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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, June 04, 2005

Humanitarian Situation Report - 27 May - 2 June 2005

ReliefWeb - Document Preview : "Source: United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
Date: 02 Jun 2005

Overall Situation

The number of tsunami-affected IDPs has remained relatively constant over the last few weeks, according to UNICEF. As of 25 May, the number living in camps and hosted with friends and relatives stood at 499,783. The largest numbers of IDPs are recorded in Galle with 120,828 and Ampara with 100,012.

Main challenges and response

On 17 May, a displaced 15 year-old boy from a Thirrukovial IDP camp in Ampara died from burns he sustained when a mosquito net in which he had wrapped himself accidentally caught fire. Such mosquito nets are highly flammable. The tragic incident highlighted the prevalence of potential fire hazards in camps and transitional shelters. In the aftermath of the child's death, UNICEF, in coordination with other agencies and government officials, is exploring ways to inform and educate regarding potential fire hazards and safety measures that can be taken in the camps. UNICEF's Early Childhood Programme in Colombo is helping

formulate key messages regarding accident prevention and increase awareness and promote safety in camps. In addition, potentially flammable items such as mosquito nets and lanterns will be delivered with fire hazard warnings attached.

Coordination and common services

Planning and preparations are ongoing for a Lessons Learned Tsunami Workshop to be held on 8 and 9 June with participants from national and local government, NGOs, bilateral donors and International Organisations. The Sri Lankan exercise is a precursor to a regional exercise taking place in Medan, Indonesia on 13 to 14 June.


In Ampara district, psycho-social programmes have been on-going in IOM-supported camps. From 19 to 22 May, four shows were put on by a Sri Lankan traveling puppet workshop and theatre group and from18 to 23 May, six acrobatic workshops and exhibitions were held. Some 1,400 children, adults from the tsunami-affected population and neighboring communities attended the events.

IOM supported and organized a three-day Psychosocial Training-of-Trainers course in Colombo, with a local NGO, Sahanaya, for ten Sewalanka workers and seven workers from the Sri Lankan Bureau of Foreign Affairs. It also funded and organized a two-day psycho-social training course for 35 field workers and community leaders in Ampara. In addition, IOM is developing HIV/AIDS message playing cards that will be available for distribution among tsunami-affected populations and aim to increase community awareness of HIV/AIDS.

Five-thousand mosquito nets were handed over to the Deputy Director of Health Services in Ampara by UNICEF to support the Anti-Malaria Campaign. Another 5,400 nets were provided to the Health Sevice in Jaffna district. An increase in mosquito-borne diseases is likely due to the seasonal North East monsoon rains.

IOM Sri Lanka is implementing an Eye Care Health Pilot Project in collaboration with the Ophthalmologic College of Sri Lanka. The Project seeks to improve the provision of eye health care services including cataract surgery to both tsunami-affected populations and host communities in tsunami-affected areas. Additionally, 90 Ophthalmologic nurses selected from six tsunami-affected districts (Hambantota, Galle, Matara, Ampara, Trincomalee and Batticaloa) attended a one-day training workshop on 29 May at the Colombo Eye Hospital to develop their skills on how to handle, maintain and sterilize surgical equipment and assist cataract surgery. The Eye Health Care Project expects to directly benefit 77,000 beneficiaries of which 7,700 will be children.

Non-food items and shelter

Planning for permanent houses in all 17 relocation sites in the Batticaloa District is underway. According to the Kachcheri, all sites have now been “claimed” by one or another reconstruction agency. However, various steps need to be undertaken prior to the commencement of construction and these could be time-consuming.

As of 16 May 2005, the Damage Assessment Team (DAT) which is composed of division and local level representatives, as well as a technical expert and donor representative) had inspected 11,292 of 13,987 fully or partially damaged houses outside the buffer zone in Batticaloa district. A total of 6,333 assessments have been completed with compensation payments authorized. Some protests against DAT assessment decision have been held in the district in the last few weeks. According to some representatives of agencies involved in the reconstruction efforts, many tsunami-survivors whose homes were damaged or destroyed are not sufficiently informed about the criteria for awarding compensation payments or about the channels for expressing grievance.

In some areas hard-hit by the tsunami, school children have only one set of clothes apart from the school uniforms they have been provided. In response to this problem, UNICEF is distributed clothing to 149 boys and 114 girls in Mullaitivu RCTMS school, to 116 boys and 100 girls in Kallapadu school and to 100 girls and 100 boys at Kallaru School.


Work has commenced by UNICEF on the construction of 195 semi-permanent classrooms in Kalmunai and Akkaraipattu zones. In addition, 99 class rooms are being constructed in all six education zones of Ampara. In Galle education zone, the construction work of two semi-permanent school buildings funded by UNICEF is nearing completion.

The New Easter Bus Company began a bus service on June 1 to transport children residing in IDP camps at Mandanai and Sakalakalai Amman Temple to and from school. UNICEF is supporting the bus service through its Education Office in Akkaraiapttu. Approximately 200-300 children will benefit initially from this service.


As of the end of May, 770 families have received IOM livelihood assistance. Of these, 301 families were identified as single-headed households or otherwise extremely vulnerable and were assisted as part of IOM's Counter Trafficking Programme.

The Chamber of Commerce in Batticaloa district has established a help desk to assist tsunami-affected people obtain bank loans and other types of assistance. The Chamber of Commerce is also planning to provide grants of Rs 10,000- 25,000 for tsunami-affected people to start up businesses.


The Sri Lankan Department of Probation, Save the Children, UNICEF and the Mangrove have been collaborating on the provision of care and protection for over 630 children who have lost both parents and 1,416 children who have lost one parent. A model is now being discussed to provide care to these children beyond their legal entitlements. One of the major concerns that have emerged is entitlement to compensation and land rights of those children who have lost both their parents in the tsunami. Moreover, the majority of them are particularly disadvantaged in that they do not have legal representation to claim for their rights. "

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Sri Lanka hopes to complete majority of permanent houses for tsunami victims by year end

Associated Press: 01/06/2005

Sri Lanka hopes to finish building the majority of permanent houses for tsunami victims by the year's end, an official said Wednesday.

"Most of the affected families have moved from emergency shelters to transitional housing units," Mano Tittawella, chairman of the Presidential Task Force for Relief and Rebuilding the Nation told a news conference.

That's better than what they had before, he said, but "everyone is waiting impatiently to move into a permanent house and start rebuilding their lives."

The government hopes that will happen "by the end of the year."

He said 77,561 houses were either partially or completely damaged in the Dec. 26 Indian Ocean tsunami and the government has already signed 170 agreements with local and international donors to finance the construction of 36,600 houses.

He said however, acquisition of suitable land, planning, getting approval and hiring contractors could all be time consuming.

More than 31,000 Sri Lankans were killed and nearly 1 million displaced by the tsunami.

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Friday, June 03, 2005

Resettle with care

Daily News: 01/06/2005" BY THARUKA Dissanaike

THERE is no doubt that the reconstruction of tsunami destroyed homes should commence fast. As fast as possible. Especially now that so much is committed to the country's reconstruction effort.

But in this haste to make sure that people have a roof over their heads, it is easy to ignore various concerns, especially environmental ones, that could have long term adverse impacts on the resettled communities and the country as a whole.

For example, why is the buffer area of Lahugala National Park being cleared to resettle displaced people from areas of the Eastern coast. In the Ampara district, where land surely is more plentiful than in most tsunami affected areas, there has to be better suited land than a buffer zone of a National Park which is famous for elephants.

This area is one that has relatively little human-elephant conflict at present due to the low density of human population. But if hundreds of people begin living in the boundaries of the park, conflict would be inevitable.

Villagers have observed that the cleared area is frequented by herds already and certain sections of the displaced population have refused to move into homes built here.

A tsunami may come once in a hundred years, but to have to live with the daily threat of elephants is another matter altogether, one woman had complained to a social worker in the area.

Similar problems beset many of the chosen relocation sites. Although some resettlement areas are over 300 acres, there is no time to do detailed environmental assessments of all the sites spread in 13 districts.

Environmentalists and activist NGOs too do not wish to make a loud hue and cry over the non-compliance of normal procedure since the situation is quite out-of-the ordinary. No one wants to look like they are standing in the path of smooth relocation.

Hence it was good to learn that the CEA, even belatedly, issued guidelines for housing projects with special attention to the large scale resettlement projects that will commence soon.

