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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 11, 2005

More on Sethusamudaram

Dealing with the Tsunami::
Dr. Ramesh Radhakrishnan of Tamil Nadu, India, has put together a rich site on the real dangers that Sethusamudaram poses to Western Sri Lanka and Southern Tamil Nadu and Kerala coasts - please see

http://www.manisanga.blogspot.com/

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SL government decides to continue with the five thousand Rupee dole to the tsunami victims.

Asia Tribune: Date : 2005-06-10, Sunil C. Perera in Colombo

Colombo, 10 June, (Asiantribune.com): The Government of Sri Lanka has decided to continue the payment of a five thousand rupee allowance to tsunami displaced families.

Secretary to the Ministry of Finance, P.B. Jayasundera revealed this at a meeting held at the Galle district secretariat on Thursday .

It was also decided to release 250 thousand rupee housing loan from state banks to the displaced families if they decide to rebuild their houses beyond the one hundred meter buffer zone.

The families who have received housing loans from NGOs are also entitled to this loan scheme. Mr. Jayasundera also added that tsunami relief programmes will be carried out uninterrupted for three years.

However, in last three months, the distribution of aid, housing loans for the tsunami victims were disrupted due to the legal barriers in southern Sri Lanka.

Tsunami victims in the Galle district alleged that the government and or other relevant authorities have yet to attend to their needs even after five months of the tsunami disaster.

Their main concern is to get permanent houses. They are still living in the dilapidated tents. “In rainy days we can’t live in these tents,’ said the victims, who are still living way below the poverty line.

- Asian Tribune -

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Scientists give new Sumatra quake warning.

ABC News Online: The Indonesian island of Sumatra, smashed by a tsunami and shaken by an enormous earthquake in the past six months, is now at risk from two potentially major quakes, one of which could generate waves 10 metres high, seismologists warn.

The research team is headed by the same expert who predicted with uncanny accuracy a quake that struck Sumatra on March 28, barely three months after the December 26 temblor, one of the biggest earthquakes ever recorded.

He fears the next quakes may be as high as 7.5 and 9 respectively on the Richter scale and in the latter case, cities along much of Sumatra's west coast would be exposed to a tsunami.

"I think it would be irresponsible for those in charge of preparing people in this area to ignore the possibility that the earthquake could happen in a year," lead author John McCloskey, a professor of environmental sciences at Britain's University of Ulster, told AFP.

The study takes a fresh look at Sumatra's seismic mosaic in the light of the last two great quakes, focussing on the two biggest faultlines.

One faultline runs on the land down the western side of Sumatra, and has lateral friction, with one side trying to head north-west and the other trying to move south-east.

Stress on this so-called Sumatra fault, especially in the north-west in the region of Banda Aceh, remains high, the researchers warn.

"The threat of an earthquake of magnitude 7.0-7.5 on the Sumatra fault north of four degrees north (of the equator) has not receded," they say in the study, which appears in the British science journal Nature.

An even greater threat lies in the second faultline, the so-called Sunda Trench, a notorious seabed crack that runs about 200 kilometres to the west of Sumatra.

This area has a different and more perilous profile than the Sumatra fault, for it has vertical movement - the kind capable of creating big waves by thrusting up sections of the sea bed.

It lies in a so-called "megathrust" area, in which the Australian plate is trying to push its way under the Eurasian plate to the north-east.

The Sunda Trench has been a flashpoint of seismic activity for centuries.

Part of its northern section, at the conjunction with the tongue-shaped Burma microplate, was the epicentre for the December 26, 2004 quake, at 9.3 the second highest ever recorded.

- AFP

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Friday, June 10, 2005

Coastal development helps tsunami wreak havoc-study

ReliefWeb - Document Preview: "Source: Reuters Foundation
Date: 09 Jun 2005 By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent

WASHINGTON, June 9 (Reuters) - Coral mining, landscaping and other instances of human development in Sri Lanka helped last December's devastating tsunami sweep even further inland than it might have, causing intense destruction, scientists said on Thursday.

They recommended that officials and developers in areas that might be threatened by tsunamis take note.

