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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 23, 2005

Why Shakespeare ?

The following is a response to the article English and Elitism - Part 2. The response was posted by Chandare. The editor of this bolg feels that the response deserves its own space as an article that indirectly addresses the concerns of this blog.
''Why do all these articles about "English Education" in Sri Lanka talk about Shakespeare, Ludowyk and all these "..." about English departments in universities ?How many people care about this stuff? Why not discuss after 209 years (1796 - present) of English Langauge domination, less than 5 percent can read and write English in Sri Lanka? What are the numbers for the circulation of English Langauge newspapers in Sri Lanka? What percentage of the circulation are purely for the purpose of classified adds (looking for job postings)? To support a bi-lingual or English speaking elite of intellectuals Sri Lanka needs a wider base (or pool) of English language base of readers and viewers. To support English poets, novelist and theater directors Sri Lanka needs a whole lot of people with bad grammer (like me) first. Former president J.R.Jayawardena said it best when he asked "Sahithyaya Kanada?"(Can you eat literature?). To get a cream of people ,we need to get other people fed and clothed first. Colombo based English speaking pool is so tiny that it is no wonder that our elite bi-lingual intellectuals are bankrupt and inconsequential. --- by Chandare''

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Designing for Tsunamis

Designing for Tsunamis: Seven Principles for Planning and Designing for Tsunami Hazards is the report of the multi-state mitigation project of the US National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program (NTHMP). Funding for this project was provided by the U.S. Department of Commerce and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Eventhough the report focuses on the US pacific region it contains many interesting and import view points that may even be applicable to Indian ocean countries such as Sri Lanka. The following is an excerpt from the introduction to the report.

The purpose of these guidelines is to help coastal communities in the five Pacific states—Alaska,
California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington— understand their tsunami hazards, exposure, and
vulnerability, and to mitigate the resulting risk through land use planning, site planning, and
building design. Emergency response and evacuation are only discussed in these guidelines as they relate to land use, siting, and building design and construction issues. These guidelines are intended for use by local elected, appointed, and administrative officials involved in planning, zoning, building regulation, community redevelopment, and related land use and development functions in coastal communities. The guidelines should also be helpful to state officials having similar responsibilities.

These guidelines are organized according to seven basic principles:
Principle 1: Know your community’s tsunami risk: hazard, vulnerability, and exposure
Principle 2: Avoid new development in tsunami run-up areas to minimize future tsunami losses
Principle 3: Locate and configure new development that occurs in tsunami run-up areas to minimize future tsunami losses
Principle 4: Design and construct new buildings to minimize tsunami damage
Principle 5: Protect existing development from tsunami losses through redevelopment, retrofit, and land reuse plans and projects
Principle 6: Take special precautions in locating and designing infrastructure and critical facilities to minimize tsunami damage

For each principle, the discussion includes background information on the topic, recommended
process steps for implementing the principle, and specific how-to strategies. Several case studies in the guidelines illustrate how communities in the Pacific region are addressing tsunami hazards. The guidelines also contain references and contacts for obtaining further information about planning for tsunami hazards. More detailed information on each of the topics discussed in the guidelines is contained in a companion set of background papers that were compiled during the preparation of these guidelines.
Download the full report

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15,468 temporary houses completed - TAP

Daily News: "21/04/2005

The number of temporary housing units constructed to relocate tsunami affected families now staying in welfare centres in the eight districts has totalled 15,468 by April 15 according to the statistics gathered by the head office of the Transitional Accommodation Project (TAP) at Jawatte Road, Colombo.

Thus the project has achieved a progress of 75 percent of the targeted 30,000 temporary housing units expected to be completed by the end of May according to M. D. Mithraratne, Director of the Project.

Work on 7,856 more units are now in progress and is expected to be completed within the next few days. He said that some of the problems encountered in finding lands to construct these houses had been sorted out in many districts and the work on the balance houses is proceeding on target with the assistance of international agencies and non-governmental organisations.

The TAP has been launched on a directive of the President and implemented under the supervision and guidance of the Commissioner General of Essential Services, Tilak Ranaviraja to give much better temporary accommodation to the displaced families than at welfare centres until they are provided with permanent houses on which work has already been commenced by the Task Force for Reconstruction and Rehabilitation.

According to the statistics gathered the number of temporary housing units completed in the respective districts are as follows: Colombo 798, Kalutara 628, Galle 1968, Matara 1076, Hambantota 1229, Ampara 5442, Batticaloa 2892, Trincomalee 1436.

According to the specifications stipulated by the Government each such temporary housing unit should have two rooms with a minimum floor area of 200 square feet. The cost of each should not exceed Rs. 40,000.

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Coast Conservation Dept. in search of suitable plant species

Daily News: "21/04/2005 by Florence Wickramage

The Coast Conservation Department in keeping with the concept of establishing a Green Belt has commenced research into finding suitable species of plants which would be conducive to the salty conditions of the coastal areas as well as withstand onslaughts from possible tsunami waves.

Whilst identifying plants which would prevent coastal erosion attention has been focused on increasing plant species which had successfully withstood the recent tsunami attack. Plant species already identified as suitable include pandanus, mangroves and locally known mudilla and kottamba.

The Coast Conservation Department hopes to enlist the support of students and teachers of schools along the coastline to identify plant species.

A spokesman for the Department said that several non-governmental organisations have pledged financial support for the project. The Central Environmental Authority has already initiated work on establishing the Green Belt on selected areas along the coastline with the assistance of the Coast Conservation Department.

The necessity of a Green Belt along the coastline is considered important to prevent further coastal erosions and threats from tidal waves since coastal areas which had thick mangroves and other terrestrial plants had not been damaged during the December 26th tsunami tidal waves.

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Sri Lanka secures US$ 1.8 bn tsunami aid

The Island: "22/04/2005: Sri Lanka secures US$ 1.8 bn tsunami aid: Land issues impact on tsunami reconstruction

Sri Lanka has secured most of the $1.8 billion worth of aid it reckons it needs to rebuild towns and villages razed along its tsunami-ravaged coastline, what it needs now is land to build them on, Reuters reported yesterday.

The government has imposed a coastal buffer of at least 100metres (330 feet) along its southern, eastern and northernshores, where around 40,000 perished in December’s tsunami,and land for reconstruction beyond it is proving hard to comeby.

"There are land acquisition problems," said Suren Batagoda,head of the state Urban Development Authority’s tsunami housing unit tasked with finding and acquiring land to build on.

Some families are refusing to sell land the state would like to acquire, and in some cases geography is getting in theway. The east, which was hardest hit by the tsunami, is peppered with vast lagoons.

"Our policy is to give land closest to the original location where (those displaced) lived. But options are limited," Batagoda added. "In some areas...we don’t have land to build houses because of the sea and lagoons. When we pass the lagoons, it is too far inland."

The Urban Development Authority has secured land to build around half of the 60,000 permanent houses the government’s tsunami reconstruction plan initially envisages.

But with 500,000 people displaced by Sri Lanka’s worst natural disaster in memory, it is a race against time. Around 100,000 survivors are living in wooden shacks, tents or temporary shelters, with the balance living with family and friends.

Standing beside her field tent near the ruined remains of her seaside home near the historic southern town of Galle,Noeline Welandaratne and thousands of tsunami survivors like her have nowhere else to go and are hostage to the government’s progress.

"My home is destroyed, finished," the 49-year-old said."They have a big plan and have to build many houses, so we will have to wait. We have to believe they will, no?"

Donors say some plots the government has identified in the south are so far inland that fishermen would be cut off from the sea, and hoteliers are defying the buffer zone and rebuidling next to the beach as fast as they can.

Sri Lanka’s biggest donor, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, which has raised $400million for Sri Lanka, has so far secured land for 9,000 of the15,000 houses it has pledged.

"The Muslim areas (in the east) are very crowded...so it’s very difficult to find land to build houses," said MarcalIzard, spokesman for the International Committee of the RedCross in Sri Lanka.

"We’re still in the phase of finding suitable land plots", he added, though officials said it was important that the government and donors take time to properly plan future settlements and ensure that title deeds and land ownership are clear.

In the LTTE-controlled areas in the north and the east of the island, the rebels and the government, who have still to reach a deal on sharing tsunami aid, have yet to agree on where to rebuild hundreds of homes.

Some donors who asked not to be identified said they were set to start construction projects, but were still waiting for the government to give the final go-ahead.

Rather than centralising aid, the Sri Lankan government is effectively outsourcing the bulk of its reconstruction projects to relief agencies, leaving the lion’s share of the $1.5billion worth of firmly committed aid in donor hands. (Reuters)

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Friday, April 22, 2005

Poly culture in prawn farming only way out for the ‘white spot’

The Island: "20/04/2005 By David Edirisinghe , President Consortium for the Development of Aquaculture

Poly Culture farming is a traditional farming system which was started by Japanese and many Asian countries in carrying out inland fish culture. Prawns too started growing with fish and was the beginning of prawn culture at commercial level. Monoculture which means culturing only males have proved good results with an attractive growth rate.

Today the answer for the declining prawn industry in Sri Lanka is Poly culture or crop rotation for a sustainable development and achieve the target of 5000 Mt for the year 2005.