The first guideline is to avoid critically sensitive areas (environmentally) which are protected or at least identified as important including marshes, flood plains, steep areas or those with poorly drained saline soils. The guidelines also specify areas that could be contaminated with liquid or solid waste. Filled lands (past dump sites) etc.

The CEA issues specific guidelines on drainage and storm water management, soil erosion control and stabilization. An interesting and relevant guideline that has been stipulated is to ensure that top soil removed in construction areas is stripped and stored for future use and not illegally removed from the site.

Specifications for waste water disposal and solid waste disposal look at treating waste water and construction waste, and especially deal with discharging wastes to water bodies and marginal lands. Good practices like composting barrels in every new house and waste streamlining by sorting are recommended for sites.

'The guidelines also look at house/ building design and sourcing construction material. House designs should look at maximizing material use and minimising environmentally unfriendly materials like sand and indigenous wood. Adapt layouts to suit natural patterns the guidelines advocate - and avoid rigid, grid-like housing layout designs.

Also, the CEA encourages organisations involved in rebuilding to study traditions and customs involved in house building and incorporate them into the design and the process - so that the project is more acceptable socially.

While the guidelines are timely and very appropriate for general use of all those planning and implementing housing projects in tsunami-affected areas, there needs to be some kind of legal spine, upholding these recommendations and ensuring that they are adhered to at every given possibility.

It would be useful if TAFRENs new environmental unit takes upon itself to disseminate these guidelines to all actors in the reconstruction process as well as all donors, local authorities and such and institute a monitoring mechanism to avoid any obvious flouting of the law.

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NHDA housing loans - 100% recovery recorded in Hambantota

The Island: 31/05/2005"

The Tsunami affected Hambantota district has recorded the highest percentage in the repayment of housing loans by the borrowers in March and April, according to the National Housing Development Authority (NHDA). In March and April the progress of recovery of repayment instalments in Hambantota has surpassed 100 per cent.

This was revealed at a meeting held recently at Hambantota NHDA District Office to commend the staff for the success achieved by them.

NHDA General Manager, Piyal Ganepola at this meeting said, "The people of Hambantota had the bitter experience of enormous devastation to life and property. With the assistance of local and foreign donors the reconstruction is now been carried out. Despite the disruption caused to their livelihood and existence, the people of Hambantota have been exemplary to other districts by making the repayment instalment due to NHDA in full in last two months for which they should be commended. The proceeds from the recovery of housing loans will be used by the NHDA as a revolving fund to grant loans to other homeless families in the same district. Notwithstanding the tendency for default of repayment in the recent past due to Tsunami and the April new year season, success achieved in recovering the loan instalment was possible due the cooperation of borrowers and the NHDA staff of Hambantota."

For last two decades the accumulated arrears of loan repayment instalment throughout the country as defaulted payments due to NHDA amounts to around Rs. 3,000 million.

The more it is recovered the higher will be the capability for NHDA to cater to the housing requirements of other homeless sections of the society. Therefore the NHDA is making every possible effort to recover the dues throughout island including North and East provinces.

Apart from the tsunami affected, the NHDA is implementing loans programmes to assist the other sections too to achieve their housing objectives. International organizations such as KFW and GTZ of Germany having confidence in NHDA for its experience on housing development for the last 25 years, have joined hands with it in tsunami housing reconstruction.

NHDA Deputy General Manager, Amarasinghe K. Jinadasa and Hambantota District Manager, K. W. J. Dias also spoke at this occasion and the staff who were directly responsible for recoveries were presented with awards.

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Soaring building costs hamper Sri Lanka donor effort

Reuters: COLOMBO, June 1 (Reuters) - Prices of building materials are rising sharply in Sri Lanka as aid agencies flock to rebuild the island's tsunami-ravaged coast and could translate into fewer houses being built, donors warned on Wednesday.

Some materials are scarce, a sales tax is compounding matters, and some donors worried that government bureaucracy will delay rebuilding have even resorted to buying land to build on rather than waiting for it to be allocated for free.

"The rise of prices is really very, very visible," Ivan Vuarambon Blas, acting Deputy Country Director or the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, told a news conference held by the government's tsunami reconstruction arm.

International donors have pledged around $3.0 billion in aid to help Sri Lanka rebuild towns and homes flattened by the tsunami -- which killed nearly 40,000 people along the Indian Ocean island's shores -- including pledges for around 97,000 permanent houses.

The government hopes the houses will be completed by early next year, but only a few hundred have been finished to date and some experts say it will likely take far longer.

In the meantime, over 11,000 families are still living in tents and camps along the south, east and northern coasts, while thousands more are living in wooden shacks or often stifling concrete temporary shelters.

"There is a VAT (sale tax) component, which essentially means with the cost escalation less houses ... we can put on the ground," said Ajith Gunawardena, Director of John Keells Holdings group, who helps administer the Galleon Tsunami Relief Fund.

"It's going to take up some of the funding," he added. "The scarcity of building materials and sand is something we'll have to deal with."

The government has struck a deal with cement companies to keep prices down and is mulling issuing new sand mining licenses to enable companies to mine sand from the sea, but timber, roofing and brick prices are rising.

"The escalation of the building materials is a serious concern," said Mano Tittawella, Chairman of state tsunami reconstruction agency the Task Force for Rebuilding the Nation.

"If the price escalations go beyond a certain point, the number of houses built will be less," he added.

Donors said another difficulty they face is the ethnic and religious community mix that will live in clusters of houses once built, given often strained relations between minority Tamils, Muslims and the majority Sinhalese.

"If we mix up too many communities...it can be a paradise, it can be a disaster," said Tissa Jinasena, managing director of Sri Lanka's leading solid rubber tyre maker Loadstar, which has set up a tsunami relief fund.

Some tsunami survivors are unhappy with land the government has earmarked for reconstruction, which donors say is sometimes too far inland for fishermen or unsuitable, he added.

"We are purchasing all our land (for reconstruction)," Jinasena said. "We are not waiting for the government, because we feel this will delay the project too long."

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Thursday, June 02, 2005

Achievements amongst the Challenges

UN OCHA Post-Tsunami Update - May 2005

The December 2004 tsunami provided unique challenges to the Sri Lankan Government and its people and the international community that has been assisting the country in its relief and recovery efforts. The relief phase, while not flawless, particulary given the extraordinary numbers of actors who responded to the Sri Lankan disaster, achieved most of its humanitarian objectives. Virtually all tsunami survivors have received food, shelter and medical assistance. Schools are back in session and recently the pace in construction of transitional shelters has picked up appreciably. Some of the bottlenecks regarding land allocation are now being resolved and soon the government will table its national reconstruction plan and the recovery phase will begin full force. Even given these achievements pressing relief needs still exist. Some tsunami-survivors remain in tents and are challenged by the monsoon flooding. Many remain unemployed and without immediate income-generating prospects. It is during this transitional period -- as the emergency relief phase winds down and before the reconstruction phase is in full gear - that all of us involved in responding must redouble our efforts to meet both the immediate needs and longer-term concerns of tsunami-affected communities. "Posttsunami Update," the first issue of which you hold in your hands, has been created to share some of the achievements and challenges of UN agencies as they support the Sri Lankan Government and its people in their tsunami relief and recovery efforts.

Miguel Bermeo
UN Humanitarian and Resident
Coordinator in Sri Lanka

Download the Update

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Rebuilding of tsunami damaged houses starts in Galle and Kattankudy

Daily News: 31/05/2005"

Rebuilding of the tsunami damaged houses under the UN-habitat program commenced recently in Galle and Kattandkudy. This program funded by the Government of Japan is implemented by the UN-Habitat in association with the Urban Development and Water Supply Ministry.

UN-Habitat has already identified nine locations within the Galle city for the rebuilding program and work has already commenced in three locations and work will be commenced shortly in other locations.

During the first phase of the program a total of 540 houses will be rebuild in Galle. In Katttandkudy work commenced in six settlements where 173 damaged houses will be rebuild under this program. The number of houses will be increased to 200 within the next two weeks.

Habitat will undertake similar projects in Batticoloa, Killinochichi and Jaffna. The rebuilding programme is implemented through the city offices, established under the UN-Habitat project for the Rebuilding of Community Infrastructure and Shelter.

The objectives of the project comprises immediate assistance to communities and local governments to restart functioning to assist communities rebuild their infrastructure and housing to begin normal life enabling them to recover from the trauma of tsunami.

Habitat will also assist communities to rebuild and repair their houses, community infrastructure, services and livelihoods.

