal in the camps as well as in communities throughout the district. "

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Tsunami to Knock Less Than Half a Percentage Point

Tsunami to Knock Less Than Half a Percentage Point off Sri Lanka's Growth: "COLOMBO, SRI LANKA (6 April 2005) - ADB has trimmed its economic growth forecast this year for Sri Lanka because of the impact of the tsunami disaster triggered by an earthquake in December 2004.The Asian Development Outlook 2005 (ADO), the annual flagship ADB publication that forecasts economic trends in the region, says the country's economy will grow by 5.2% in 2005 compared with 5.5% in 2004.
However, the impact of the tsunami should be less severe than initially estimated as rebuilding the destroyed fishery harbors and related facilities, roads, and municipal facilities such as market places will all present a boom to the construction sector, and none of the key economic infrastructure has been damaged. Thus, the impact on GDP would be relatively small, perhaps reducing expected growth in 2005 by less than 0.5 percentage point.
"Following the tsunami, there is now an elevated risk that key economic reforms and investment in infrastructure will receive less attention than before," ADO says, "as more resources of both the Government and other stakeholders are focused on reconstruction."
The tsunami struck more than 1,000 kilometers, or two thirds, of Sri Lanka's coastline, killing an estimated 35,000 people and damaging coastal infrastructure. Overall asset loss is estimated at 4.5% of gross domestic product (GDP), with reconstruction costs rising up to $1.6 billion.Buoyed by strong expansion in the construction sector and quick recovery in tourism, the country's economic growth will likely bounce back to 5.8% in 2006 and 5.9% in 2007, ADO says.
The ADO analysis assumes that the Government should be able to finance the reconstruction costs without resorting to domestic borrowing to the extent it did in 2004. In addition, a one-year debt repayment moratorium, agreed upon by the Paris Club in March 2005, will give the Government considerable fiscal breathing space.
Inflation is projected to increase by about 2 percentage points, from an original 10% projected for 2005 to 12%. The Government's commitment to reducing fuel subsidies; the rise in utility tariffs; the substantial civil service wage increase in the 2005 budget; and the influx of donor funds that will put upward pressure on salaries, are all expected to drive up prices.
A higher oil bill and reconstruction needs will increase imports substantially in 2005, almost doubling the current account deficit to about 6% of GDP. However, the ADO notes Sri Lanka will not face a balance of payments crisis due to the expected large foreign assistance inflows.
"The greatest risks to growth stem, as in the past, from uncertainty in the peace process," ADO adds.
Read the full ADO report.
Read the full country chapter.
About ADB"

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Tsunami increases poverty in Sri Lanka

Lanka Page: Apr 06 2005, Colombo:
The Asian Development Bank today announced that the devastation of Sri Lanka’s fishing communities and small-scale traders due to the recent tsunami, led to significant job losses, boosting the ranks of the poor by 287,000 people and the national poverty level by 1.4 percentage points to 26.6 percent.

Issuing a statement in its annual Asian Development Outlook Report, the ADB said that “India, Maldives, and Sri Lanka could take longer to recover, and Indonesia even longer.”

“Despite the huge scale of loss of human life, homelessness and displaced populations, the macroeconomic impact of the disaster appears limited,” it further said.

The Bank warned that it could take the affected populations many years to recover from poverty. It urged governments to ensure that tsunami relief funds are not frittered away through corruption.

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Telefood project benefits tsunami survivors

Tsunami reconstruction - helping rural people rebuild their lives: "When the tsunami hit Sri Lanka three months ago, five hundred homestead garden farmers from the Polonnaruwa district of Sri Lanka's famous Cultural Triangle, provided quick, practical help to the survivors.

Just a few days after the disaster they had harvested and loaded a truck with 3,000 kilos of their vegetables and delivered them to the traumatised survivors crowded in an IDP camp along the coast, providing a welcome nutritional addition to dry rations.

The farmers in question were all beneficiaries of a FAO Telefood-funded home-gardening project in Hingurakgoda, in Sri Lanka 's North-Central province.

The project, started six months ago and due to last until August, provided the farmers with seeds, seedlings and cuttings, training and tools to enable them to improve their home gardens and with it their diets and those of their families and community.

Thanks to the FAO grant, the farmers, who all have farms of less than half an acre of home-garden were able to harvest and transport quantities of vegetables that would have been unthinkable six months ago.

“The area has a rich history and a lot of poor farmers” said Ananda Rajapakshe, who runs the local livelihoods and development NGO, Mahasen Haritha Yaya. Compared to the tsunami-hit areas of Sri Lanka and the war-torn north, the farmers of the area are relatively well off but are still unable to break out of the poverty cycle.