The production cost per kilo of prawns in the year 1989 was Rs. 200 and below with the feed price at Rs. 50 fetching an export price of US $ 12 to 16 to EU, Japan and USA. Today the export price is as low as 10 to 12 US$ and the cost of production is almost Rs. 550 per kilo of prawns. If the survival rate is low it is a case of loss for the fanner in addition to the risk of ‘white spot disease’ with 100% crop failures. Prawn feed price which is also in the hands of the private traders subjected to high commissions, which is even not recorded with the tax department, is yet another issue for the prawn farmer along with the rocketing fuel price for power generation.

Many approved farmers have faced heavy losses and being unable to generate funds to pay up bank loans for above reasons. The treasury is handling this issue very athletically as far as the high exposure by approved farmers with bank loans on accrued interest which is beyond the control of the farmer.

The non payment to banks are unintentional in many cases. But many banks are threatening legal action and demanding payment from farmers, which is not reasonable

The crop failure is mainly due to the negligence of many government institutions which ignored the damages by unauthorised farmers to the environment very specially to the mangrove belt. Furthermore direct discharge of water and blocking flood planes and low lying areas by unauthorised farmers have resulted in a heavy drop on the tidal movement of the water body.

This means causing a longer residence time in the water body with contaminated effluents which directly affects biodiversity. The natural resources, and natural way of cleaning the water body is completely declined causing an unbalanced ecosystem. This is the result of declining production and the socio economic conflict of the Puttalam district where the government has spent billions of rupees to overcome the devastated condition of our natural resources.


Our future generation would curse us if action is not taken to rehabilitate the environment from the present devastated condition.

The government of Sri Lanka must declare a policy that prawn farming could be carried out only with Poly culture or crop rotation and explore the possibility of entering the global market on the products used for poly culture or crop rotation. Although the attractive prices are seen in supermarkets in the globe, it doesn’t mean that you could enter it at any time and fetch the consumers price. We have to study the way out to enter the wholesale or importers chain as it is yet another mafia that governs the stability of the global market.

A prawn farm funded by Deshamanya Dr. Lalith Kotalawala switched on to Ploy culture after a trial and error method when the prawns were affected with the white spot. This has proved to be very successful and more environmentally favoured which has drawn the eye of many researchers, NARA, NAQDA and the Asian Development Bank team promoting inland fisheries. The Prawn farmers should decide on environmentally favoured culture systems to maintain sustainability of the prawn industry.

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Legal wrangle brewing over Tsunami Special Bill

The Island: "20/04/2005

The Bill will remove from the Magistrates and the Department of Probation and Child Care Services, all the decision making powers in relation to the children who have lost their parents, the petition, filed by Hasanthi Ratnayake, had explained adding that a provincial body titled, ‘Foster Care Evolution Panel’ will be vested with the aforesaid powers.

"The panel will consist of seven persons, three of whom will be from the National Child Protection Authority, which will deploy field officers, to reach the affected areas. The authority does not have the powers and capability to deploy experts to deal with children. This provision of the Bill it detrimental to the interests of the children. It denies the children equal protection under the law and violates Article 12(1) of the Constitution of Sri Lanka.

Under the normal law of this country, children are persons under fourteen years of age and young persons are ones between the ages of fourteen to sixteen years of age. In the proposed laws, children are persons under eighteen years of age, while young persons are those between eighteen to twenty two years of age. This phenomenon would cause confusion when issues pertaining to children are brought before the Courts. This provision is arbitrary and violates Article 12 (1) of the Constitution. The bill needs a special majority in Parliament or a referendum before the people, to be enacted the petition said.

Subsequent to the tsunami disaster of December 26, 2004, the Department of Probation and Child Care Services, with the assistance of provincial commissioners, have taken over the custody of 5300 tsunami affected children, who are either orphaned or have lost one of the parents", the petition said.

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The 100-metres Rule

Island: "22/04/2005 by Dr. K. N. K. Wijayawardana

Probably no other issue in Sri Lanka has generated so much of divergent views , confused thinking, hesitancy, political expediency and plain and simple timidity in decision making. Also in typical Sri Lankan style the cost of such procrastination is entirely forgotten.

Basically this buffer zone is a very good thing essential for the development of the country. As was revealed in a recent TV talk show, India had adopted a buffer zone of 300 metres several years ago. In fact India has adopted so many development oriented measures long before us and although she is our closest neighbour and culturally our elder brother we have failed to follow in her footsteps. Far instance India began electrifying her railways in the nineteen thirties and although we had excess electricity in the seventies and even drew up plans to export electricity to South India, we never thought of electrifying our railways.

I was travelling by train in June 1975 to assume duties as M.S. A’pura hospital when I met a most interesting gentleman. He was a former General Manager Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) a top electrical engineer and a product of Kings College, London. He told me that one reason why this was not done was professional jealousy between mechanical engineers and electrical engineers in the railway with the former being the dominant faction. He said that if this was done the travelling time form Colombo to A’pura could be cut down to two hours.

I do not know how far this story is true but this again is an example of our missing the bus.

Anyway in the seventies the train service to A’pura was excellent and in four hours flat one could complete the journey. I doubt whether it is the same today. In the U.K. recently when there was a TV discussion on train accidents and when somebody asked whether there were slower trains elsewhere one person immediately said "in Sri Lanka"! Getting back to the 100 metres rule the people who laid down this law chose to ignore a fundamental principle of community planning - that is in any type of community planning such planning must be done not only in consultation with the people but also taking into account their cultural patterns.

I was talking to a respected former GA of the Eastern province and who told me that in Kalmunai the farmer could not sleep unless he heard the water flowing in the Wakkada (sluice). Similarly the fisherman has a love hate relationship with the sea and he wants to see it and be close to it.

However consulting the people does not mean total agreement with what they say especially in this country as various groups are selfish and have vested interests. Generally various sectors of society and trade union organisations like the GMOA, CEB unions, private bus owners’ associations etc. are chiefly concerned with their own interests and rarely will put the consumer or the country first.

Incidentally from media reports the CEB is now in dire financial-straits and again although our neighbour India restructured their electricity boards several years ago, the CEB trade unions are vehemently opposed to this and are insisting that the consumer be made to pay again for the mess.

This is while the lowest paid CEB employee draws more than Rs. 12,500 per month and the CEB has over 2000 vehicles. Compare this with the full statistics. Twenty five percent of our population have an income of Rs. 791 per month and thirty nine per cent of the population have an income of Rs. 950 per month. (Source-Department of Census and Statistics). These figures may also be "educating" to our "top" bureaucrats who only talk of GDP growth. The trickle down theory does not always operate and what is more important are the percentages. Nearly forty per cent of children under five suffer from under nutrition.

In the seventies Britain was called the "sick man of Europe" with most of the state sector organisations like coal, gas and electricity going on frequent strikes. However Britain was fortunate to find a strong leader in Margaret Thatcher (dubbed the Iron Lady by Moscow) and it was she who broke the power of the unions. Today Tony Blair’s policies are more rightist than leftist although with my socialistic outlook I became a card carrying member of the British Labour party.

Getting back again to the buffer zone this buffer zone became law in the eighties under the Coast Conservation Act of 1981. However like so many other good things, it was hardly or never implemented again highlighting the lack of strong leadership in the country. Incidentally if this Act was strictly implemented, when the Tsunami struck so many lives would have been saved as thousands of people would not have been allowed to remain in vulnerable areas.

Today implementation of this good piece of legislation has run into problems with various contending forces emerging. Even a senior govt. minister who was conspicously absent from the country during the tsunami, has called this rule "stupid". What is required is strong political will but at the same time consultation and communication with the people are essential.

In fact as someone said the top organisations for reconstruction and rehabilitation should have been established not in Colombo but in places like Galle or Ampara. In the eighties a seminar on Poverty Alleviation was held in a five star hotel in Colombo whereas it should have been really held in a rural area. Also incentives should be given to the people to be relocated and with the millions of dollars coming in, high quality houses for such people would be an attraction to move out. In essence the problem calls for communication, diplomacy, transparency and also flexibility. Indecision and procrastination is also costing millions of rupees in suspended planning, building and aid.

The indecisive nature of the govt. is also reflected in the peace process and interim measures for relief distribution in LTTE areas. This is undoubtedly a most tricky and delicate matter and it is very sad that politicians of both major parties have put-their selfish petty personal interests before the larger interests of this country.

The Tsunami was Nature’s way of teaching us a lesson to be united for the sake of the country but sadly our politicians have not learnt the lesson. It has been said that the Tsunami took away the wrong people. Perhaps the next lesson which may also be the final one, will be by Mother Earth perhaps swallowing the house by the Diyawanna in its entirety.

This little country has today become a mere pawn in the power plays, interests and agendas of international players. Last year I was shocked to see on TV the former U.S. ambassador saying that the existence of a LTTE navy is a reality and as such a part of the sea may have to be used by them. India has persistently postponed the signing of a Defence Pact with Sri Lanka.

In the forties C. Rajagopalachari, Governor General of Madras proposed that Ceylon integrate with India to which SWRD Bandaranaike gave his famous four word reply -

"Neither desirable nor necessary".