Under this program the affected communities are encouraged to form their own Community Development Councils (CDC) to manage the reconstruction program. These councils will meet regularly and articulate their needs and priorities. The physical works thus identified will be carried out by the CDCs under community contracts with technical inputs from the staff of the local authority and the UN-Habitat.

At the inaugural ceremony held at Siyambalawatta, a badly damaged settlement within the Galle Municipal limits, the community leaders expressed their support for the participatory approach adopted by the Habitat.

Addressing the gathering City manager informed the community that more assistance could be obtained if the first stage could be completed successfully.

Government of Japan has pledged a total sum of US $ 3 million for this rebuilding program of the UN-Habitat.

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Sri Lanka's largest housing and construction exhibition in August

ColomboPage: 30/05/2005"

"Construction 2005", Sri Lanka's largest housing and construction exhibition, will be held on August 12-14.

The exhibition has been organized for the fifth consecutive year by the National Construction Association of Sri Lanka (NCASL) and will showcase the achievements of Sri Lanka’s construction industry.

“Construction 2005” is expected to bring together the entire value chain of the building and construction industry under a common roof. It will draw builders, architects, engineers, constructors, interior designers, and quantity surveyors, among many others, in what is expected to be the most comprehensive construction trade exhibition in the country.

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Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Building Capacity for an Integrated Approach to Planning - Interactive Model

Capacity Development for MDGs Development Gateway

The Millennium Institute’s Threshold 21 is a quantitative tool for integrated, comprehensive development and policy planning. The model is transparent, collaborative, interconnected, valid, and customizable. Its purpose is to support the larger process of planning by facilitating information collection and organization and analysis of development strategies. T21 is the culmination of over 20 years of work collecting, studying and developing respected models and related documentation.Each application of T21 is customized to meet the specific planning and analysis needs of a country or region. To date there are over 15 unique, customized T21 models with applications in both less-industrialized countries such as Malawi and Bangladesh and industrialized countries such as the United States and Italy. T21 produces results for key social, economic, and environmental indicators, including the Millennium Development Goals. From a capacity development point of view, its most attractive feature is the complete transfer of ownership to the national focal node once the relevant government (and non-government) staff are fully trained and capable of revising and modifying the model as needed. LINKS:
Threshold 21
"Building Capacity for an Integrated Approach to Planning: Threshold 21"
Millennium Institute
NEW! Please take the dgSurvey: "Aid Harmonization: What Will It Take to Meet the MDGs?"

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U.S. researchers design tsunami-resistant house

Reuters AlertNet - U.S. researchers design tsunami-resistant house: "26 May 2005 22:07:16 GMT

Source: Reuters

BOSTON, May 26 (Reuters) - U.S. researchers have designed a house they say is better able to withstand a tidal wave and are planning to build 1,000 of them in Sri Lanka, one of the countries hit by last year's deadly tsunami.

Carlo Ratti, a teacher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was at a wedding in Sri Lanka when the tsunami struck the region last December. When he returned to MIT, he worked on the design of the "tsunami-safe(r) house" with colleagues at his school, Harvard University and British engineering firm Buro Happold.

"The goal was low-tech construction with high-tech design," Ratti, a civil engineer who heads MIT's SENSEable City Laboratory, told Reuters on Thursday.

"We came up with a design that is five times stronger than traditional (Sri Lankan) houses."

SENSEable and the Prajnopaya Foundation, a Buddhist nonprofit group, plan to build about 1,000 of the houses in Sri Lanka. Using the same type of materials typically used in the construction of traditional Sri Lankan homes, the more robust structures consist of four reinforced concrete pillars supporting a tin or tile roof.

The open design is stronger, Ratti said, because it would not block the flow of water were another tsunami to hit.

"Four small cores are stronger than a big one," he said.

The tsunami killed more than 180,000 people throughout Asia, with nearly 40,000 dead or presumed dead in Sri Lanka.

It devastated much of the island's coast and 100,000 people still live in makeshift shelters nearly five months later.

"The problem in Sri Lanka is the government wants to relocate people from the coast further inland," Ratti said.

"This would come at a huge social, cultural, environmental and economic cost. So the aim of this project is to investigate technological strategies that could guarantee safety at lower cost," he said.

Each house would cost between $1,000 and $1,500 to build. "

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Successful fishing operations rely on appropriate boat design and construction.

FAO Fisheries Department Events - Highlights: "25 May 2005 -- Successful fishing operations rely on appropriate boat design and construction. For this, the FAO Fisheries Department's paper Fishing boat designs: 2 V-bottom boats of planked and plywood construction is proving to be a popular and recognized reference - it is presently the most downloaded document on the entire FAO Web site (and has been for the last 12 months!). The publication includes designs for 4 small wooden fishing vessels (5.2 to 8.5 metres), comprehensive material specifications and lists, and provides very complete building instructions. In Africa, Asia and the Pacific, probably more than 90% of small fishing vessels are built of wood. And with much of the current tsunami rehabilitation efforts focussing on boat reconstruction in order to help the hard-hit fisheries sector rebound, this publication is likely to remain in demand.

Related documents:

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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Will the UPFA’s "New Development Strategy" Work?

Sunday Island: 29/05/2005" By Mahoshada

Follow the Yellow Brick Road...

At the recent Development Forum the UPFA government rolled out its New Development Strategy. (It is available on-line at www.erd.gov.lk.) This document says many of the right things and is full of the essential buzz words. This is not surprising because the primary audience of this document is the donor community and the government knows well what these agencies want to hear. But it is the country that presumably has to live with the proposals being put forward. And it is the country that should be asking: Is it new? Does it actually amount to a strategy for development? Will it work?

Accelerating Economic Growth

The document begins with what is now an over-used clich`E9, the assertion that economic growth alone is not sufficient to ensure reduced poverty, that what is needed is "pro-poor" growth. There is however at least the implicit recognition that increased economic growth is necessary for reducing poverty; that the job cannot be done through redistribution alone.

To this end, the UPFA "targets" growth rates of 6 to 8 percent over the next five years. This is the linchpin of their strategy. But it is a simple matter to "target" a goal of higher growth — anyone can do that. It is quite a different matter to put in place the appropriate policies and programs to reach such a target. And it is fair to say that if this growth target is unlikely to be achieved, none of their other professed goals aimed at reducing poverty should be taken very seriously. We can go a long way towards judging the credibility of this document by what its proposals suggest about the prospects for increased economic growth.

What is needed for higher rates of economic growth? This question can be answered simply. To increase incomes the human and physical resources within the country have to be used more productively — to produce goods and services of greater value. To make this a bit more concrete, think of the country as a business enterprise which has available workers, buildings and machines and financial capital. This enterprise can grow in several ways. It can increase the total value of what it produces by shifting workers from producing low value goods to higher value goods. It can adopt more effective management techniques or gain access to new technologies, so that it becomes possible to produce more output with the same workers and equipment. Or it can grow by increasing additional resources beyond what it has currently at its disposal — by attracting new investment from other enterprises (countries) abroad. Like this enterprise, the country’s economy will grow only through some combination of a better allocation of resources, technological advances and increased investment.

Role of Government in Increasing Growth

Given that these are the means by which economic growth can be increased, it is worth considering what role the government can usefully play to this end. The government has the potential to influence how the private sector utilizes the resources it has available. If it chooses to do so the government can pick winners and losers and divert resources where it wishes. But does anyone honestly believe that the government has the expertise and capacity required to determine how resources throughout the economy can be most productively employed; what technological and management approaches would be most effective; or how to best attract substantially increased foreign investment? Of course not; past experience has made that clear. But this is one of the main pillars on which the UPFA’s New Development Strategy rests.

But the concerns about government’s role go beyond its lack of capacity to effectively manage the employment of non-government resources. The government is directly responsible for the utilization of nearly one quarter of the country’s total available productive resources, (i.e., 23.5 percent of GDP in 2004), including employment of over one million people.

By most accounts, virtually all government departments and state owned enterprises are burdened with two to three times the number of employees actually required. This means that as many as one-half million people or more could be shifted to work elsewhere in the economy without any loss of value in the output of government. The additional output produced by those people re-employed outside of the public sector would directly increase the country’s real income and add to real economic growth. Yet nowhere in the UPFA’s New Development Strategy are there any substantive proposals to significantly improve the efficiency of the public sector and/or to reduce the large numbers of under-employed workers and the extensive resources it now absorbs to more productive endeavors.