“The nutritional levels round here are generally acceptable. But the farmers prefer to buy their vegetables at the Sunday market instead of growing them themselves which means they don't have money to spend on children's education” said Rajapakshe.

By helping to revive the Sri Lankan tradition of homestead gardening the farmers gain extra income and the whole community benefits from a more varied and nutritious diet.

The farmers are also very concerned about the environment. Farmer Martin Singno, says agro-chemicals have created more problems than they have solved as well as being expensive for the farmers.

“Pesticides have virtually eliminated local bee colonies, and thousands of bats have also disappeared from the area” he said. All the farms have their own natural compost baskets and are using marigolds for insect control.

Rajapakshe's immediate project is to raise enough funds to prepare and supply plant seedlings in grow-bags to a thousand tsunami-victims stuck in tent camps.

As he is talking, a truck-load of day-labourers, poor Tamils from the tsunami-hit area of Batticaloa arrive to help with the ongoing paddy harvest.

Some of them were fishermen who lost everything in the tsunami, others used to have their own home gardens.

“All the farming lands are soaked in saltwater”, said a tsunami survivor whilst demonstrating his expertise with a swathe in the paddy field, “some of the Palmyra trees have even died and there is no grass to feed the cattle”

What do the farmers of the tsunami-devastated areas require to get them cultivating again? Banda thinks carefully before giving an answer. “Seeds, tools. polybags and some kind of watering system” he said. “They can't plant in the soil yet because there is too much salt but they have to grow things that produce food quickly.” He suggested the indigenous cowpea because they are high in vitamins and ready to eat in 45 days, and also mineral-rich green-leafed vegetables. On the farms of Hingurakgoda the compost for the polybags is already being prepared.

“This project is a very good example of how people can ensure food security at household level, especially in this current situation. This is an ideal way to address the immediate nutritional needs of tsunami-affected people” said FAO Programme Associate Nalin Munasinghe. "

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Faith, fear and prudence

Faith, fear and prudence - Arts - www.theage.com.au: "30th March 2005

There are lessons for architects in the aftermath of the tsunami, writes Norman Day.

Millions of dollars have poured into the tsunami-devastated parts of Asia for reconstruction. This reconstruction has the capacity to not only remedy a ruined economy, but improve an environment.

Before anything else, warning devices must be built and devices for escape put into place.

Further, the spiritual life of the region must also be considered during rebuilding. Many of the dead remain lost, the sea their tomb, decided by nature and fate.

Much early knee-jerk reaction has reflected on the stories of heroism and luck, of desperation and powerlessness, when the waves hit.

Some trees stood tall, others fell, some timber buildings stayed, other concrete structures were quickly washed away. Some things appeared irrational: the absurdity of floating to safety on an old car door, while others lost their footing on a bitumen road before being sucked into the whirlpool.

AdvertisementThe positioning of buildings is important. Traditional villages were located some distance away from the beach, under leafy canopies of palms and near to fresh-water creeks.

But tourist resorts were located on the beach, with direct connection to a beachfront bar and restaurant, with surf boards, skis and catamarans for hire nearby. These prime pieces of real estate were the first and most viciously damaged by the big waves.

Resorts located even 50 metres back from the tidal line evaded the main destruction, due mainly to the waves losing their strength - rising land levels acting as natural dampeners to the surging waters.

Many tourist sites have lower level shopping malls and cafes, some with car parking and service areas at lower levels. These must be reconsidered in the wake of the December 26 tragedy.

Basements were fatal. Their underground level was one thing; another was the sheer force of the water that caused eddies of such ferocity that they pulled the upper parts of the building into their vortex.

Other structures were made of timber. In Aceh, for example, much of the beachfront area was shanty town settler housing that stood no chance against the tsunami.

Those densely populated villages were thoroughly destroyed, leaving another problem common in ruined environments. There is now no record of land ownership, no title, no measurements on a map to show where a dwelling once stood. Reconstruction cannot occur until it is decided who has the right to the land.

In East Timor, for example, where there was man-made destruction, land courts were created to deal with the problem of land ownership, but it is taking years to resolve.

Factor in the massive loss of life - whole families who previously lived there have been wiped out - and the problem becomes even more difficult.

In such circumstances, claims for land ownership are abundant. In addition, the charitable and not-so have moved in to help. Most are well-meaning, but others have grasped an opportunity.

One large contingent that arrived from Russia offered to rebuild resorts, quickly. They landed with builders, equipment, materials and plans, ready to operate as a self-contained building company. Some started building on the site of hotels that were destroyed without the normal formalities of planning and building permits and licences.