Today the LTTE has clearly got so many Western sympathisers and supporters a fact which may not be realised. The UNICEF an arm of the UN has repeatedly made threatening noises about child concription but the LTTE carries on regardless as they are confident of tacit support by Western powers. Although the British govt. banned the LTTE the European headquarters continues to remain in "Eelam House" north London. Canada is obliged to the LTTE for votes for parliamentary power. Therefore it is indeed a very tricky situation fraught with danger. This situation calls for the emergence of a strong leader who is able to rise above party politics, unite the people of this country and is diplomatically able to deal with the selfish interests of the so called "international community".

In the past although the situation was not so tricky and dangerous as now, the only leader who stood up to the West was Sirimavo Bandaranaike who had the backing of the Non Aligned nations. In fact when I was studying in the U.S. in 1967 Ceylon was completely unknown there but Mrs. B. was very well known for nationalising the American oil companies. The West only respects strength.

Anyway the present situation is such that it calls for unity not only among politicians but also civil society organisations to put aside their egos and agendas and realise the gravity of what may happen. Let us hope that a strong sincere leader emerges who can rise up to the expectations of the people.

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Thursday, April 21, 2005

Humanitarian Situation Report: 13 - 19 Apr

ReliefWeb - Document Preview - Humanitarian Situation Report - Sri Lanka: 13 - 19 Apr 2005: "Source: United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
Date: 19 Apr 2005


The Asian Development Bank (ADB) last week approved a US$197 million grant and loan package for two projects that will help rebuild tsunami- and conflict-affected areas of Sri Lanka. External funding for the projects will total $256 million including grant co-financing by the European Commission and Sweden. A $150 million grant and a $7 million loan for the Tsunami-affected Areas Rebuilding Project (TAARP) will help to rapidly improve the living conditions of people in tsunami-affected areas by restoring basic social infrastructure, community and public services, and livelihoods. An additional $14 million grant and a $26 million loan for the North East Community Restoration and Development Project II (NECORD II) will continue the Government's rehabilitation program in conflict-affected areas of the Northern and Eastern provinces. As Sri Lanka is eligible to receive grants from ADB's concessional Asian Development Fund (ADF), both this grant and loan will come from ADF.

The government of Turkey has contributed US $700,000 to the Sri Lankan President's fund for Disaster Relief to be used exclusively for relief and humanitarian efforts carried out by the Government.

Overview of activities

An FAO Salinity Consultant reported that 10,400 acres of farm land had been destroyed by the tsunami, including 8,000 acres of paddy land. The rest was land cultivated for vegetable, fruit and other crops. A total of 27,000 home gardens were destroyed. In total, 40 per cent of the damaged land will be ready for cultivation this Yala season and 70 per cent for the Maha season. The Sri Lankan Minister of Agriculture said the direct damage to the farmers of the tsunami is $US 3.5 million. An FAO Senior Agriculture Advisor, said 273 tonnes of paddy seed together with just over 1,000 tons of fertilizer and funds for vegetable production and other field crops are needed in the four districts of Ampara, Hambantota, Matara and Galle for the Yala Season. He said that about 148,000 chickens had been killed in the tsunami as well as some 7,600 cattle, 4,900 buffalo, 118 pigs and 14,200 goats. FAO's main focus is to restore the poultry sector as soon as possible.

According to a study done by FAO's Senior Advisor for Fisheries, with the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, the total number of traditional craft (canoes) destroyed by the tsunami is 9,975. Thus far, according to FAO, 741 new boats have been built and provided to recipients by a variety of NGOs, the Prime Minister's Office, associations and individuals. A total of 11,217 are to be constructed. Nearly 10,000 such boats were destroyed by the tsunami, with the East Coast being hardest hit with total losses of 4,340 traditional boats.

The Women's Chamber of Commerce (WCC) in Matara and Save the Children ( SCiSL) are providing fabric and other assistance to women in Matara who are sewing 500 school uniforms with sewing machines already provided them by SCiSL and theWCC. In Trincomalee district Save the Children has begun construction of 46 out of a total of 118 temporary shelters; and is supporting the cleaning of 400 wells in the district. Main challenges and responses

According to the UN Joint Logistical CentreOn 26 April relief consignments of UN agencies at the Colombo port and airport will no longer be exempt from taxes and duties when new clearance procedures are to be introduced. The same applies for consignments donated directly to the Government of Sri Lanka. NGOs can only acquire duty and tax concessions by handing their consignments to the Government's Department of Social Services for distribution or by accepting its supervision when it comes to distributing the commodities to the affected areas. Aware of the fact that the current customs procedures will change on 26 April, most UN agencies and NGOs are stepping up their efforts to clear as much cargo as possible before that deadline.

While some UN agencies have made progress in clearing their relief containers – including UNICEF which recently had 68 containers released, significant delays still exist. In the first week of April, approximately 290 containers of cargo were yet to be cleared from the Colombo port. This figure has now been reduced somewhat and agencies are clearing consignments with relative ease while Government consignments run smoothly through customs. UNHCR currently has 30 containers yet to be cleared from the private container yard in addition to 12 newly arrived containers at the port. UNICEF has 44 containers currently at the port. The majority of the consignments at the port belong to the Government. A small proportion belongs to international NGOs.

According to Save the Children, in Matara, 29 cases of Dengue fever have been reported in the last month. Medical authorities say that the situation is under control, however, they need more support on sanitation. "

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Caring for tsunami orphans

Daily News: Feature: "20/04/2005 by Tharuka Dissanaike

Thangavelu is not a rich man. With his moderate wage as a mason, however, he managed to bring up three sons and spend for their education. The family lived comfortably as they could in their crowded neighbourhood in the outskirts of Batticaloa town. But when he had to take his seven orphaned nieces and nephews in after the tsunami, Thangavelu faced a huge dilemma. How can he manage?

But choices were too few. Right after the disaster the children aged between 17 and 5, were split up by relatives and the two girls actually ended in a home. But later, Thangavelu agreed to keep the entire family together at his two-roomed house. His wife agreed. Today, his family numbers twelve and live crammed in a small house. The family is managing at present because the children are entitled to rations and Rs. 5000 a month for expenses. But once the money stops, Thangavelu will be faced with the entire burden of caring for all the children.

On the other side of the country, in Moderawatta in Tangalle a similar story. A family of four children, orphaned by the tsunami is now being cared for by their maternal aunt and her husband. Both are employed at the Hakmana Hospital and have very few means. But again, there was little choice in the matter. They would not allow the children to be institutionalized or split up to be cared for by different people.

They did not consider adoption either. Although there were various schemes announced for tsunami affected children, especially those orphaned, none of these schemes has really translated to reality on the ground.

The Child Protection Authority and Social Services Department in a bid to encourage foster parenting as opposed to setting up orphanages and foreign adoption, came up with a number of ideas to encourage relatives and friends of the family to keep the children in their familiar environment, and as much as possible in the same school.

But both in the East and the South, many orphans we met now being cared for by relatives had not received any kind of regular support as yet.

Fostering by relatives happened, not so much due to State intervention, but because people had the generosity to open their doors to these child victims of disaster. It happened because society has maintained family values and ties. Often the foster families themselves were affected by the tsunami.

In Navaladdy, Batticaloa we found a 65 year old grandmother, bent and feeble, who lost her husband to the tsunami caring for her three grandchildren left orphaned the same day. She has no income - so she goes from house to house to pound rice, chillies and such to earn money for the children.

1,074 children were orphaned, and 3,721 lost one parent according to official records. But less than 50 have been officially registered into homes and orphanages. This speaks well of Sri Lankan society as a whole.

We cannot forget the children who lost one parent either. Tragically many children lost their mothers. As reported in this column earlier, many fishing villages have lost more than half of the womenfolk, leaving behind another kind of disaster. Some NGOs have formed men's support groups to help the husbands to overcome their grief and their minds to caring for the children.

These efforts need to be encouraged and the State must support local efforts to rebuild lives and families affected by the tsunami.

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Nanotechnology and the Developing World

Development Gateway Water Resources Management Nanotechnology and the Developing World: "This study considers the impact of nanotechnologies to the Millennium Development Goals. The authors sought to identify and rank the 10 nanotechnology applications most likely to have an impact in the developing world. An international panel of 63 experts looked at applications in the areas of water, agriculture, nutrition, health, energy and the environment in the next 10 years. The top 10 nanotechnology applications identified were: -Energy storage, production and conversion; -Agricultural productivity enhancement; -Water treatment and remediation; -Disease diagnosis and screening; -Drug delivery systems; -Food processing and storage; -Air pollution and remediation; -Construction; -Health monitoring; and -Vector and pest detection and control. By Fabio Salamanca-Buentello, Deepa L. Persad, Erin B. Court, Douglas K. Martin, Abdallah S. Daar, Peter A. Singer, Canadian Program on Genomics and Global Health (CPGGH) at the University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics, April 2005.
Contributor: John Daly ( Advisor Editor )

Date: April 13, 2005

Topics: Capacity Development for MDGs, Nanotechnology for Development,
Water Resources Management

Country: all

Acess this resource

Download the full report"

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Colombo city faces major crisis with nowhere to dump garbage

Sri Lanka, 4 - 18 - 2005: Colombo city faces major crisis with nowhere to dump garbage: "Apr 18, Colombo: Garbage collection in Colombo city has come to a standstill since last Friday as there is nowhere to dump the garbage.
The Colombo Municipal Council earlier urged residents and institutions including hospitals to bury their garbage on their premises. Colombo's Mayor Prasanna Gunewardana says they are now trying to find a solution to the crisis with support from the Health Ministry.
He said that hospital waste was the main problem as it carries dangerous germs. Hospitals in Colombo and other areas have no systematic waste disposal systems."