Cost of Living, Taxes and Fiscal Policies

There is probably no proposition that would get more widespread support by economists than maintaining stable prices and sound fiscal conditions are essential prerequisites for sustained economic growth. One of the reasons why the growth rate has declined since the 2004 election has been the reversal of the fiscal and monetary policies that had earlier led to reduced inflation and increased growth.

The UPFA’s strategy document says that it recognizes the importance of "implementing a sound monetary policy to contain inflation and encourage investment and domestic savings", (page 16). Does this mean that after one year in office they have come to see the error of their ways and now aim to follow a more sensible policy direction? Perhaps.

The unrelenting rise in the cost of living since April 2004, abating only momentarily in March as it does nearly every year, has been fueled by the excessive government spending and expansionary monetary policies ("printing money") adopted by the UPFA. The argument that this has all been a result of high international oil prices can be easily dismissed. Virtually all countries have faced the same rise in oil prices, but Sri Lanka has been nearly alone in seeing the advent of runaway inflation.

As an indication that the government intends to mend its ways, the strategy document indicates that the growth in the money supply will be cut by more than a quarter (i.e., from 20.9 percent in 2004 to 15.0 percent in 2005). This would require sharp increases in interest rates and amount to a remarkable change in course were it actually to take place. However, already nearly half way through this year there is little sign of such fundamental changes. Interest rates continue to be negative, well below the prevailing rate of inflation.

The fiscal policies reflected in the strategy document suggest substantial increases in taxes yet continued very high budget deficits for the next several years. Total taxes (revenues) would be increased by more than 25 percent over the next four years while expenditures would increase somewhat. As a result, the government is targeting its budget deficit to remain over 8 percent of GDP for the next two years and fall modestly to 6.7 percent in 2007. It is easy to forget that budget deficits of this magnitude are extremely high by international standards and are clearly not sustainable year after year.

However, experience suggests that such targets are never hit. Revenues are unlikely to grow this much this quickly. (There would be considerable adverse political fallout were it to happen.) And as usual, the deficit will likely exceed targeted levels.

But if the UPFA government were actually to be successful in diverting substantially larger shares of the country’s resources to the public sector, there can be little doubt that there would be negative impacts on economic growth. The public sector already absorbs too large a share of resources and is enormously unproductive in how these are employed. And the prospect of continued high budget deficits ensures not only that the country’s public debt will continue to grow well beyond manageable limits, but that the more productive private sector will find it difficult to get the resources needed to support increased economic growth.

A New Development Strategy?

Is there anything fundamentally new in this UPFA document? If there is anything genuinely new, it is not apparent. One can equally ask is there anything much different from the policies pursued by the earlier PA government? Other than the professed unwillingness to consider privatizing state owned enterprises there is almost nothing new. These are the policies that have been economic policies of the country for nine of the last eleven years with results that can be readily seen.

Does the UPFA’s New Development Strategy actually amount to an effective development strategy? We can get at the answer to this question by looking at what this strategy is likely to mean for economic growth. The strategy document itself makes clear that while increased growth may not be sufficient to reduce poverty, it is certainly necessary. As a result, the New Development Strategy targets economic growth of 6 to 8 percent; well above the average achieved over the last two decades. But increased economic growth requires employing the country’s resources in more productive ways, including shifting them to more productive activities; improving productivity through more efficient technologies and/or management practices; and/or attracting additional resources through increased investment. And unfortunately, there is little or nothing in this strategy that would lead one to expect these sorts of reforms that would support improvements in national productivity. Indeed, there is much that will almost certainly undermine productivity and with it economic growth, including the further expansion of the public sector.

So this document is neither new nor a development strategy that is going to lead to reduced poverty. Should we be surprised? Not really. This is a document whose primary function is to convince donors to continue lending money to the government, rolled out in time for the recent Development Forum. It is not a serious attempt to overcome the country’s economic challenges and will no doubt be forgotten once its purpose has been served. (Mahoshada@gmail.com)

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Expenditure tracking website of Tsunami Flash Appeal

Google Groups : Humanitarian Information Centre Sri Lanka (HIC)
Please find the new expenditure tracking website of the Tsunami Flash Appeal. http://ocha.unog.ch/ets
The site contains the expenditure information and links to narrative information provided so far by the UN Agencies as well as two NGOs. Agencies participating in the Flash Appeal who have not yet submitted their expenditure information and any necessary project updates to Robert Smith (smit...@un.org) are encouraged to do so. Please, use the standard provided formats for information submission.
-- Humanitarian Information Centre for Sri Lanka No. 12 Gower Street, Colombo-5 Tel:+94 (11) 2591118/1314 Fax: +94 (11) 258007 Email: HICSrilanka@gmail.com Website: http://www.humanitarianinfo.org/srilanka

Related Links
Whats new at HIC-Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka Development Forum
Centre for Non-Governmental Sector Applications Forms
OCHA Post-Tsunami Update - May

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Tsunami victims still wait for aid to arrive

Telegraph: 28/05/2005" By Peter Foster in Colombo

The generosity of millions of Britons who gave money to help the victims of the Boxing Day tsunami is being betrayed by Sri Lanka's army of bureaucrats.

They have reduced the international aid effort to "a complete and utter mess", The Daily Telegraph has established.

Five months after the tsunami struck, killing 40,000 and leaving 500,000 homeless in Sri Lanka, more than 100,000 of the poorest victims are still living in tents or crude temporary shelters.

Despite almost unlimited resources - the relief fund stands at more than £1.75 billion for Sri Lanka alone - victims are cooped up in camps waiting for news of progress that never seems to come.

Aid agencies keen to press on with rebuilding are being frustrated at every turn by the tangled and all-embracing bureaucracy of the central government. Shipping containers remain stuck at ports, vital building plans await approval and incompetent officials ignore the advice of specialists.

This week, as the first monsoon rains arrived, agencies were striving to move thousands of people out of their tents and into solid shelters before camp sites turned into quagmires.

After months during which the situation has deteriorated and no one has spoken out for fear of upsetting the highly sensitive government, the World Bank finally broke cover this week.

Praful Patel, its vice president, said: "There is impatience on the part of everybody, including the government and the donors, about the pace at which things are moving.

"The pledges that were made and the money that was made available are not moving fast enough."

A charity boss described the situation as "a complete and utter mess" which will deteriorate further if swift action is not taken to improve the flow of aid.

The case of Merlin, the charity backed by Telegraph readers, is typical of the daily frustrations that aid agencies encounter. Despite signing an agreement two months ago to rebuild seven health facilities, the government-appointed committees required to give the final say-so have yet to meet for the first time.

Michelle Brown, Merlin's tireless country director, spends her days grinding through the system.

"We are doing everything we can to move towards the building phase," she said. "We are making some progress but it is fair to say that things move slowly around here."

Corruption is also holding things up as cartels of builders demand exorbitant "UN prices" for work that should cost half as much. Charities face a tough choice: either pay the inflated rates or keep desperate families waiting for the houses and hospitals they so badly need.

The Irish Sri Lanka Trust Fund is even considering withdrawing its money after receiving a £300,000 VAT bill for engines to be fitted in 890 new fishing boats.

Chandre Monerawela, the trust's Sri Lankan-born director, said: "This hard-earned money was raised by schoolchildren and old folk to help the people of Sri Lanka. It was not raised for the Sri Lankan government to swipe 15 per cent for itself."

The almost 90,000 needed new permanent houses have been further held up by a decree forbidding any rebuilding within 100 yards of the coastline.

As well as the absurdity of fisherman being offered houses five miles inland, the rule has thrown up yet another impenetrable layer of bureaucracy for donors offering to build houses.

All plans must be approved by the excruciatingly slow offices of the urban development authority, whose officials often fail to attend meetings, according to an internal UN memo seen by the Telegraph.

The frustration among the victims is almost palpable as carpenters, masons and rickshaw drivers who once lived with dignity now sweat it out in tents and huts, waiting for promised ration coupons that often arrive late, if at all.

This morning Bill Clinton, the former American president and the UN's special envoy for tsunami recovery, arrives in Sri Lanka with a mission to encourage the government to buck up. However, no one is holding out much hope.

"The UN and the charities do not run this country," an official said. "The government does. We have to work at its speed, to its rules. At the moment I do not see much flexibility."

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Tighter monetary policy needed for post tsunami - IPS

Daily Mirror: 28/05/2005" By Sajeewan Wijewardana

Tighter monetary policies must be imposed by the Central Bank to prevent overheating of the economy with the increased inflow of foreign capital as part of the tsunami aid by foreign donors, the Institute of Policy Studies said yesterday.