When it was discovered that some of these groups were associated with organised crime, their reconstruction efforts were halted. Such is the risk in devastated regions.

Then there is an issue of available resources to rebuild. Much of southern Thailand is undergoing a development boom. The existing pressure on available building materials and labour has been exacerbated by the needs post-tsunami. The Thai Government will have to legislate to direct building activity to reconstruction, but, in the process, they must be careful not to damage other fragile economies at places such as Pattaya and Koa Samui, which would delay tourists returning to the region.

As things develop, issues of faith, fear and prudence will guide reconstruction, just as much as the pragmatic issues of who owns the land and what is best to build.

Norman Day is a practising architect, adjunct professor of architecture (RMIT) and architect writer for The Age."

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Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Proposed Buffer Zone and its Implications in the East

The Island: Feature: "05/04/2005 Proposed Buffer Zone and its Implications in Eastern Sri Lanka:Tsunami victims’ perceptions - II, by Prof. N. Shanmugaratnam
The situation was even more acute in highly densely populated Kalmunai and Maruthamunai, which had the highest death toll in the whole country. More than 11,300 died in Kalmunai alone. It did not seem practically possible to find suitable land in sufficient quantity within a reasonable distance from the sea in these areas for the affected fisher families to be relocated.

There was no vacant land even to set up a temporary camp for the displaced. ‘Settlements have extended right to the edge of the sea because of the lack of land. Here, relocation can only mean migration to an area many miles away. I do not think anyone is prepared for it. I certainly am not’, said a displaced person in Kalmunai. The other displaced fishers I met in Kalmuani and Maruthamunai expressed similar sentiments. One of them said, "We are not opposing relocation blindly. If land were available beyond say 50 meters from the sea, I would consider relocating. The important point is that 100 or 200 meters buffer zone makes no sense here. Perhaps some may have other options, but for most of us there is no option but to return to our coast, start fishing and rebuild our lives."

He said that about 50 meters of land was already lost to sea as a result of the tsunami and complained that it was difficult to do coastal fishing because debris had been dumped on the coast. The fishers of Kalmunai staged a mass demonstration on 24 February, nearly two months after the tsunami, to voice their demands and concerns. They demanded free and exclusive access to the proposed buffer zone and registered their opposition to any future use of their lands for security camps or tourist hotels and industries. They appealed for financial assistance to rebuild their fishing assets.

The displaced from Kathiraveli, which lies in an LTTE-controlled area, seemed to have reached a consensus to relocate. There were 275 families living in tents provided by an international NGO, which they said was doing things in close consultation with them. There were another 138 families from the neighbouring village of Poochakerni in the same camp. Many from these two groups practised both fishing and farming and some were also migrant workers. ‘We have suffered too much to go back to the same place to live. We lost 53 lives. We have decided to move to a safer area. There is enough land for all of us. An international organisation has promised to assist us’, said a spokesperson.

However, there was a dissenting voice. ‘I want to go back to where I have lived for 45 years. My land is just outside the 200 meters limit. It has a well and I have already started putting up a hut there. The land identified for relocation is a bit too far from the coast. I am sure there will be practical problems regarding taking care of the boats and nets, which have to be left on the beach. People will realise only after moving there’, said a 60 years old man. ‘Of course, we are not giving up our lands. We shall put up wadiyas (huts) on our beach to keep our nets and other things and for us to stay. The Grama Sevaka (village officer) has informed us that the government in Colombo will not take our land’, said the spokesperson. A woman sounded a sceptical note: ‘Yes but what does the Grama Sevaka know about the plans the government may have? Has any government kept its word in this country? We have an acre of homestead with some coconut trees. I did a lot of home gardening and I will go back to our land and start doing it again. My husband is a fisherman and I am a farmer. We must have at least a hut on our land so that we can continue to practise both."

She said that soon after the tsunami when the international NGO asked them what their first priority was they had said ‘housing’ in one voice. The NGO then began to work on their first priority. ‘But now, after two months of living on relief, we feel reviving our own economic activities is also equally important. Now we think it was a mistake not to make both housing and getting back to fishing or some other work such as farming as the first priority.’

A young fisherman responded: "Well, we have missed a great opportunity to make some good money because we don’t have our boats and prawn nets. This is the prawn season, which began in January and will last till the end of March. A man known to me made 30,000 rupees the other day because he had a big catch of high value prawns. His boat was not damaged because it was anchored in a safe place.’ He said that ideally there should have been a scheme to provide them with soft loans to revive their fishing during the prawn season, as it would have helped them recover faster with the high income from prawns. He was not talking of grants but soft loans to invest in the basic capital goods to revive fishing. He was aware that banks would not lend to disaster-stricken, assetless fishers. He talked of a special group credit scheme involving the fishermen’s organisation and a willing NGO as partners. ‘But I am not going to wait for it. This is just an idea, which might not interest anyone. Now I am prepared to do any job including farm labour in neighbouring Sinhalese areas until I am able to return to fishing’, he said.