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Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Helping the small farmer

The Island: Feature: "19/04/2005 by Abey Ekanayake

In the mid fifties and early sixties when I was a young Assistant Superintendent on Ury Group, Passara we used to go very often to Arugam Bay and at least once a year to Kataragama. On the latter trip we would always stop by the road - side vegetable stalls and buy large quantities of vegetables and fruits in season. Even then, I was appalled at the poverty of these people eking out a living from the small plots of land they farmed. On a recent visit to Arugam Bay I found the permanent houses of the small farmers in that area much worse than the temporary houses erected for tsunami victims. It is obvious that the lot of the small farmer has not improved in the last fifty years.
I have often wondered why these small farmers have not been able to improve their earnings from the two or three acres they cultivated. It occurs to me that to develop the plot of land the farmer needs an initial investment of capital, which unfortunately he has no access to. As far as I know, no one has made a study to find out the initial capital required to get the farmer started with his basic requirements, so that he can get the maximum production from his plot of land in a sustainable manner. The State has given the farmer the land and he has to put up a dwelling, which in most instances is an apology for a house, and he cultivates crops like tomato, chilies, brinjal, lady’s finger, millet, maize etc with the onset of the monsoon rains.
When these crops are in season the prices are low, and unlike for paddy there are no guaranteed prices for vegetables and fruits and the farmer is at the mercy of the "middle man". To subsidise his earnings he has to find casual work elsewhere and it is his wife and children who cultivate the land. He is only one step better off than the "landless peasant" of the more populated areas.
In the mid eighties when I was living in Australia, I used to often think about these poor farmers and my great dream was to come back to Sri Lanka and adopt or go into partnership with one of these farming families. I had visions of providing the capital required to make the two and a half acres into a model farm producing abundant crops, milk and eggs in a sustainable manner using organic methods of cultivation. I returned to Sri Lanka in 1992 and have still not realised my dream. Now having passed the allotted three score and ten years, I feel that time is running out.
Briefly my plan is as follows, but as I learnt from my guru, Bill Sinnatamby of Trinity, these plans have to be modified according to the prevailing ground conditions of each plot of land.
1. The dwelling, cattle and goat sheds have to be located at the highest elevation point of the land. The roofs of these buildings should be properly constructed with gutters and down pipes so that all the rainwater can be collected into storage tanks. Of course the cattle and goat sheds will be built only after establishing adequate supplies of fodder. These buildings will be located in an area of about half an acre and the vacant areas should be planted with tree crops such as banana, papaw, jak, mango, coconut, areca nut, citrus etc.
2. Dig a well at a suitable location for drinking water and irrigation. Make provision to install a water pump at a later date.
3. Plant Gliricidia sticks along the boundary fence at two foot spacing. Plant Jatropha curcas plants in between the Gliricidia sticks and as a hedge on the outer side of the fence as this will keep stray cattle and goats away from the fence.
4. Depending on the gradient of the land cut two foot by two foot contour drains every 30 to 40 feet. These drains will help in retaining all the rainfall inside the land. Plant two rows of Gliricidia sticks at three-foot intervals above each drain. Once these have properly established they can be cut down to a height of two feet and formed into bushes for easy harvesting.
5. Plant Gliricidia sticks up and down the land creating plots of 20 to 40 perches. Here again they can be pollarded at two feet height and formed into green manure hedges. Vegetables and pulses will be planted in these enclosed plots in rotation.
6. Plant an area of about half an acre in a suitable fodder grass like Napier, Guinea B and NB 21.
7. Once the Gliricidia and fodder grass is well established it is time to build the cattle and goat sheds and introduce the animals. Meanwhile some free - range chicken could be reared in the area around the house. Chickens, besides the production of eggs, meat and manure also eat insects, weeds, grass and fallen fruit. Chickens, free – ranged in the garden under controlled conditions will "tractor" a given area and leave it completely manured. Portable chicken pens enclosed by wire mesh are designed to fit garden areas with chickens allowed in after harvesting and before replanting. If the chickens are left in each area for 6-10 weeks they will eat up all the grass and weeds and manure the entire area, making it ready for planting crops.
By harvesting the rain water from the roofs the farmer will have a reservoir of water for use during dry spells and enough water to grow an off season crop. Meanwhile the contour drains will ensure that all the rain that falls on the land is re – charged into the soil thereby raising the water table and ensuring more water in the well even during the dry period. The best place to store water is under ground. Once the Gliricidia and fodder grasses have been re – cycled through the livestock and incorporated into the soil together with all the other bio – mass produced on the farm, the fertility and moisture retaining capacity of the land will improve dramatically.
Demonstration farms or land holdings developed on these lines, in different agro climatic conditions will give us a better idea of the initial capital a farmer requires, to get his holding running as a viable unit in order to maintain his family at a reasonably attractive standard of living. Success will encourage more young people to take up farming instead of seeking employment in the urban areas.
In order to realise my dream I may still give up my town life to that of a three acre farmer in the dry zone !

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How badly hit we are

Daily News: "19/04/2005; Census Department releases tsunami impact statistics: How badly hit we are. BY DR. AMARA Satharasinghe, Deputy Director Department of Census and Statistics

THE biggest challenge that the Government is facing is bringing the lifestyle of the tsunami affected people to normalcy. This requires reconstruction of their damaged houses and providing them livelihood assets such as boats for affected fishing communities.
Reconstruction of the damaged infrastructure facilities is another high priority need. For planning and decision making on the rebuilding the nation devastated by this disaster, it is essential to have reliable and accurate information on the impact on the lives and properties caused by the disaster.
The Department of Census and Statistics conducted a census covering all affected districts to evaluate the damages to the lives and the buildings in the affected areas. This census was conducted in two stages.
All the buildings including those wiped out were listed during the stage 1 by updating the list of buildings prepared for conducting the Census of Population and Housing - 2001.
In addition to the listing of buildings, some information required to compile a set of key indicators on the damages to the buildings was also collected in this stage.
Detailed data collection was carried out during stage 2. Preliminary reports presenting the information collected during stage 1 of the census have been released for all the affected districts including those in the Northern and Eastern Provinces.
This census was conducted in all affected districts namely, Puttalam, Gampaha, Colombo, Kalutara, Galle, Matara, Hambantota, Ampara, Batticaloa, Trincomalee, Mulativu and Jaffna districts. Enumeration was done only in the affected census blocks of these districts, and it was conducted in two stages.
Sri Lanka is consisting of 9 provinces, 25 districts, 325 Divisional Secretary divisions and about 14,000 Grama Niladhari divisions. For the purpose of Census of Population and Housing - 2001 conducted by the department, each GN division was further subdivided into a few smaller areas called Census Blocks.
The objective of this sub division was to ensure that the enumerator assigned for the Census Block completes his field work on the final count within a given short period of time (about 6 - 12 hours). For urban areas, a census block included about 80 housing units while in rural and estate areas a census block included about 65 housing units,
Generally, the first step in any census taking operation is to update the list of all buildings to be enumerated and this list is used as the sampling frame for subsequent surveys. A frame consisting of all buildings for Sri Lanka was compiled for the Census of Population and Housing - 2001.
This frame pertaining to the affected census blocks was updated by the field staff. This frame was revised giving due consideration to the new buildings that have been constructed and demolished after the year 2001.
To provide information immediately needed for planning purposes, some key information pertaining to the buildings and the occupants was collected during the listing stage. The information collected during the listing stage is given below.
a. Postal address before the disaster
b. Name of the head of the household before the disaster
c. Type of building before the disaster: Housing Unit; Living Quarter, Institute; Non - Housing Unit
d. Whether the building is still existing
e. Present condition of the building (Completely damaged; partially damaged and cannot be used, partially damaged and can be used, not damaged)
f. Number of persons who lived in the building before the disaster g. No. of persons currently living h. Where do the usual residents of the unit now living (same unit, with friends/relatives; camp etc)
i. Address of the occupants if living outside the unit after the disaster
j. Economic activity of the unit before the disaster
k. Whether the economic activities are still carried out
Detailed information on the damages to the lives and buildings caused by the disaster was collected at the second stage of the census. Field staff of the department enumerated the occupants of the damaged buildings.
In the case of the completely damaged buildings attempts were made as far as possible to track where the occupants of such buildings were currently living and to collect the information by visiting them.
Data collection instruments (questionnaires) were so designed that some key indicators could be compiled before the commencement of computerization of completed questionnaires with the objective of releasing required key information soon after the data collection is over.
Preliminary reports presenting the findings based on the quick manual processing of data collected at the first stage of the census have already been released. These reports have been published in the Department's website: www.statistics.gov.lk.
Several key indicators have been compiled at District, DS division and GN division levels, based on the data collected during the first stage of the census.
These indicators include number of affected GN divisions, Number of affected Census Blocks, number of buildings (housing and other) in the affected census blocks before the disaster, condition of building after the disaster (completely damaged, partially damaged and cannot be used, partially damaged and can be used). Indicators were compiled for housing units as well as for other types of buildings.
In the affected Divisional Secretary (DS) divisions, there are 1971 GN divisions. Out of these GN divisions, 32 percent has been reported to be affected. Total number of census blocks in the affected GN divisions is 4,880. Of these census block, 2,611 i.e. 54 percent has been affected by the disaster.