The IPS in its latest publication stressed the need to strengthen the country's monetary position after the tsunami to handle and recover from the shock caused by the disaster, to manage the aid effectively, transparently, to avoid large-scale corruption, and secondly to ensure that the economy absorbs the aid inflows without undue pressure on domestic economic stability.

The latest publication "Phoenix from the Ashes? Policy changes and Opportunism for Post Tsunami Sri Lanka" was introduced yesterday at their head office in Colombo, and IPS Deputy Director and Research Fellow Dr. Dushini Weerakoon suggested several possible monetary policy responses to face these challenges in the post tsunami Sri Lanka.

She said that it was typical for economies struck by unexpected natural disasters to experience a brief deceleration in growth, followed by a rebound as a result of the stimulative effect of reconstruction. Most estimates suggest that economic growth in 2005 is likely to dip by about one percent as a result.

She said that the tsunami disaster occurred as the economy was showing signs of deceleration in GDP growth, with fourth quarter growth in 2004 declined to 4.4 per cent compared to 6.6 per cent growth in the fourth quarter of 2003.

"The primary focus centres on the potential problem that aid inflows appreciate the real exchange rate and thereby undermine the competitiveness of the export sector, a process known as the 'Dutch Disease'. The rupee had depreciated by over 7.7 percent against the US dollar from the beginning of 2004 to mid December 2004, and in the backdrop of the disaster and the provision of aid, the rupee appreciated by over 5.7 percent the week following the disaster," she said.

The report states that as capital flows in, the required real exchange rate appreciation can come about through an appreciation of the nominal exchange rate, a reduction in the level of net trade taxes or through an increase in the nominal price of non-traded (domestically produced) goods and services. If either of the first two mechanisms is induced, the overall price level in the country will fall, whilst with the third mechanism it will rise.
Tighter monetary...
Contd from page 1
In the case of the latter, increased inflows of aid are likely to raise the demand for both imports and domestically produced goods and services. While imports can be acquired directly from the world market at fixed world prices, non trade-ables can, by definition, only be supplied by the domestic economy. Unless there is considerable excess supply in the economy, the higher demand for domestic goods will result in an increase in their prices to induce the necessary supply response. Simply put, the real exchange rate (i.e., the price of non-tradable relative to tradable goods) must appreciate to induce the switching of resources from producing trade-ables (i.e., exportable and import substituting goods) to producing non-tradable goods and services. In the process, the real exchange rate appreciates and the tradable goods sector contracts relative to the non-tradable sector. While debt relief and initial aid flows can be expected to have a positive impact in the short run on the currency, particularly because it is a very thin market, there is a danger of an element of overshooting both in equity and currency markets fed by unwarranted expectations. The macroeconomic impact of large aid inflows would depend on the size of the flows, the import composition of the use of these flows and whether these flows are spent effectively and productively. If the aid inflows place pressure on the exchange rate, the effects could be minimized through monetary and exchange rate policies (since tightening fiscal policy is not an immediate option). Permitting a nominal appreciation in line with a ‘free float’ insulates the money supply but can induce volatile movements in the real exchange rate.

To smooth over volatility and stabilize the exchange rate, the Central Bank can intervene to increase its holdings of foreign exchange reserves. But rising net foreign assets in turn become a major source of money supply growth. In order to prevent consequent overheating of the economy and the real exchange rate appreciation-taking place through higher domestic inflation (excessive credit creation), the government can resort to sterilization of the domestic monetary expansion. In effect, it calls for tightening monetary policy in line with capital inflows. Such a policy mix is feasible given that Sri Lanka does not have a fully liberalized capital accounts. Nevertheless, given that a significant volume of credit is expected to be channelled for reconstruction (some at concessionary rates of interest) calls for a phased absorption of aid if the economy is not to be destabilized by rising inflation, the report said.

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Monday, May 30, 2005

Poverty Reduction Strategies and the MDG on Environmental Sustainability

Poverty Reduction Strateg... Water Development Gateway: "About 50 countries have prepared interim and full Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs). In this context, this paper examines Millennium Development Goal (MDG)7: Ensuring Environmental Sustainability, its targets and indicators, and responds to three questions: To what extent do PRSPs define and adopt targets and indicators that align with those of MDG7? To what extent do the available data allow tracking of progress with respect to MDG7? When data are available, what are the trends, and how can the data be effectively utilized to examine the status and trends of countries in relation to MDG7?

Read this resource

Related links"

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Nation-building with proper disaster management

Daily News: 26/05/2005" by Seetha Wijewardena, President, Sri Lanka Women Lawyers' Association

Our most pressing issue of peace has now been doubled by a natural disaster which has led to a two-fold nation-building program. It has forcefully entered to the discussion table. Peace and nation-building have become the main issues in focus. Peace and harmony was the main issue among other issues, up to December 26, 2004.

The major disaster has given more responsibility to rulers and panic to the public. Where do we stand? How would we manage the process of rebuilding our nation? are vital questions. Spinning in the right direction is mainly in the hands of the government.

After a tsunami attack of this magnitude where so many lives have been lost, the setting up of a Disaster Management Unit is of prime importance.

It should be manned by absolute professionals as, disaster management cannot be worked out by trial and error. Hence it should be a flawless effort, it is now the most appropriate time to install this unit in a well organised manner. This unit should be on the basis of the following framework.

It could be implemented as the central Disaster Management Authority (DMA) with a Director General as its head who will be responsible to the Head of State, with a team of consultants.

This unit should operate round the clock. The specially selected professional staff should be responsible to the controlling council - the decision making body under the Head of State. The controlling council which will be appointed will work under the Head of State and should consist of representatives of the Urban Development Authority, Police Department, Public Administration, Ministry of Justice and last but not least the Ministry of Education.

Sub committees may be appointed for the following categories, such as, water, electricity and other needs. Geological department, Provincial Councils, religious organisations, professional services, such as doctors, accountants, engineers, administrators, lawyers, ecologists, and volunteers are to be utilised for work.

The local and provincial governments will play a major role in coordination and support to the professionals. Now that Sri Lanka is no more earthquake-free, such committees and organisations should meet at least once a month to discuss strategy in case of emergency. Here it is prudent to have volunteers so that a mobilisation can be effected at short notice.

Mobilisation of action and implementation has to be properly monitored with officers in charge who will have access to field officers who will be properly identified.

In the disbursement of local and foreign funds, financial control of donated funds, private donations from recognised and registered social and welfare authorities and civil society collections and distribution can lead to mismanagement and or even misappropriation. Acceptance of funds direct by the victims or their controlling bodies has to be properly managed too. Unless a fine management is carved out there can be undue enrichment of some.

Areas and strategy

In any affected area, banking management units, evaluation committees and appropriate distribution should be effected. A funding control unit in the Disaster Management Authority is now an immediate necessity. Even for the receipt of funds and aid, by the Government or any other respective bodies.

Funds coming direct to the Government should be made known to the Disaster Management Authority through the Central Bank controlling unit, as we are aware funds utilised by the NGOs should be followed by project reports with provisions for administrative costs, which should be reported to DMA.

When the Central Disaster Management Authority identifies requirements they may have the unattended areas available for development. This could avoid conflicts and clashes in service activities.

Some requirements are:

* Development of physical and material areas.

* Development of industries.

* Eradication of health hazards and environmental problems.

* Development of the mindset of people on safety and precautions.

* Eradicating trauma.

Major requirements such as water, electricity, housing, health and education should be dealt with properly.

The following are also necessary:

* Forum for humanitarian development.

* Special unit for women and children and their psychological development, with proper protection.

* Property disputes settlement.

* Replacement of lost industries, occupations etc.

* Introduction of new methods of living.

* Personality and courage building by counselling.

* Faster mobilisation.

Quick action is required on the following:

1. Refurbishing of industries.

2. Adoption of a proper transportation system.

3. Eradicate crimes affecting victims of tsunami.

4. Improvements in health and hygiene.

5. Steps to avoid kidnapping or illegal adoption.

6. Make aware of misguidance.

7. Demarcation of boundaries.

8. Create areas for occupations or substantial income generating methods.

9. Fast settlements for various problems.

10. Physiological therapies.

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The 100-metre rule – What’s the logic?