Perceptions regarding post-tsunami reconstruction in the South

A widespread view among the people I met in the East was that the government, while neglecting them, was providing a lot of assistance to tsunami victims in the South. ‘I have been listening to the radio ever since the tsunami struck’, said a displaced man from Thambiluvil, ‘everyday a new programme is being launched by some minister in the South. The President opened a big project in Hambantota the other day. Something is happening there everyday but nothing here. Many ministers and powerful politicians are there to take care of them.’ It was quite common to hear such statements.

Apparently, they were not aware yet of the complaints and protests by the tsunami victims in the South. When I told them about this, the immediate response was, ‘well we should start our own protests too’. They had serious doubts about the commitment and capacity of the government to address their grievances. However, everyone, Tamil and Muslim, I spoke to remembered with deep feelings the material and moral support they received from fellow Lankans. In Kathiraveli, Tamils recalled with emotions how a Sinhalese from far away Moneragala and some Muslims from a neighbouring area brought cooked food for them.

Need for Rethinking

The government’s decision to introduce a buffer zone without consulting the people concerned has created confusion and uncertainty amongst them. Recently, the government has publicised the steps it was taking regarding the enforcement of the buffer zone, housing of tsunami-affected people and tourism development. ‘The government’, says an official advertisement, ‘will set up special Tourism Zones covering all the tourist areas in the coastal belt. These zones will have modern infrastructure with an unencumbered view and access to the coast. There will be special incentives provided to promote sustainable and value added tourism.’ (Daily Mirror, March 2, 2005)

The most widespread concern among the coastal communities in the country as a whole is that that the government has framed post-tsunami reconstruction as a programme of privatisation and commercialisation of the coastal zone and marine resources without paying adequate attention to their long-term livelihood security. The fishing communities in particular have valid reasons to fear that they may lose their customary rights to coastal zone resources. An activist in the south of the country told me that, ‘the policy of tourism development and large-scale privatisation of fisheries is likely to accelerate the ongoing marginalisation and exclusion of sections of the coastal communities. Tourist hotels and the recreation industry will effectively privatise long tracts of our beaches. There will of course be some local beneficiaries but many small fishers including women are likely to lose their traditional livelihoods and become displaced and unemployed or under-employed. This is why we are speaking of a second tsunami and the only way to prevent it is to defend the right to livelihood of the vulnerable sections of the coastal communities.’ Campaigns and protests have already been mounted in the South and in the East. The signs are clear that the people are not happy with the government’s policy and its handling of post-tsunami recovery. In many parts of the North-East, post tsunami reconstruction cannot easily be separated from the tasks of rebuilding war-torn communities and livelihoods. The government and the LTTE have yet to reach an understanding regarding a joint mechanism for reconstruction. An opportunity to link reconstruction, reconciliation and peacebuilding seems to be drifting away. The use of emergency regulations and militarisation to enforce the buffer zone is ill advised. The consequences could be disastrous if this is not abandoned in favour of a better informed and more realistic approach that would take account of the ecological and socio-economic variations and the views of the affected people in the coastal zones of Sri Lanka.

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Hydrodynamic modelling required to assess vulnerability

Daily News: "05/04/2005 Hydrodynamic modelling required to assess vulnerability of coastal zone
THE Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP) gives setback lines of reservation and restriction based on observed and expected erosion rates. In the CZMP of 1998, and the revision of 2004 now before the cabinet, this setback varies from 35m to 300m depending on the stretch of coast, a release from Lanka Hydraulic Institute said.

The post-tsunami announced buffer zones of 100m on the western coast and 200m on the eastern coast contravene the setbacks given in the CZMP.

However, setback lines based on erosion and on blanket buffer zones do not have scientific basis when looking at Coastal vulnerability in terms of wave propagation (travel) into the coastal hinterland, as made very clear by the tsunami travel distances varying with location.

The post-tsunami surveys reveal that the tsunami wave has travelled upto 1km inland on the west coast and 1 to 2km on the east coast and the erosion of the coast varies 20 to 30m in the both western and eastern coasts. So are we looking at setback lines/buffer zones objectively with sound scientific study?
Coastal Vulnerability

The Coastal Zone is vulnerable due to wave action and flooding and monsoon waves, storm surges and tsunamis.

The distance waves can travel to inland depends on the near-shore bathymetry (contours/slope of sea bed), existence of rock outcrops, coral reefs, beach rock, slope of the sea shore, coastline and the hinterland, sand dunes and other coastal features.