Housing units
There had been 158,011 buildings used as housing units in the affected census blocks of Sri Lanka before the disaster. Of these buildings 25 percent have been completely damaged. Another 6 percent have been partially damaged and not usable.
That is, little over 30 percent of the housing units have been either completely wiped out or damaged to the extent that those cannot be used any longer. Percentage of buildings damaged but usable is 24 percent. The balance 44 percent of the buildings have not been affected.
The highest share of 49 percent, of the completely or partially damaged housing units is reported from the Eastern Province.
The next highest share of 23 percent was reported from the Southern Province. Western Province and Northern Provinces accounted for 15 percent and 13 percent of the completely or partially damaged housing units, respectively.
In the North Western Province, only Wennappuwa DS division of Puttalam district was affected and number of housing units affected was only 54.
When compared across the districts, highest number of housing units, damaged either completely or partially and unusable, was reported from the Ampara district. Total number of such buildings reported for Ampara district was 10,566.
This is followed by the Batticaloa and Galle districts and the corresponding numbers were 9,905 and 6,169 units respectively.
(To be Continued)
The story

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How media pluralism advances government transparency

Public Sector Transparency - Special Report - Development Gateway: "Wijayananda Jayaweera, director of UNESCO's International Programme for the Development Communication, discusses how the media serves public sector transparency. Read the full interview"

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Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Teaching salinity awareness in tsunami-hit region

Agriculture and Coastal Systems: FAO in action: "Provision of EC-meters and enhancing salinity assessment/management expertise in Tsunami-affected regions


Immediately after the tsunami FAO predicted that salinity would be an issue in the recovery of tsunami-affected lands. Saline seawater covered large stretches of coast up to a few kilometers inlands at places. High toxicity of ground water and osmotic stress lead to perishing of crops and loss of soil fertility. Saline sediments aggravate these problems. Without proper leaching (through watering and drainage) these salinized lands could be lost for agriculture. FAO Salinity Experts assessed the extent of the salinity problems in the most-affected regions of the Indian Ocean (mainly Aceh-Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Maldives). Three months after the tsunami these assessments show that in most regions these problems were large but thanks to high precipitation in parts of the region and irrigation elsewhere there will be few long-term effects. Nevertheless, a strong lack of local capacity to deal with salinity issues was encountered by all FAO-missions, which is of course partly due to the unique nature of the disaster. As an early response, FAO procured and distributed over 150 EC-meters to be used in the assessment and continuous monitoring of salinity levels on the fields, in wells and groundwater. Trainings were organized by FAO-experts for agricultural staff to ensure proper use of the equipment and to build capacity to assess and monitor salinity issues locally. Continued monitoring will serve three purposes:

1. Timely advice can be provided to the farmers on soil and water conditions for crop production;

2. Regular and systematic monitoring can identify those areas where salinity is more persistent than initially assumed. These areas can than be subject to further investigation.

3. Keeping monitoring records will allow the ‘researcher' to learn of this event to the benefit of the future.


Aceh suffered heavily from salinity problems and land degradation in general. Because of the magnitude of the disaster and the combination of damages (salination, sedimentation, debris, erosion, scouring, and land loss) a land damage classification was developed specifically for the Indonesian context, salinity being one of the issues to be assessed. Along with the assessment, FAO acknowledged the need for major capacity building in dealing with land rehabilitation in the affected regions. FAO carried out limited soil testing and land classification exercises in Aceh in January and February and prepared these initial results and suggestions in an informal format: FAO field guide: “20 things to know about the impact of salt water on agricultural land in Aceh Province”. This manuscript provides a brief guide on the subject of soil contamination by salt as a result of tsunami inundation of agricultural land in coastal areas of Aceh province. In this and other ways, FAO, together with UNOCHA, offers its services both as a source of technical information, and as the mediator for a forum on the topic. After the initial assessment gave insight in the general situation regarding salinity, a further comprehensive soil salinity field survey was carried out in early March by 12 field teams along the East Coast of Aceh Province, the results of which were presented at the Regional Workshop on Salinity in Bangkok (31/3-1/4). At the time of the survey about one-third of the affected fields in the East Coast had salinity levels acceptable for cultivation (EC4), and it was expected that by the end of May this number would increase to about 60%. These extensive surveys serve two purposes. The first is to have a more detailed assessment of the impacts and have a detailed land classification. The second purpose is to enhance local capacity in these field surveys and salinity assessment and further to base village-based strategies on basis of these classifications.

Sri Lanka

In addition to the 6 locally purchased portable EC/pH-meters, FAO ordered 10 portable EC meters, 10 soil salinity meters and one standard lab EC meter. Calibration of the direct soil salinity meters requires some time and effort in order to be able to convert the direct reading into standard ECe readings. Instruments will need to be calibrated before distribution to the districts. Agricultural Instructors will receive training on the use of these meters. During the FAO-expert mission in March a first step was made to bridge the gap in knowledge of and ability to deal with salinity issues. More than hundred Agricultural Instructors, Assistant Directors Agriculture and Agricultural Officers of the affected districts have been trained in three separate training session in the use of salinity equipment, field procedures for soil and water testing, interpretation of results and advice to farmers on the use of saline soil and water for crop production. All of the district offices are still suffering from a lack of transport and funds to undertake monitoring activities. Funds are needed in the coming months of salinity monitoring and traveling to the farmers to advice them on the status of soil and water salinity. The Workshop Training Manual was worked out to serve agricultural staff in the field. The training manual incorporates all information required by the Agricultural Instructors to monitor soil and water salinity and properly advice the farmers on salinity issues. In the longer term, a support-system and central database system needs to be set-up. Agricultural/horticultural Research Institutes could collaborate with line departments of the government in supporting the Agricultural Instructors in their field programs. Salinity expertise could in future also be used to undertake studies and develop programs for inland salinity that occurs in various parts of the dry coastal zones especially in areas where displaced people have been resettled on marginal lands.

The Maldives

A FAO-consultant provided a 1-day training in soil salinity measurement to the staff of the Hanimaadhoo Agricultural Centre in the Northern part of the country in early March. It involved an introduction into the nature of soil salinity, the harmful impacts on crops and soils, a demonstration and hands-on practice of a EC1:1 soil salinity measurement and a discussion on the interpretation of these measurements.

Salinity guidelines were developed for local use. In the wetter South of the Country, in Medhoo Agricultural Centre the laboratory facilities and the available salinity measuring equipment was inspected and assessed and methods of salinity assessment were discussed with the staff. At the Ministry of Fisheries, Agriculture and Marine Resources (MFAMR) in the capital Male a presentation on soil salinity assessment and management was organized for staff of the Agricultural section. A senior member of the staff accompanied the FAO-consultant on his field visits and training sessions, resulting in a considerable knowledge transfer on soil salinity assessment/management. Initially procured salinity measurement instruments were found to be of insufficient range (only measuring up to 4 dS/m) and a second shipment was ordered. The agricultural centers seemed to be fairly well-equipped, but lacked salinity assessment/management expertise. As the salinity problems in the Maldives are expected to fade away naturally, no reclamation interventions were developed. The lack of expertise in the country has been noticed however, and receives continued attention from FAO.


With the initial assessments behind us and a regional workshop finished in late March that concluded that salinity problems ceased to be a major threat to future agricultural production in the region, the positive conclusion can be that initial fears have proven to be unfounded. On the one hand this allows FAO to concentrate on the major challenges ahead that are still impeding farmers to start cultivation, on the other hand it allows for incorporation of salinity assessment and monitoring in a more comprehensive approach towards salinity and soil- and water quality. The first steps of equipping and capacity building have been made in all countries and it is the intention to further consolidate this approach."

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Recovery is priority but don’t forget crucial reforms - ADB

Daily Mirror: Financial Times: "18/04/2005

The Asian Development Bank (ADB), one of the biggest multilateral donors for Sri Lanka, has urged the country to make reconstruction and recovery the first priority but cautioned not to forget crucial reforms.

Whilst acknowledging that tsunami was a setback, ADB in its Outlook 2005 released last week said "reconstruction and recovery is the first priority but urgent economic reforms needed for long-term growth should not be forgotten," by Sri Lanka.

"High oil prices, growing fuel subsidies, and a drought in 2004 all impacted inflation, the budget deficit, and the balance of payments. The year ended in tragedy: more than 35,000 Sri Lankans perished in the tsunami on 26 December. Reconstruction and recovery is the first priority, but urgent economic reforms needed for long-term growth should not be forgotten," the ADB said in its introduction to the Chapter on Sri Lanka. Full Story..