The Island: 26/05/2005" By Dr. Kingsley A. de Alwis, Fellow of the Academy of Sciences of Sri Lanka

Many articles and letters to the editor have appeared in the newspapers over the past few months regarding the pros and cons of the 100-metre rule on reconstruction of buildings damaged by the tsunami of 26 December 2004. Unfortunately, this problem, like most other public issues in Sri Lanka, has got highly politicised. Each party seems to regard it as an opportunity to fish for votes. Moreover, even if a political party is convinced that a change of policy is needed, it is seen as a loss of face to revise its position in public. Even more tragic is the way in which the controversy over the 100/ 200 metre rule has clouded more urgent and fundamental issues that need to be tackled if we are to recover quickly and come out stronger as a nation from this disaster.

This letter is addressed to decision makers in the government and opposition, who are sincerely interested in understanding the salient facts regarding the tsunami disaster and its aftermath. It is also aimed at providing an objective basis for developing policies for recovery from this disaster that are in the interests of the nation and the victims of the tsunami. It does not take pre-determined positions or enter into polemics about who is to blame for the present situation. Decision makers would find it a useful backdrop for planning the recovery effort on an objective scientific basis. The material in the background section is drawn from a number of existing published documents, too numerous to mention.


Sri Lanka’s coastline extends over a distance of about 1,585 kilometres. It includes a wide range of geomorphic features and provides a variety of tropical habitats such as lagoons, estuaries, wetlands, mangrove swamps, salt marshes, sea grass beds; coral reefs, sand dunes, barrier beaches, and spits. The coast is one of Sri Lanka’s most important natural assets. This meeting place of land and sea possesses distinctive landforms, flora and fauna, combining to create a unique scenic appeal and recreational prospects not available elsewhere. The coast also links various forms of land and sea transport with commercial activities.

The coastal zone accounts for about one third of the country’s population and one fourth of the total land area. The main economic activities of this population are fishery, tourism and industries. Marine fishery accounts for 97% of the country’s fish production. Some 800,000 persons derive their livelihood from economic activities in this zone.

The increasing population in coastal areas has created many problems for the coastal environment, including coastal erosion, degradation of valuable coastal habitats, and resource use conflicts. A key coastal management problem is coastal erosion resulting both from the natural action of tidal waves and currents and from human causes such as ill-designed coastal erosion protection works and coral mining. Shoreline erosion has resulted in damage to or loss of hotels and other buildings near the shoreline, destruction of coastal vegetation, deterioration of fish breeding environments and disruption of recreation. The most severe effects of shoreline erosion are seen in Sri Lanka's western and south-western coastal areas.

Moreover, the concentration of population in Sri Lanka's coastal areas has contributed to the increased rate of degradation of valuable coastal habitats, such as mangrove forests, small lagoons, coral reefs, and sea grass beds, that eventually causes collapse of local fisheries. Coral and sand are mined for construction and other purposes. Most of the coral mining has occurred along the southwest coast. Sand is mined from river mouths such as the Kelani River and dunes along beaches such as the Uswetakeiyawa area, contributing to instability of the rivers and entire beach areas. Urban development and industrial activities also threaten other natural settings such as those of Hikkaduwa and Rekawa Lagoon.

With the intention of halting this continued deterioration of the coastal zone environment, the government established a Coast Conservation Department (CCD) within the Ministry of Fisheries in 1978, and enacted a Coast Conservation Act in 1981. The Act required the CCD to prepare a coastal zone management plan (CZMP) and stipulated that all development activities in the coastal zone be subject to permits issued by the CCD. One of the main elements of the CZMP was a national permit-issuing program, which required construction setbacks within the 300-meter coastal zone. The permit system became an effective and controversial tool for achieving the programme's limited management goals.

The enforcement of the coastal setback provisions was criticised by the tourist industry and CCD held an open forum and workshop that brought together government officials and the private sector to review the regulations. The resulting compromises were incorporated into the revised CZM program.

The CCD undertook a more comprehensive CZM program in January 1986, with financial and technical assistance from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the University of Rhode Island's Coastal Resources Centre (CRC). The program focused on four key issues in a narrowly defined coastal strip:

* shorefront development,

* coastal erosion,

* habitat loss, and

* the decline of recreational and cultural sites.

The first generation effort was designed to reduce coastal erosion through a combined effect of the regulatory program (coastal permit applications primarily for house construction and sand mining), an extensive program of public education, and the construction of some coastal protection works. As of 1991, the most high profile measure adopted in the Sri Lanka CZM program was a complete ban on coral mining except for research purposes. Enforcement of this measure and its effects on the livelihood of coral miners was the most difficult challenge faced by the CZM program.

The CCD continues to make various efforts to resolve coastal management issues by pursuing local support. In 1990, in a provincial-level program titled "Implementation of CZM Plan," and in 1995, in a local-level program called "Preparation of Special Area Management Plan," residents were encouraged to become actively involved in the decision and implementation of the coastal zone management program. This bottom-up approach was designed to make the local community "fully aware of and integrated into the planning effort so that it is truly participatory."

In 1991, the Sri Lanka National Coastal Zone Management Plan was formally adopted by the government and CCD staff began to develop a broader and more integrated approach to coastal management. The result was a strategic plan called Coastal 2000: Recommendations for a Resource Management Strategy for Sri Lanka's Coastal Region. Coastal 2000 recommends a "two-track" approach, in which plans are implemented simultaneously at both the national and local levels. One of the initiatives implemented in the revised CZM program has been the Special Area Management (SAM) Plan which residents would be actively involved in both design and implementation. By the end of 1992, two sites were chosen for SAM programmes: Hikkaduwa, known for its coastal tourism and marine sanctuary, and Rekawa Lagoon, important for its local fisheries, mangroves, beaches and agriculture.

SAM plans provide a bottom-up strategy for managing coastal resources that complements the existing top-down regulatory approach in Sri Lanka. They allow for intensive, comprehensive management of coastal resources in a well-defined geographic setting (as contrasted with a use-by-use regulation-by-permit approach). Participation by community residents or stakeholders in planning and management is central to the SAM concept.

After the Tsunami

As a knee-jerk reaction to the tsunami, the government announced a series of decisions regarding the rebuilding of houses and other structures that had been destroyed.

* It was reported on the January 3, that the government has banned building construction over a distance of 100 metres from the coast.

* The UDA chairman has reportedly said that houses and tourist hotels within 100 metres of the coast will have to be removed as they are likely to be in danger in the future.

* It was subsequently reported that the Cabinet had decided not to permit new houses or buildings within 300 metres from the beach.

* This was followed by a statement from the Secretary Ministry of Urban Development according to which all structures excluding essential buildings like ports and harbours would be moved out of the 300 metre coastal buffer zone.

* The latest in the process of government decision-making is to declare a coastal buffer zone of 100 metres with restrictions on construction within the next 200 metres in the South and a coastal buffer zone of 200 metres in the North and East.

The government’s position regarding the no-build zone is still unclear as it speaks with different voices on the subject, or gives different opinions with the same voice on different days. On the other hand, the UNP’s voice is very clear, it wants to fish in troubled waters and to make political capital of the issue with the hope of capturing some votes. The JVP is silent on the issue. The LSSP is for the no-build zone but against the manner in which the government is implementing it. And finally, the Tigers have said that the 200-meter buffer zone proposed by the Government was not enough for the North-East especially for Mullaitivu, where a 300 metre buffer zone should be maintained. In the Eastern Province, the Muslims see this as a sinister plot by the LTTE to get them out of the coastal areas.

What about the situation in India?

The situation in India is guided by the Chennai Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ). It divides the coastal zone into three sub-zones:

CRZ I : This covers areas that are ecologically sensitive, like the zone between low and high tides. No new construction is permitted here except if extremely critical.

CRZ II: This sub-zone covers areas that have already been well developed with all infrastructure like roads, sewerage lines, water supply pipes, etc. Usually, these are areas within urban and municipal limits. No new construction is permitted on the seaward side of the road and reconstruction of existing structures is restricted.

CRZ III: This covers areas that are relatively undisturbed, which do not fall under the zones mentioned above. Here, up to 200 metres is a no-development zone, while 200 to 500 metres can be used for hotels and beach resorts. Fishermen’s rights to build small huts are honoured. The Chennai government is presently discussing the desirability of extending the limit of the no-development zone, CRZ III, to 500m.

Facts to be considered in a Coastal Zone Conservation Policy

1. Many houses were situated beyond 100 metres line from the shoreline but this did not save them from being completely destroyed and their occupants from being killed by the tsunami

2. Likewise, many houses within the 100m distance from the shore were not seriously affected by the tsunami.

3. Careful study of the tsunami damage using satellite photography shows that the distance traveled inland and the level of destruction by the tsunami were related to the adjacent undersea contours and the on-land contours, rather than simply by the distance from the shoreline.