The Lanka Hydraulic Institute (LHI), consultants in coastal engineering, water resources and urban water, is of the view that in order to scientifically assess the possible inland propagation, detailed data must be obtained near-shore and comprehensive near-shore hydrodynamic modelling should be carried out.

The modelling can be mathematical modelling or physical modelling. However, with the long coastline involved and considering the current state-of-the-art in mathematical modelling, it is logical to carry out mathematical modelling for such an assessment.

Setback lines based on coastal wave propagation vulnerability mapping

Gathering the required data and information and modelling several scenarios will give us logical vulnerability maps based on characteristics of the wave propagation (travel) inland.

Vulnerability can then be classified generally as "low", "medium" or " high" and based on these assessments we can detail setback lines.

However, Sri Lanka has many coastal water bodies - lagoons and estuarine basins. Therefore, it is important that coastal vulnerability is assessed together with Hazards propagating from these coastal water bodies.

This is particularly so in the Eastern Province, with its large lagoons and estuary basins spread over a large tract of the coastline.

We should not move people away from the coastline to areas that may actually be more vulnerable to flooding. Hence, we should look at Coastal Zone Management in combination with river basin water management including estuaries and lagoons.

Twenty five percent of Sri Lanka's population live along the coastline, hence any imposition of setback lines and relocation of the near-coast populace has to be done after a comprehensive but quick scientific, hydrodynamic modelling study of vulnerability.

A vulnerability study based on wave travel and flooding should be the first step in the setting up of an all-hazards warning and management system, the release said.

LHI which maintains a state-of-the-art hydraulics laboratory in Moratuwa is currently engaged in hydraulic studies of the proposed new Colombo South Harbour, feasibility study of the Hambantota Sea port and in the salinity study of the Walawe Ganga.

LHI has capabilities and 20 years of experience in hydrodynamic modelling of near-shore wave propagation and in river hydraulics, both in physical modelling and mathematical modelling, the release added.

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Natural disasters from a national perspective

Daily News: Feature: "05/04/2005 Dealing with natural disasters from a national perspective, Extracts of a speech delivered in Parliament by Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Prof. W. A. Wiswa Warnapala on disaster Management

I would like to intervene in this debate in order to raise certain pertinent points relating to disaster management in Sri Lanka. It is interesting to note that disaster management has now become a new concept in public administration and public management.

This concept of disaster management has been given prominence in countries where disasters have taken place, and the development of an academic and professional interest in the context of disaster management has resulted in introducing a variety of techniques and technologies required for disaster management.

We define public administration as co-ordination of individuals and group efforts to carry out public policy. For the proper implementation of public policy in any country, we need two basic requirements.

One, organization, which is the structuring of individuals and functions for productive relationships. Two, administration is concerned with the decision-making and the direction of individuals to achieve ends that have been determined by the political leadership.

Disaster management, therefore, is primarily an administrative task and it is expected to manage and administer a large variety of tasks within a short period of time. Therefore, disaster management is public administration in an extraordinary economic and social environment where there were both death and destruction.

Therefore, it is my view, that traditional administrative forms and institutions cannot tackle such an extraordinary situation where thousands of people have died, properties have been destroyed and millions of people have been made homeless.

The question, therefore, is whether such a calamity, such a crisis of that magnitude could be contained within the given administrative structure in the period of the aftermath of the tsunami.

It was clear that the very administrative institutions in the affected areas could not be activated, because they have been destroyed; they were non-existent. The very officers have been made homeless.

Therefore, the disaster management apparatus needs to be brought into those areas to organize and administer the needs of the initial phase. The initial phase is very important.

What are the major issues of the initial phase? What are the major consequences of the disaster? How to administer them in the context of the massive destruction and damage that has taken place in the given areas? These are questions to which the public administration institutions or public administration officials have to find answers.

The first phase of the crisis consists of search, rescue, evacuation and organizing the burial of the dead. In the second phase, people have to be provided with immediate relief in the form of food and shelter. Sanitary facilities have to be organized to prevent an outbreak of diseases.

In the third phase, which is the most important phase, people need to be provided with permanent housing. Their establishments have to be resurrected or restored. This is the stage at which both rehabilitation and reconstruction have to be planned and implemented.

Therefore, the most important question is whether the existing public administrative machinery, the existing public administrative institutions could undertake the administration and management of all three important stages, which I mentioned.

Most significant thing, is that our traditional administrative institutions have not been attuned to this particular task. They have not been trained to manage a crisis of this magnitude.