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Urgent action needed to cut global poverty

Daily News: " Urgent action needed to cut global poverty and win development results - WB, IMF18/04/2005

BOLD and urgent action is needed to reduce extreme poverty and improve people's economic and social prospects in developing countries in keeping with a set of key development targets, called the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), said a recent report released by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

The credibility of the entire development community is at stake as never before, said World Bank President, James Wolfensohn in introducing the second annual Global Monitoring Report, 'MDGs: From Consensus to Momentum'.

Rich countries must now deliver on the promises they have made in terms of aid, trade and debt relief, and the developing countries especially in Sub-Saharan Africa need to aim higher and do better in terms of their own policies and governance to make more effective use of aid. Full Story..

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Monday, April 18, 2005

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.
Fifteen meetings have been held so far. The summary reports of the meetings posted on the committee's website. The first eleven reports were also posted in one of the earlier posts. The next four reports (up to the fifteenth report) can be found below.

12th Meeting of the Select Committee – 29 March 2005

Representatives of the media were invited by the Select Committee to participate in an open discussion on what role the media can play when a natural disaster occurs.Mr W B Ganegala, Secretary, Ministry of Information and Media, Mr S D Piyadasa, Director General of Government Information, Mr M M Zuhair, PC, Chairman of Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation, Mr Newton Gunerathne, Chairman of ITN, Mr Hudson Samarasinghe, Chairman of Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation, Mr Janadasa Peiris, Chairman of Associated Newspapers of Ceylon, Mr Rosmond Senarathne, Director of Swarnavahini, Mr Sarath Kongahage, Director of Sirasa Television, Mr Kingsley Rathnayake, Director of Sirasa FM, Mr Anthony David, Editorial Board, Sunday Times, Mr Bandula Jayasekera, Editorial Board, The Island, and Mr Amal Jayasinghe, Bureau Chief for AFP were all present at the meeting.All representatives of the media expressed the need for a means through which credible and accurate information relating to natural disasters can be disseminated to the public.Kingsley Rathnayake, Director of Sirasa FM, stated that although dissemination of relevant information regarding natural disasters is important, it is imperative that the government establishes a system where the media is privy to such information. He recommended setting up a disaster frequency that will cut into the main programmes of all channels and warn the public of an impending disaster. This requires a central authority with the responsibility of disseminating relevant information to the public via the media. He also raised the issue of evacuation where the media has the authority to issue evacuation notices, but they cannot take the responsibility to reassure the public of safety in returning to their homes.Mr M M Zuhair, Chairman of Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation, spoke about the system in place in Japan. He stated that the best way to disseminate information regarding natural disasters was through electronic media. He stressed the need for a central authority to inform the media of the ground situation and of any official warnings in order for the respective organisations to inform the public. He said that like in Japan we should have one authority that has the best capacity and widest network in public broadcasting to inform the largest amount of people.Mr Rosmond Senarathne, Director of Swarnavahini, recommended that a board of professionals with appropriate expertise is needed to explain what the basic guidelines should be for the media and the public to follow when faced with a natural disaster.Mr B Ganegala, Secretary, Ministry of Information, stated that the government should be responsible in giving out relevant information to the public and the central authority should be a government-controlled one. He also stated that current licensing guidelines should be changed and they should be inclusive of issues the media has pertaining to natural disasters.Mr Amal Jayasinghe, Bureau Chief for AFP, stated that natural disasters should not be treated as a news event but as a means of telling the public what to do in an emergency. He also stressed the legal implications involved because not all warnings will culminate into a disaster. He said that creating public awareness is important and the media can be utilised to do so.

13th Meeting of the Select Committee – 30 March 2005

HE Salvatore Zotta, Italian Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Dr Wilbert Kehelpannala, Senior Research Fellow for the Institute of Fundamental Studies, Dr N P Wijeyananda, Former Director General of the Mines Bureau, Prof Kapila Dahanayake, Senior Professor of Geology, University of Peradeniya, Mr Sarath Weerawarnakula, the Geological Survey and Mines Bureau Director, and Mr P H Dharmaratne, Surveyor for the Geological Survey and Mines Bureau, attended the 13th meeting of the Select Committee.Ambassador Salvatore Zotta briefed the members on the agreements reached between the Italian delegation and relevant local authorities. He presented three substantive project proposals, which were agreed upon with the consultation of Tissa Vitharana, Minister of Science and Technology, and professors from the universities of Colombo and Moratuwa.The three projects proposed are:

• High technology impact assessment aimed at providing Sri Lankan experts with the technology needed for emergency management and natural disaster mitigation - particularly from meteorological, hydrological and oceanographic hazards. This technology is imperative when it comes to advance territorial planning - helping to identify areas vulnerable to natural disasters.

• Creation of a coordinating network, which is composed of chancellors of the involved universities in both Italy and Sri Lanka. This will help to integrate a university course in disaster mitigation from both a practical and theoretical perspective.

• The promotion of cooperation among both the higher education institutions and emergency management agencies of Sri Lanka in order to foster development and exchange of disaster knowledge among scientists, practitioners, decision-makers, legislators and citizens.
These project proposals will be financed from Sri Lanka’s remitted debt to Italy.Mr Sarath Weerawarnakula, the Geological Survey and Mines Bureau Director, stated the need for Bathymetry models in order to delineate the coastal zone and identify areas that are safe to proceed with reconstruction.Dr Wilbert Kehelpannala, Senior Research Fellow for the Institute of Fundamental Studies, made a presentation that was corroborated by years of research. He spoke about earthquakes, showing graphs of the fault lines that ran across the country and evidence that Sri Lanka is vulnerable to earthquakes and tremors especially in the Central Province. He also spoke about the seismic lines that run through the Himalayan Mountains and off the southern coastal belt. He linked the compression between the plates as the reason behind the tremors in the Central Province.The second segment of his presentation was focused on tsunamis. He stated that through his research he had found evidence of Pallieo Tsunamis in Yala. He showed visuals of historical artifacts that date back to the 2nd Century BC. Speaking on the impact of the prehistoric tsunamis, he stated that they were high-energy waves, which had destroyed the sand bars that safeguard the coast. When the sand bars are eroded, this allows the water during high tide to flow inland.He concluded by giving the committee three recommendations:

• The need to evaluate the coastal belt through ocean topography when taking implementation polices regarding the reconstruction and rehousing effort.

• A buffer zone to be implemented because the coastal zone has been eroded, allowing the water to flow in.

• Creating awareness among the public especially those who live in tsunami-affected areas.

Mr P H Dharmaratne, Surveyor for the Geological Survey and Mines Bureau, disagreed with the research done by Dr Wilbert Kehelpannala. He stated that when going ahead with reconstruction work they should check the height and not the length when implementing the buffer zone. Since the geography of the coast is not consistent, certain areas along the coast were not affected. That has to be taken into consideration when reconstructing. He stressed that if a buffer zone is to be implemented the security of the people, economic development and coast conservation need to be thought about.Mr Sarath Weerawarnakula, the Geological Survey and Mines Bureau Director, brought to the notice to the Select Committee that an imbalance in funds needs to be rectified at the Pallekele Seismological Centre. The need for a national data processing unit was highlighted and he said that training too was lacking at present.

14th Meeting of the Select Committee - 31st March 2005

The Select Committee, along with media personnel went on a field visit to the Geology Centre in the University of Peradeniya, the Pallekele Seismological Centre and Kuliatta, an identified landslide prone region in Kandy.Udeni Amarasinghe, Senior Lecturer in Engineering Geology, explained how the Geology Centre in the University of Peradeniya works. He stated that under proposals made by him, the Seismic Station donated by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JAIC), was set up within the university premises and was for academic and research purposes. The Geology Centre in Peradeniya receives data sent by three other seismic stations located throughout the country. The University of Peradeniya operates these centres, which are set up in the universities of Oluvil, Ruhuna and Colombo. He also stated that it is impossible for seismometres to predict tsunamis since the relevant equipment can only measure vibrations generated by earthquakes. The lack of tsunami detection buoys in the Indian Ocean poses a major problem and he recommended that with the help of UNESCO, an investment should be made to have them in place on a regional level.The next site was the official Seismic Centre located inside a prison in Pallekele. Operated by the Geological Survey and Mines Bureau (GSMB) the station relays seismic information to the GSMB head office in Colombo. The Select Committee was able to meet up with the experts running the station including Dr N P Wijeyananda, Former Director General of the Mines Bureau. The recommendations made were the need to have trained seismologists in Sri Lanka, a link up between the GSMB and the University of Peradeniya, and for resources that are in place to be developed into a national data centre.The last leg of the tour was at Kuliatta, a landslide prone site that was recommended by Prof Kapila Dahanayake, Senior Professor of Geology at the University of Peradeniya. A town hall meeting was held at the Waldubula Maha Vidyalaya with the attendance of all relevant officials to investigate whether the area and Kandy district as a whole was prepared for any emergency.The main recommendation made by the representatives of that area was the provision of building licenses with the consultancy of geophysicists and the Land Department in order for vulnerable areas to be identified.Prof Kapila Dahanayake, who headed the discussion, stressed the need for a mechanism for the people in the region to be informed of natural disasters since the Central Province is prone to landslides. He also recommended educating children about natural disasters and that it should be incorporated into the school curriculum.The Parliamentary delegation included Mahinda Samarasinghe John Amaratunga, Nadarajah Raviraj, Rauff Hakeem and Mahinda Wijeysekera.