4. This is the first tsunami to strike Sri Lanka in many centuries, and the probability is that there will not be another one for a long period on the same time scale.

5. So, there is no scientific justification for the tsunami to be used as a reason for having a 100 or 200 metre reservation.

On the other hand, there are more compelling, permanent reasons for having a coastal reservation, viz:

1. The coastal zone, including the estuaries, is ecologically very sensitive and can be irreparably damaged by

* waste water from homes,

* effluents from industries,

* septic tank construction,

* interference with coastal vegetation (e.g. burning of mangroves)

* interference with coastal fauna (e.g. collection of turtle eggs)

* throwing of non-biodegradable garbage.

Consequently, it is necessary to have some controls on establishment of residences and other buildings and activities in this zone.

2. It is also desirable to have coastal reservation for economic reasons. Tourism is a significant contributor to the country’s economy. Last year it directly accounted for 4.6% of GDP and 303,150 jobs. If the broader Tourism and Travel economy is considered, it accounted for 10.8% of GDP and 720,500 jobs. Tourism is also the fifth largest foreign exchange earner, with the potential to become the second largest after foreign remittances. It is the beauty of the coastline and the beaches that attract tourists – not only the hotels. Cluttering up and hiding the coastline with shanties and unsightly construction is no the way to attract more tourists.

3. The aesthetic beauty of the Sri Lankan coastline is another major reason for having a beach reservation. As Sri Lankans, it is our heritage to enjoy the unrivalled splendor of our beaches, as well as the other beautiful parts of the country. It adds to our quality of life when we can feast our eyes even when driving by on coastal roads, instead of seeing only the slums and urban ugliness that previously occupied the areas immediately adjacent to the beach.

4. Rising sea levels due to global warming would also make some of the tsunami-affected areas liable to damage from tidal waves and sea erosion. This would require some consideration in deciding on the area to be reserved.

What should we do?

The question is what should we do now? What areas should be reserved to cater to the requirements mentioned above? What should be the government’s policy regarding resettlement of displaced persons?

1. The first step would be to set up a task force of experts to study the different needs for which a reservation is required (excluding tsunami protection) and develop a clear coastal zone conservation policy and regulations. These should guide the planning for resettlement of those whose homes and business premises have been destroyed by the tsunami. Preferably, the coastal zone should be divided into three sub-zones as India has done, and regulations and guidelines provided for each of them. These would involve specifying building codes for essential buildings in each zone.

2. The second step would be to empower and help local communities to develop their own policies and systems for protection against future disasters. This should be applicable to communities everywhere, not just those who have been hit by the tsunami. Within the guidelines of the new coastal zone conservation policy, decisions on where to resettle the people should be left to the local communities. A good example of such a policy developed by local people is that suggested by some people from Matara town (See box below). The suggestions include construction of a protective dam from Brown’s Hill to Totamuna (as is done in certain Japanese and low-lying European cities), establishment of an effective disaster warning system, and designing an evacuation plan.

3. The third step is to implement the law and regulations on coastal, road and railway reservations without fear or favour, but in a humane way. Compensation should be paid up-front on a replacement value basis to those having to move in order to implement these regulations. This policy is now accepted by the Government and is being applied successfully in the Southern Highway Project. In the meanwhile, temporary resettlement in their original locations should be allowed.

The Author is a retired Senior Adviser (Agriculture) in the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome, Italy.

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Seminar on tsunami affected legal issues for district officers

Daily Mirror: 26/05/2005"

The Legal Aid Commission (LAC) in co-ordination with Ministries of Justice and Judicial Reform and Public Administration and Home Affair will conduct a seminar on Tsunami Legal Awareness for Divisional Secretaries, Additional District Secretaries and District Secretaries totalling 188, dealing with different legal aspects relating to rehabilitation of tsunami affected persons.

This programme is a sequel to the Provincial Grama Niladhari Programmes conducted by the LAC in Kalutara, Galle, Hambantota and Ampara Districts. For the scheduled conference, district officials from the North-East, Southern and Western Provinces have been invited.

Prime Minister, Mahinda Rajapakse and the Minister of Public Administration, Amarasiri Dodangoda have been invited to inaugurate the Conference. Chairman, Legal Aid Commission, S.S.Wijeratne, LAC Commissioner, Rohan Sahabandu, Senior Assistant Secretary, Ministry of Justice, Ms. Kamalini de Silva and other Legal experts will speak on international principles on internally displaced persons, Tsunami Special Provisions Law, Special Mediation of Tsunami Disputes and other legal aspects relating property disputes.

The Programme is supported by Asia Foundation.

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Sunday, May 29, 2005

Some proposals for the expansion of higher education

Daily News: 26/05/2005" by Prof. S. P. Samarakoon, Faculty of Science, University of Ruhuna, Matara

Expansion of higher education should always focus on the causes of youth unemployment and employment. Sri Lanka's youth (both teenage and young adult) were roughly 20% (3.8 million) of the entire population in 1997.

A majority of them is in the rural sector (over 75% during the 1963-2000 period), while the Western Province, which as a whole now considered as almost urban and sub-urban, claimed to nearly a third of this population in 1995.

The spatial distribution of youth corresponds very closely to that of the population as a whole. Similarly the ethnic composition of the youth population corresponds closely to the ethnic composition of the total population. About 74% of the youth are Sinhalese, 12.7% are Sri Lankan Tamils, 5% are Indian Tamils and 7.4% are Muslims.

These factors should be focused as the solid foundation to the expansion areas of education in Sri Lanka. Wide gaps, inequalities, and disparities in education between cities and rural areas, and between rich and poor are considered as inherent characteristics of our education system and have been identified as issues of national interest.

Through higher education, the majority rural teenagers and young adults should be exposed to the modern life found not only in Colombo but also in other countries at least that of India. I expect by such methods they themselves would bring new science and technology necessary for the development of rural areas of this country, rather than hanging to their own areas listening to brain-washing ideologies of political day dreamers.

For better results such exposures should also be available for diverse ethnic, religious, political and other relevant communities including the university staff in less developed areas of the country. Certain amount of skills in advanced societies (e.g. communication skills, knowledge in English, Sinhalese, and Tamil languages) is essential to be delivered to rural and under-privileged classes and communities of Sri Lankan society.

During the last five decades after independence we totally depended on foreign technology and completely disregarded our own technologies evolved through several thousand years of our history, which we boast as, the longest continually written history in the world. Expansion of higher education should consider the scientific technologies behind,

a) How the giant "Ruwanweliseya" in Anuradhapura (3rd century B.C.), Jetawanaramaya and many other buildings were built?

b) How the sapling of the historic sacred Bo-sapling (Ficus religiosa) was brought, planted and maintained up to the present day?

c) How the giant reservoirs were built?

d) How "Sigiriya", the famous 8th wonder of the world was built?

e) How the best steel (suitable for making swords) of the world was made?

f) How our ancient doctors (Rishis) cured ailments of the people as well as of the animals such as the cobra?

g) How they cultivated their lands with minimal damage to the environment?

h) How they built their ships? ..... And so on.

Apart from the practice of Indigenous System of Medicine other ancient sciences and technologies are hardly used and hardly known. Our present knowledge on the ancient system of science and technology is apparently confined to the archaeological studies. The exposition of such knowledge and resources would certainly support not only Sri Lankan society, but the world at large. As such I propose to expand our university and higher education based on our ancient knowledge.

As we had long ago we need to allow re-establishment of "Kamhalas" (literally means a blacksmith's workshop, a place where all tools necessary for day-to-day life, agriculture, and war were manufactured and maintained by the well trained "Kammalkaraya" or blacksmith) in every village of the country. They made their own iron and steel from commonly found iron ore in many areas of the country (e.g., "Dela" area in Ratnapura District). Today we can make use of the modern science to enhance the knowledge of our ancient science and the ancient science for further enhancement of modern science.

As a solution to the inadequate medical personnel and the high demand for education it is very essential to gear the higher education to develop the indigenous system of medicine which still caters for nearly 80% of the population and becoming highly popular among the Westerners; we should not forget that at the time of the recent devastating tsunami an ex-chancellor of Germany was rescued when he was trapped in tsunami while he was taking Sinhalese medication at a hotel in Galle! Proper status must be given to this system of medication and popularized among the students opting for university education.