In such an extraordinary situation, in such an extraordinary environment, a responsible government has to respond immediately and the entire administration needs to be activated to provide immediate assistance to the affected people.

I think that the Government was able to realize this objective, with the help of the people, as Mr. Karu Jayasuriya rightly said. The religious organizations and the voluntary bodies came to their assistance. Relief assistance too has been provided though there are criticisms that it has not been properly done.

The magnitude of the disaster was such that the existing administrative institutions were insufficient both in terms of manpower and institutional capacity.

The existing administrative institutions could not cope with the situation because the manpower was not enough. And the institutional capacity was not there to meet the challenge.

It is in this context that we need to look at this piece of legislation, which now proposes to establish a mechanism for disaster management.

The purpose of this legislation is to take necessary measures to protect human lives and property of the people and the environment of Sri Lanka from the consequences of natural disasters and human disasters.

Fourteen such disasters have been listed in the Bill and there it proposes to establish institutions for the purpose of preparing a national policy and plan for the prevention and containment of such disaster. The idea is to deal with these disasters from a national perspective. Excellent. That is the point, which I need to emphasize.

In the past such disasters were regional or local in character and they were treated as local issues, which could be tackled with the available administrative machinery and resources in the given area.

Tsunami was a major national disaster and it covered a good portion of the island. Now all people have realized that need for a national policy. It has been proposed that a National Council for Disaster Management needs to be set up as the apex body.

It consists of Her Excellency the President, the Hon. Prime Minister and fourteen Ministers responsible for various subjects connected with the rehabilitation and reconstruction. It is this body, which expected to formulate a national policy and various programmes for disaster management.

It is expected to attend to the following functions as well.

(1) Development of disaster affected areas.

(2) Effective use of resources for preparedness, prevention, reconstruction and rehabilitation.

(3) Enhancement of public awareness.

(4) Capacity building among those living in areas vulnerable to disasters.

(5) Pre-disaster planning.

There are very vital requirements in the preparation of a national plan. The aim is to take various measures to prevent a disaster and to manage the consequences of a disaster.

This fundamental objective cannot be easily realized unless you take measures to strengthen the public administrative institutions in those particular areas.

The next important proposal in this Bill is the establishment of the Natural and Human Disaster Management Centre. I my view, this is much more important than the National Council for Disaster Management. It is to be assisted by various technical committees consisting of experts and professionals.

In this piece of legislation, Ministries have been given extra responsibility in taking measures in countering an impending disaster. I am not sure that the Ministries are presently equipped for that particulars function.

There is a provision in the legislation to declare a state of disaster. It is virtually a state of emergency, probably with a different set of regulations. It is on the basis of such a declaration that institutions of Government, particularly those administrative institutions in the given area would be activated to direct and co-ordinate the resources.

In addition to the established public administrative institutions, NGOs are also to be mobilized for the purpose. Though they are expected to function under the guidance of the National Council for Disaster Management, one has to be careful with the NGOs in this country. I need to emphasize this point.

In my view, all NGOs have different agendas. In this country, a plethora of NGOs have become the saviours of the rights of the minorities.

It has developed into an organized network associated with the country's ethnic question. With the tsunami disaster several hundreds of NGOs entered the country as saviours of the people in the tsunami affected areas. This sudden growth in the number of NGOs is the reason for concern.

We do not object to genuine NGOs. But there are NGOs with a secret agenda. Some of them are trying to infiltrate political parties and I see this as a very dangerous trend.

The Ministry of Finance and Planning has announced about it a couple of days ago and has taken steps to establish a center for non-governmental sector under which certain conditions have been laid down to monitor their activities.

I was amazed to see the list of NGOs published under a special announcement by the Ministry of Finance and Planning in the 'Lankadeepa' newspaper of 5th March 2005. I had tabled that special announcement to be included in the Hansard.

There are 143 NGOs. This is only a fraction of the number operating in Sri Lanka. I am happy that the Ministry of Finance has laid down certain conditions. In my view, they are insufficient. The country needs an effective mechanism to monitor the activities of the NGOs.

NGOs specializing on the question of ethnicity; then there are others who are self appointed experts on elections and electralism and there are still others who are self-appointed experts on good governance.

I need to tell you that all these NGOs have a political agenda. I would like to dub them as organizations, which are servile to the West. Some NGOs openly display their servility to their neo-colonialist masters and there are others who try to infiltrate universities and promote a form of academic colonialism.

In conclusion, I would like to emphasize the point that NGOs would want to create a political culture of their own and impose it on the Sri Lankan nation. It is this, which needs to be opposed in the larger interest of our country.