15th Meeting of the Select Committee - 5 April 2005

Mr Udeni Amarasinghe, Senior Lecturer in Engineering Geology, University of Peradeniya, Mr Asela Weerakoon, Representative for the Foreign Ministry, Mr Sujatha Cooray, Deputy External Officer for the Foreign Ministry, Mr Priyantha Serasinghe, Senior Fellow for Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and a delegation representing the Virginia Institute of Technology which was led by Dr Fredrick Krimgold met with the Select Committee.Udeni Amarasinghe explained the role he played in forming the Geology Centre in the University of Peradeniya. He stated that under proposals made by him to JICA, he received the necessary assistance in setting up the system for academic and research purposes in 2003. The Geology Centre in Peradeniya is the central agency, which receives data sent by three other seismic stations located throughout the country.Although his aim in installing this was for academic purposes, he recommended that it should be upgraded as a seismic warning system. He also stated that JICA was keen to restore the system in Peradeniya, which had a software problem for eight months, causing the system to shut down.Mr Priyantha Serasinghe of JICA agreed with what was said by Mr Udeni Amarasinghe on extending further cooperation and improving the relationship between the two stakeholders.MP Rauff Hakeem added that apart from the seismology monitoring system, the Asian region needs tsunami buoys to analyze wave height and force, in order to detect a tsunami.Mr Lakshman Kadirgamar, Minister of Foreign Affairs, in response to the above stated that he is chairing the Indian Ocean Rim Association meeting to be held in Mauritius and he will bring the issue up on behalf of Sri Lanka.A delegation representing Virginia Tech made their presentation to the Select Committee regarding cooperation with local universities. Dr Fredrick Krimgold stated that strengthening universities’ capacity to handle disaster management especially in the field of research is an important aspect of the overall system. He stated that the delegation was an initial exploratory mission, which was here to assess the needs of local universities with regard to incorporating disaster studies. The proposal being made by the mission is the establishment of a centre for disaster studies, which will integrate natural science, engineering and sociology.

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Sri Lanka will lose Rs. 45 billion if it fails to submit report on time

Sri Lanka, 4 - 15 - 2005: Sri Lanka will lose Rs. 45 billion if it fails to submit report on time: "Friday, April 15, 2005, 11:12 GMT, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Apr 15, Colombo: The Sri Lankan government will receive Rs. 45 billion if it submits an action plan before April 18 to the World Body of Relief Assistance. The plan should describe three key areas of work including a common mechanism to distribute relief to tsunami-affected families.

Kalutara district UNP MP Dr. Rajitha Senarathne, addressing a media conference at the office of the Opposition Leader in Colombo, said a common mechanism to distribute relief to tsunami-affected families of the North and East, recommencement of peace talks and the country’s economic program are the key areas to be included in the report to the World Body of Relief Assistance.

“If the government fails to submit this report, we will not get the relief we expect from the world. But if the government were to submit it, there is every possibility that the JVP will move out of the government,” he said.

Commenting on the newspaper advertisement on the prices of various items, published as part of the one-year progress report on the “Rata Perata” program, Dr. Senarathne said all prices mentioned in that advertisement were wrong, deceiving and misleading to the public. “The fact is that price of almost all essential goods have gone up,” he said.

He argued that the UNF government increased the salary of state workers by Rs. 1250. The UPFA government has increased it by Rs. 2500. However, the UPFA promise to increase the salary of state workers by 70 percent has not been carried out so far. Although the UPFA marked their first year in office, the government has not made university graduates permanent in their jobs either, Dr. Senarathne said.

“There was a charge that the media were threatened by ‘Lawrence Mafia’ during the Premadasa regime. But look at today: government ministers keep on attacking the media in public. There was some systematic way of dealing in the Lawrence Mafia. But there is of that sort with the present day ministers who keep on battering the media left and right. The system is in such low ebb, there is no system to record a statement before one is arrested. Both principals of Ananda and Kingswood have been sieged by the thug mafia in operation right now,” Dr. Senarathne charged.

Colombo district UNP MP Ravi Karunanayake meanwhile said the JVP had boasted that once the UPFA came to power, they would “unplug” the commitment to the World Bank, which would bring prices down. “They were critical of the price hike during the UNP regime, but today keep shut their loose tongues,” he said.

“The JVP, which boasted about their ability to fight for the rights of the poor masses, do not raise a finger at the Cabinet, the place where they really should talk. But keep their loose tongues under control and talk like heroes when they come into political platforms. The people have seen their real colours and they will not be fooled by their lousy talks,” he charged.

“President Ranasinghe Premadasa took the garment industry to the country and provided employment. But today these garment factories are gradually being closed down, depriving employment opportunities to hundreds of thousands of youth of this country,” he added. "

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Post tsunami reconstruction work is moving slowly

"Post tsunami reconstruction work is moving slowly" - SL business community: "Date : 2005-04-13, Sunil C. Perera in Colombo

Colombo, 13 April, (ASiantribune.com): The local business community said that they have found the post-tsunami reconstruction work in Sri Lanka to be moving at a very slow pace, and has called for the setting up of co-ordination mechanisms at the provincial level to speed up the process.

Speaking to the “Asian Tribune,” Ex- Chairman of Joint Business Community - JBIZ , present Chairman of International Chamber of Commerce and Chairman of Commercial Bank of Sri Lanka Mahendra Amarasuriya said that international donors have shown an interest in re-constructing houses, assisting resettlements and supporting the tsunami victims in different ways. However, the responsible government authorities are still engaged in a tug- o-war, said Mr.Amarasuriya.

He said that the Lions Club International Federations have agreed to provide US Dollar seven million to all tsunami affected countries to help them provide shelters for the victims.

However, in Sri Lanka, the local Lions are still awaiting the release of necessary plots of land to build the houses.

"We want to set up village settlements in the Deep South as well as in the Northern and the Eastern parts of Sri Lanka. We signed a number of MOUs with the relevant authorities to begin the construction," said a dejected Amarasuriya.

He said if Sri Lanka delays the land allocations and provide required facilities, there is the danger of the funds being diverted to other affected countries, especially Indonesia, which was re-hit by the second tsunami.

He proposes that the government of Sri Lanka must attend to the post tsunami activities to start speedy construction activities.

At present, the local Lions and the International Lions have agreed to expand their re-settlement projects to minimize the housing problem among the tsunami victims.

- Asian Tribune - "

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Govt ponders on long term solutions as power woes deepen

ANN: "By Steve A. Morrell, The Island, Publication Date : 2005-04-12

Apart from articulating long term plans to meet the power crisis, officials of the Ministry of Power and Energy were totally void of ideas to contain or address the immediate crisis in fuel imports, and escalating cost of electricity. This was the sum total of a press conference convened on Monday to inform the press of measures put in place to address this important issue.

Chairman, Energy Conservation Fund, V.A.N.Waranakolasooriya said that alternate methods of energy included `Excellent wind’ power , bio mass and development of Mini- hydro projects. He said that wind power alone if exploited could develop approximately 2500 mega watts of power. Additionally, Bio- Mass could be generated through establishment of Gliricidia plantations.

To generate 1 mega watt of Power an area of approximately 1000 acres would be necessary, he said. Apart from articulating assumptions on projected land availability which he said was a area of approximately 90,000 acres, he did not specify how this area was to be managed or established.

Presently he said value of power was in the region of 98.8 billion annually, with every possibility of this figure increasing, unless immediate measures were taken to control and contain illicit use. Illicit use was a major drain on power, he said.

Having said that he did not venture counter proposals for effective arrest of illicit power tapping.
Secretary Ministry of Transport Dr. D.S.Jayaweera said that railway transport was the cheapest, and should be given importance in the planning process, he also said that vehicles that were not fuel efficient should not be permitted and importers should be cautioned that these vehicles would not be allowed.

Although he said that these should be included for implementation he was careful not to specify when these suggestions should be implemented.

The press conference did not reveal any immediate measures to contain the looming power crisis.

It was also said that the price of crude could rise to $100 per barrel. When that happened the government would not be prepared to deal with the crisis.

The entire question was left in the balance, with only a decision to meet at least once every month.

The minister of power and Energy who chaired the press conference did not comment . "

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Sunday, April 17, 2005

OCHA Situation Report for 08-12 April

Following is the UN-OCHA situation report for the period of 08 – 12 April 2005

On 08 April, OCHA Sri Lanka issued a press release on the United Nations Mid-term Review
of the Flash Appeal. The press release was reproduced in full in Colombo’s Daily Mirror and Island newspapers and was reported on by at least one TV station. The UN agency for settlements, Habitat, has signed the first private sector partnership agreement with the chemical company BASF to contribute to the agency’s work in tsunamihit areas of Sri Lanka. The US$ 500,000 in BASF support is intended to help strengthen local authorities and community and non-governmental organizations so they may be more effective in the spheres of education, health, poverty eradication, human rights, social integration and infrastructure, according to Habitat.