Today, the practitioners of the indigenous system of medicine are becoming richer and richer (good sign) and people all over the world are keeping more and more confidence on it. What may be expected from the World Bank is some support to organize and popularize it (How about an MOU between Sri Lanka and India for this important cause). Internationalization of such educational institutions is also important in addition to the expansion of higher education not only for the local people, it would also cater for the entire world and also earn valuable foreign exchange for the country.

Further expansion of Western medical system is also important in addressing the issues of insufficient doctors and paramedical personnel. It is necessary to establish institutions to produce degree level nurses, and medical technicians etc to cater to the needs of the country. In such educational institutions it is always beneficial to have international windows, cooperation, and student exchange programs.

Advanced scientific theoretical and practical education at the university level is basically taught in the engineering faculties. In a country where so more developments are yet to come, such as road, electricity, reservoir dams, and the production of vehicles and other machineries, skills in various fields of engineering are very essential.

As such it is essential to expand the engineering sector education at the level of higher education particularly in the universities. I am sure when real development programs commence we may have to hire engineers from other countries as what is happening in the Middle-East countries. Re-building of the tsunami affected areas would continue for at least 15-20 years; engineers must be employed in developmental projects associated with the tsunami. So far we have engineering faculties in three conventional universities (Peradeniya, Moratuwa, and Ruhuna). Engineering student numbers in these universities are limited and less than 1000 per year. It is important to find ways for employability of student numbers.

Sri Lanka has been an agricultural country since ancient time. We produce agricultural graduates from the Universities of Peradeniya, Jaffna, Ruhuna, Rajarata, Eastern, Sabaragamuwa and Wayamba. It is unfortunate to understand that certain agriculture graduates are not employed and majority of those engaged are employed in sectors other than agriculture.

Certainly there is a big problem here probably similar to the other sectors. I think the whole university education for agriculture must be revamped and modernized so as to cater for the needs of the country. During the past decade the cost of production and the market value of almost all agricultural produce are becoming unbearable to the farmers and the customers respectively. Reforms in the higher education in agriculture are heavily needed after analyzing the problems associated with the crisis.

Computer Science and technology is one of the fast developing fields in the world. During the last decade Sri Lanka also showed the popularity of this important field. Development occurred mainly in the low levels and our computer skills are limited to assembling computers and also to a certain extent the utilization of already available software.

Expansion of computer based studies at the university level and other further education institutes should focus on the production of computer accessories, robot industry and synthesis of pure silicon. Research and studies should commence with the assistance of similar organizations in India, Japan, Singapore, and the USA. Since this is a highly demanding international field both Sri Lankan and foreign students could be enrolled and further a program can be developed as a self sustainable discipline.

Higher education should also be expanded for sports such as cricket, foot ball, athletics, gymnastics etc. They must be taught as scientific disciplines in the universities and other similar institutions. Skills in sports plus basic qualifications applied to conventional universities could be used to select students to such university/ college.

Training in basic fundamental science is essential for all students following further and university courses. Most of the public, including many media personnel, are not even aware of the real scientists of the country. This is the real status of science in our country. Science is taught in our universities and schools to show the world that we also have science, we also use science, and we also have institutions to teach science.

To harvest the real power of science we have to reorganize our education system suitable to our national needs, for example, to solve our own problems rather than the problems of the funding countries. I am not blaming the funding countries; I really appreciate them, because since national authorities are generally failing in finding our own problems (national needs) and rather reluctant to request help from our own scientists for probable unknown reasons to find ways to solve the problems and pay them appropriately.

Under such circumstances our scientists find greener pastures in other countries while foreign experts suck what our country receive as developmental aid. Higher education must be expanded with the objective of popularizing and nationalizing modern science.

Many students should be absorbed and expansion of higher studies must be available in following new areas of study in the universities and other institutions.

a) Military studies: Military is one of our largest employers and expansion of this category is essential from the security point of view of the country, South Asian Region , as well as the whole world. Its services could be available for the world and the part of money generated could be used for the sustainability of the military system.

Advanced scientific knowledge and experience obtained in such studies would be appreciated by the international organizations such as the UN.

b) Although Sri Lanka is an island, and we have an ocean around it only the University of Ruhuna has a department for Fisheries Science.

It is apparent that the prominence given to this valuable field is grossly inadequate. Fisheries I suppose, can contribute vastly to the economy of the people and the country. Expansion of this sector of higher studies is very much needed and immediate action should be taken to expedite this process by increasing the student numbers, establishing separate institution such as faculties of fisheries, and improving the knowledge and quality of life of the stakeholder such as the fishermen.

c)Vastly relevant other areas of study include ship building, aircraft building, Oceanography, tourism/ Eco-tourism, Gemmology, Mineralogy, Wildlife, and Management of Natural disasters.

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Data on tsunmami recovery needs in Sri Lanka

ReliefWeb: Source: Agence France-Presse (AFP), Date: 23 May 2005

The island suffered an estimated one billion dollars in direct losses, while reconstruction costs are pegged at 1.5 billion dollars. The latter amount is equivalent to seven percent of Sri Lanka's GDP.

About 450 million of the damages involve "social sectors" such as housing, and nearly 300 million for the tourism industry.

One hundred thousand homes have been destroyed.

Some 516,150 people are affected by the disaster, and most of them are displaced.
Complete article..

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CB warns dangers of delay in tsunami funds: Impact on Balance of Payments, Budget and reconstruction work

Daily Mirror: 25/05/2005"

Central Bank has at the recently concluded Development Forum in Kandy warned the donor community of the donor forum highlighted the adverse implications of delay in the mobilisation of funds for urgent post tsunami reconstruction.

However at the conclusion of the Development Forum, the Government said that donor community has committed or pledged US$ 3 billion worth of assistance for the post tsunami relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction work. Of this amounts the country has benefitted from over US$ 500 million either through grants or debt relief. The Government also said that over 90% of the pledges or commitments were in the grant form.

Central Bank said any delay in the mobilization of funds will have adverse implications on external reserves as reconstruction process will have to proceed without delays. It also warned that the delays in the mobilisation of donor assistance at concessional terms would compel the government to increase domestic borrowings or raise external financing on commercial terms and conditions as these expenditure cannot be postponed. "High domestic borrowings will crowd out resources available for the private sector for investment and create further inflationary pressures," the Bank said.

"If the expected donor assistance is mobilized fully according to the expectations, the BOP will record surpluses and country’s reserve position would be strengthened as a part of inflows for reconstruction would be spent domestically," the Central Bank said.

Following is the summary of the presentation on "Post tsunami reconstruction and the macro economic assessment made by Central Bank's Assistant Governors R.A. Jayatissa and Dr. H N Thenuwara.

Although the GDP growth for 2005 has been projected to slowdown to around 5.5 per cent due to impact of tsunami, faster implementation of reconstruction plans could reach GDP growth towards 6 per cent. Inflation is expected to be somewhat high during the reconstruction phase due to excess demand for goods and services related to reconstruction, high oil prices and other demand pressures. Appropriate monetary policy measures will be taken to contain inflationary expectations.

Reconstruction process will have a significant impact on the balance of payments. Import expenditure will increase substantially widening the trade deficit. Earnings from tourism are expected to decline in 2005 reducing the surplus in the service account. The expected higher grants to the current transfers account would partly offset the impact of worsening trade and service accounts on the current account balance. The resulting widened current account deficit creates a significant financing gap in the BOP. The debt relief has helped reduce the gap to around US dollar 500 million for 2005. However, the gap is expected to be higher in 2006 and beyond without the continued debt relief and also faster progress in the reconstruction phase during 2006. These gaps are expected to be financed fully through donor assistance. As per information from the External Resources Department, donors have already pledged around US dollars 1.0 billion including reallocation of funds from other projects. However, any delay in the mobilization of funds will have adverse implications on external reserves as reconstruction process will have to proceed without delays. If the expected donor assistance is mobilized fully according to the expectations, the BOP will record surpluses and country’s reserve position would be strengthened as a part of inflows for reconstruction would be spent domestically.

It has been estimated that the tsunami related expenditure will increase the budget deficit by 2 per cent of GDP to 9.6 per cent of GDP in 2005 and by a higher margin in 2006. The additional financing requirement is expected to be financed largely through outright grants and highly concessional loans so that the impact of higher external financing on public debt could be minimised. The level of public debt has already risen to 107 per cent of GDP at end 2004. The delays in the mobilisation of donor assistance at concessional terms would compel the government to increase domestic borrowings or raise external financing on commercial terms and conditions as these expenditure cannot be postponed. High domestic borrowings will crowd out resources available for the private sector for investment and create further inflationary pressures.

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