One last point. As I mentioned earlier, accepted bureaucratic rules and procedures should not guide disaster management. I totally agree with the Hon. Nimal Siripala de Silva. In other words, the main characteristics of Bureaucratic Model expounded by its foremost theorist, Max Weber should not be used in disaster management.

It is my contention that disaster management cannot be effectively done on the basis of rules, procedures, systems of authority, the status, the principle of hierarchy and rationality.

I am trying to say that traditional characteristics of bureaucracy cannot be totally useful in the context of a management of a disaster of this particular magnitude.

Bureaucracy alone cannot do this. What I say is that political leadership has to play an equally powerful role and an effective role without which the objectives of disaster management cannot be realized in this country.

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Sounding the tsunami warning

Online edition of Sunday Observer - Features: "03/04/2005, Sounding the tsunami warning : On the alert, by Vimukthi Fernando and Jayanthi Liyanage

It came in the dead of the night. A nightmare for most bringing back memories of the terror caused by marauding waves on that fateful day, last December.

Warnings helped them reach safety, with or without provisions and gave them the assurance that they could at least save their lives.

For many it meant a run for their lives and hours spent loitering along the road, sitting on the pavements or seeking shelter with those who cared for them during the early days after the tsunami temples, churches, kovils and schools. But for all - communities and authorities alike, Monday night was a sleepless night.

Just three months after the raging waters devastated Sri Lanka's coastlines, coastal residents were warned of tsunami conditions, after an earthquake measuring 8.7 on the Richter Scale shook Sumatra late night on March 28. But unlike the December 26 catastrophe, and though no tsunami ensued, the early warning system helped coastal residents leave their homes with loved ones and valuables to reach safety in time. However, it will take a long time for these residents to go back to their days of peaceful sleep.

Natural disasters

New to natural disasters of such magnitude, Sri Lanka is not equipped with the technology to detect tsunamis. However, earthquakes could be detected at the Pallekelle station of the Geological Services and Mines Bureau (GSMB).

As soon as the signal of the earthquake was picked up, the representatives of the Interim Tsunami Warning Committee contacted the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre (PTWC) in Hawai, says Lalith Chandrapala, Deputy Director, Department of Meteorology (DM). They were able to establish the tsunami threat within 25 minutes of the quake, he says. In addition, they received a tsunami warning advisory from the Japan Meteorology Agency (JMA) which is responsible for tsunami warning advisories in the region. Armed with the news the Committee decided to evacuate the communities living in vulnerable areas along the coast, he explains.

According to Chandrapala, the interim committee comprising the Director GSMB, DM and the Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy who were discussing tsunami warning methodology had come into a conclusion just about a week prior to the incident. It was a moment which tested the metal of their plans.

The warnings were forwarded immediately to television and radio stations for broadcasting and to all the police posts along the coast, through the police communication unit in Mirihana. As the South-Eastern, Eastern and Southern coastline was more vulnerable special attention was directed there. "By 11.30 p.m. we could complete the evacuation process," says Chandrapala, satisfied with their achievement. Staying in continuous contact with the PTWC and JMP, the Committee did not draw back their warning though no tsunami conditions were observed in countries near the epicentre. The warning was relaxed only around 3.15 a.m.

In Galle, the tsunami alert which was sounded on radio, television and then by Police mobile patrol vehicles, literally meant a run for higher ground. The regional Police stations received their alert from Police Head Quarters around 10.30 in the night of March 28 said L. De Silva, Senior Superintendent of Police, Galle. The residents were asked to move interior from the coastal line and people and vehicles could be seen converging on hilly elevations of the area such as Dickman Road and Labuduwa. In such evacuations, rumours, which could spread panic would be hard to combat.

It was no easy task, explains Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera, of the Eastern Naval Command in Trincomalee. The Navy had the double tasks of securing the harbour and vessels along with evacuating people. While the responsibility of evacuating the town area was transferred to the Police, the 19 Naval sub-units from Nilaweli to Thiriyaya engaged in the evacuation process along with the Army, he adds.

Herculean task

"Though we received the warning and had the responsibility of evacuating people, it became a herculean task as we did not have enough equipment to carry it out," says Sub Inspector, Seneviratne of Moratuwa Police. At the time of the evacuation, Moratuwa Police only had one vehicle in running order, he explains.

However, they overcame this obstacle by requesting vehicles and manpower from the Moratumulla and Kahathuduwa sub-stations under the purview of the OIC, Moratuwa. They also managed to deploy more than 20 officers to evacuate people from the area. "This station is on alert all the time. We always keep an additional staff of about 10 to 15 during the nights after the tsunami," he says.