Overview of activities
A pilot project of 42 temporary houses in Kalmunai, Ampara district was handed over to tsunami-displaced families by UN Humanitarian Coordinator, Miguel Bermeo and UNHCR Representative a.i, James Lynch, on 7 April. Built by UNHCR through its implementing partner the Rural Development Foundation (RDF), with water and sanitation facilities provided by UNICEF, the pilot project is a precursor to the construction of 2,500 more shelters in Ampara District, to be erected at a rate of 500 per month. A further 1,500 temporary houses have been pledged by UNHCR if required. The Business-for-Peace Alliance (BPA) -- a project supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) -- organized a meeting in Batticaloa last week of private and public sector officials, including representatives from commercial banks, private companies, government organizations and ministries with the Batticaloa and Ampara regional chambers of commerce. The objective was to help inform and guide member businesses that were among the worst affected by the tsunami disaster. Working with 17 regional chambers
of commerce, the BPA has helped organize rural and provincial entrepreneurs into an entity that has a collective voice and the ability to sway decision makers. UNDP officials used the occasion of the meeting to launch a Small and Medium Enterprise Credit Facilitation Project, initially among four of the regional chambers and in the future to be extended island-wide. Eighty percent of the Transitional Accommodation Centre (TAC) shelters are completed in Vadamarachchi East, with sixty percent completed in Mullaitivu, however progress is slower
in the rest of Jaffna district.

The Ministry of Social Welfare and Women’s Empowerment in Galle district, in collaboration with Save the Children Sri Lanka and UNICEF, held a half-day seminar on Southern Regional Consultation for the Development of a Social Protection Agenda for Children and Families in Sri Lanka. The meeting was aimed for better coordination of activities of social protection to maximize intervention. The NGO Malteser Germany and UNICEF have made available at least 1,000 rain harvesting systems for use in permanent houses for tsunami survivors across the Southern Province. Renovation of a blood bank and an operation theatre at the District Hospital in Kilinochchi has started. The hospital provided medical care to many tsunami-affected patients in December. ICRC is supporting the clinic with medical staff and UNICEF is assisting to provide equipment for the blood bank. UNHCR reported this past week that a total of 11,972 transitional shelters have now been constructed for tsunami-affected IDPs. In Batticaloa district, 11,092 semi-permanent shelters are scheduled for construction with a total of 2,460 completed as of 6 April 2005. In Galle District, the Transitional Accommodation Project (TAP) Coordinator has announced that most of the lands for resettlement has now been identified and that the divisional secretaries have the required information. Transition shelters are to be built on the same sites as the permanent housing. The Livelihood Taskforce in Trincomalee, which consists of government representatives, UN agencies and NGOs is developing guidelines regarding standard payments for cash for work programmes to avoid creating competition amongst organizations. In Kilinochchi, 75 per cent of the displaced population now live in transitional accommodation centres (TACs), with ad hoc requests being received from the authorities to build additional shelters, as more IDPs previously hosted by communities are choosing to move into TACs. The Transitional Acccomodation Project (TAP) office has opened in Trincomalee and is becoming functional with the support of UNHCR. Nine graduates of a TAP training course have been deployed to TAP field offices in Trincomalee to monitor temporary shelter construction. In response to the communication and information gap created by the tsunami’s destruction, INTERNEWS has launched the Sri Lanka Relief Radio (SLRR) project. INTERNEWS is operating two, fully-equipped, mobile production units -- one operating in the east and the other in the south. Sri Lankan journalists, from a variety of radio outlets throughout the country, will cover stories related to the post-tsunami relief and reconstruction process. The radio pieces are to be sent back to the INTERNEWS Colombo studio for final production. The radio stories will consist of both field reports and interviews with decision-makers in Colombo and will cover as well the activities of UN agencies, NGOs, civil society groups, and others. A key component of the Sri Lanka Relief Radio project is to increase the experience of Sri Lankan State and private radio journalists by providing them opportunities to increase their field reporting skills with practical, hands-on training and production. The SLRR radio segments are to be broadcast on both national and local radio outlets, ensuring affected communities have improved access to information about the relief and reconstruction efforts.
Main challenges and responses

In Trincomolee, unexpected rains during the past week resulted in poor conditions in tented camps. Rains flooded tents and camp sites due to a lack of appropriate drainage. People were unable to cook as fire wood had become wet. A few hundred families have moved back into schools with further movements expected if the rains continue. OXFAM and World Vision have already started distributions of plastic sheeting, tinned foods, and water carriers. UN agencies and NGOs are meeting urgently to discuss a coordinated NFI distribution given that the numbers of people choosing to move is expected to increase significantly if the rains continue. With concerns being raised about dengue fever, given the wet conditions around camps and the remaining debris, a breeding ground for dengue mosquitoes, the Deputy Provincial Director for Health Services in Galle (DPDHS) has reported that actions were being taken to prevent dengue transmission. The programme for vector control, which includes the spraying of insecticide and the distribution of leaflets for hygiene promotion, is being undertaken by the Ministry of Health with support from World Vision. With rumours increasingly traveling amongst affected communities regarding the possibility of another tsunami, the NGO Solidar organized a seminar in Kilinochchi for national and international staff working in Transitional Accommodation Centres (TACs) on the facts about the tsunami and had an expert on early warning systems and tsunamis brief the group. The objective was to educate staff so they can give informed answers to questions from fearful tsunami survivors. Solidar is now developing information material on the subject to disseminate to affected populations. To help safeguard tent shelters against the monsoons Community Habitat and Finance with Project Galle 2005 is continuing to upgrade and improve drainage for such shelter with work ongoing from Hikkaduwa southward in the worst-affected camps. Their quick impact ‘Cash for Work’ programme is currently employing 50 to 100 camp workers. Caritas in Arayampathy division and ACF in Vaharai division of Batticaloa district reported that some of their newly erected transitional shelters had been vandalized by tsunami-affected people who feel that they should have been given priority for such housing. The Batticaloa Shelter Task Force discussed the impact of recent rains on temporary and semi-permanent shelters. It was concluded that many shelters were not waterproof and set up in a way to withstand bad weather conditions. Agencies agreed to review temporary and semi-permanent structures, consider raising tent floors, replacing unsuitable, non-waterproof tents, and making other modifications, including roof reinforcements and better ventilation. This is also in line with a recent TAP quality survey that revealed that a number of transitional shelters are not up to acceptable standards and need to be reinforced or partially redone. to increase their field reporting skills with practical, hands-on training and production. The SLRR radio segments are to be broadcast on both national and local radio outlets, ensuring affected communities have improved access to information about the relief and reconstruction efforts.

Main challenges and responses
In Trincomolee, unexpected rains during the past week resulted in poor conditions in tented camps. Rains flooded tents and camp sites due to a lack of appropriate drainage. People were unable to cook as fire wood had become wet. A few hundred families have moved back into schools with further movements expected if the rains continue. OXFAM and World Vision have already started distributions of plastic sheeting, tinned foods, and water carriers. UN agencies and NGOs are meeting urgently to discuss a coordinated NFI distribution given that the numbers of people choosing to move is expected to increase significantly if the rains continue. With concerns being raised about dengue fever, given the wet conditions around camps and the remaining debris, a breeding ground for dengue mosquitoes, the Deputy Provincial Director for Health Services in Galle (DPDHS) has reported that actions were being taken to prevent dengue transmission. The programme for vector control, which includes the spraying of insecticide and the distribution of leaflets for hygiene promotion, is being undertaken by the Ministry of Health with support from World Vision. With rumours increasingly traveling amongst affected communities regarding the possibility of another tsunami, the NGO Solidar organized a seminar in Kilinochchi for national and international staff working in Transitional Accommodation Centres (TACs) on the facts about the tsunami and had an expert on early warning systems and tsunamis brief the group. The objective was to educate staff so they can give informed answers to questions from fearful tsunami survivors. Solidar is now developing information material on the subject to disseminate to affected populations. To help safeguard tent shelters against the monsoons Community Habitat and Finance with Project Galle 2005 is continuing to upgrade and improve drainage for such shelter with work ongoing from Hikkaduwa southward in the worst-affected camps. Their quick impact ‘Cash for Work’ programme is currently employing 50 to 100 camp workers. Caritas in Arayampathy division and ACF in Vaharai division of Batticaloa district reported that some of their newly erected transitional shelters had been vandalized by tsunami-affected people who feel that they should have been given priority for such housing. The Batticaloa Shelter Task Force discussed the impact of recent rains on temporary and semi-permanent shelters. It was concluded that many shelters were not waterproof and set up in a way to withstand bad weather conditions. Agencies agreed to review temporary and semi-permanent structures, consider raising tent floors, replacing unsuitable, non-waterproof tents, and making other modifications, including roof reinforcements and better ventilation. This is also in line with a recent TAP quality survey that revealed that a number of transitional shelters are not up to acceptable standards and need to be reinforced or partially redone.
Downloead report

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