But, "by the time the Police arrived, we had already started to move to higher grounds," says Malith Silva, a boat owner of Moderawella Moratuwa. Though they used to anchor their boats at the Moderawella fisheries harbour, they do not do so any more, he says. The fisheries harbour in Moderawella lost around 20 boats anchored at the harbour on December 26, 2004. "After the tsunami we stopped keeping our boats here. Now we station them further inland up the Bolgoda river. And all what we did was to grab a few items of clothing and run. Those who had vehicles helped others as well," says Silva.


"Now we are vigilant of disaster. We do not sleep throughout the night. Someone stays up, watching the sea. We keep a 'shopping bag' ready to carry with us any time we have to run. If there was a system like this before, how many lives could have been saved," muses Sanjeeva Peiris another fisherman.

It was a neighbour who brought the news to Nilanthi Renuka, Seelawathi Fernando and W.A.D. Manel from Egoda Uyana, Moratuwa. "She had seen it on TV and was shouting and banging at our door, to wake us up," says Manel. Once they received the news, "we left everything and ran for our lives," says Manel.

They had not taken anything because "everything that is of value was gone with the tsunami, either taken by the rushing waves or pilferers," she says. It was not an easy task to take the children to safety, says Renuka. Along with her husband she urged the three children, woken in the midst of their slumber, and still in their night clothes to flee to safety. "All what I took with me were the ration cards and milk food for the children," says Renuka. Living in a temporary shack after the destruction of her house, Renuka keeps her valuables including cooking utensils at a neighbours house for safety.

For some coastal dwellers, as explicitly expressed by a woman in Egoda Uyana, whose house was already wrecked in the December tsunami, "each tsunami announcement means a run to higher ground, leaving everything behind.

We run higher and higher, and now have only the clothing covering us," she says. Yet higher ground does not really have to be bare ground or being bare of essentials, when more streamlined early detection and evacuation systems are being worked out. Being prepared always comes useful, as for this 32-year-old mother of 2 children from Egoda-Uyana, Moratuwa who keeps herself ready for impending disaster, since the tsunami on December 26.


Though living around 250m to 300m off the coast and safe from the marauding tsunami waves last December, Shehani Perera was also awake all night, she says. "Last time the water stopped just two houses away. So, naturally we are scared. I was in a better position because my husband watches the late night news on TV. As soon as we got the news, we bundled the children in to the car and went to our sisters about 15 km away." Shehani does not keep any valuables in the house, she says.

All important documents including her passport are under the safekeeping of her sister in Bandaragama. "My jewellery and all the good sarees are also with her. We only keep the IDs and a little bit of money," she says. After the tsunami an 'emergency kit' stands in their room with the most essential items for Shehani's two children. "I am really scared for the children. We (adults) can somehow survive, but they (children) are so vulnerable, they find it difficult to get used to this kind of situations. With nature you cannot play games," she adds.


Speaking with the communities the Sunday Observer found out that the masses were thankful of the warnings. It helped them reach safety, with or without provisions and gave them the assurance that they could at least save their lives. Warnings issued through electronic media had been more effective than warnings issued through the Police stations. The reason being the time lapse between the police station's receipt of the news and the time it took to reach the communities. "If there is a siren system, perhaps operated by the Police stations to warn us immediately, that could be more helpful," says T. Silton Peiris of Koralawella, Moratuwa.


While the concern of people in tsunami-genic or earth tremor-genic regions is to receive warnings with as much lead time as possible to flee the areas and save the highest possible numbers of lives and resources, the concern of the geological and meteorological authorities is to find the technology that would help them make near approximate early warnings. Such systems are still not established in the Indian Ocean and this region picks up such warnings from the United States Geological Survey which receives data from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre and the West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Centre. The public is aroused to attention by sounding an alerting tone on radio or television, followed by the warning message.

As Saman Perera, Geo Phycist/Geologist, Geological and Mines Bureau, explains, predictions are not still accurately possible, and one generally receives warning signals only when an earth tremor is actually beginning to happen. "We can only pin point the location and the magnitude within seconds of such happenings," says Perera.

The Bureau operates a National Tsunami Warning Centre and is the local research agency of the Global Seismic Network installed at Pallekele and linked to the University of California, San Diego, and United States Geological Survey and Irish Incorporated Research Institution for Seismology.

A couple of Geo Phycists scan the international websites on a 24-hour basis to detect warning messages, which made possible the early signals sent to the President's Office, Police Head Quarters, Navy Head Quarters, Meteorological Department and then to the local public during the March 28 earth quake in Indonesia.

While Perera feels it is highly unlikely that a high risk earth tremor may occur in Sri Lanka, he is also optimistic of the possibility of a more efficient and effective early warning system being worked out for the convenience of people who are likely to experience the fall out of any impending earth tremors."

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