"The implications are applicable for any other tsunami," Harinda Joseph Fernando of Arizona State University said in a statement. "We'd like this report to sound an alarm that governments have to be more careful about enforcing coral poaching and destroying the beaches' natural defenses."

The Dec. 26 tsunami killed more than 176,000 people and left about 50,000 missing and hundreds of thousands homeless in several Indian Ocean countries including Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand and the Maldives.

It was triggered by a giant earthquake just off the coast of Indonesia's island of Sumatra -- an area vulnerable to more such quakes.

Fernando and colleagues visited Sri Lanka and found the east coast, which was directly hit by the wave of water, had floods of up to 30 feet to 35 feet (9 to 10.5 meters).

The west coast was hit more indirectly as the tsunami wrapped around the island, and some areas were affected more badly than others.

"We noted a number of instances where human development likely modified the run-up behavior of the tsunami," they wrote in their report, published in the journal Science.

"The Samudra Devi, a passenger train out of Colombo, was derailed and overturned by the tsunami, killing more than 1,000. In the immediate area, substantial coral mining had occurred, related to tourism development," they added.

There, the tsunami inundation was as deep as 25 feet (8 metres). Similar damage was seen in the town of Yala.

DEADLY VIEWS

"One resort, for the purpose of better scenic views, had removed some of the dune seaward of its hotel. The hotel was destroyed by the tsunami," wrote the researchers, who included experts at Cornell University, Texas A&M University, the U.S. Geological Survey, Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Washington, the University of Southern California and New Zealand's National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research.

Neighboring areas where the dunes were intact were not as badly damaged.

"In essence, by removing some of the natural coastal protection in a localized area, a conduit was created through which the tsunami energy could flow more freely."

In a second report, Jose Borrero of the University of Southern California said the tsunami flooded some parts of Indonesia's Aceh region with as much as 100 feet (30.5 metres) of water and pushed the coastline as far as a mile (1.6 km) inland.

The waves washed up hills as high as 80 feet (25 metres) above sea level in some areas and inundated 25 sq. miles (65 sq km) near Banda Aceh.

Borrero noted that it took considerable time and effort to survey the devastated area.

"In future events, satellites could be directed to image affected regions and guide emergency response, allowing for more focused damage assessment and field measurements," he suggested in his report.

Experts say pressure is building along the same Sumatran fault line and another quake will come -- the only question is when.

On Wednesday John McCloskey of the University of Ulster said the area under the Mentawai islands west of Sumatra is most at risk of an earthquake with a magnitude of 8-8.5 or stronger. "

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Training program to be held on legal aid

ColomboPage: "Thursday, June 9, 2005, 18:09 GMT, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

June 10, Colombo: An advanced Training program on Tsunami legal issues useful for the District Secretaries, Divisional Secretaries and their Additional Secretaries from North East and South will be held on June 12 at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute in Colombo by the Legal Aid Commission (LAC).

The Sunday program would discuss the Special Tsunami Law in detail, as Sri Lanka is the only country to adopt such a special protective legislation. J.C. Weliamuna, Director, Transparency International in Sri Lanka will lead the discussion and the LAC chairman S.S.Wijerathne will be the facilitator.

The participants will join in discussing it in the context of international guiding principles on Internally Displaced Persons of the United Nations. The guiding principles are internationally respected and form the basis for equitable treatment of tsunami victims in all the districts of the Island. The program will also focus attention on laws related to property disputes and the impending Application of Mediation (Special Categories) Law No 21 of 2003 to mediate tsunami disputes.

The LAC which assisted the victims to obtain the lost documents during the emergency phase with the cooperation of the relevant government departments, enters a more sustaining free legal assistance program by opening 12 tsunami Legal Assistance Centers in the tsunami affected districts. The Centers are supported by the Asia Foundation, Asian Development Bank and the Justice and Judicial Reform Ministry.

Sources said that the LAC's initiative to protect the rights of tsunami victims by a Special Tsunami Provision Act has cleared a challenge in the Supreme Court and was adopted unanimously in the first week of May. The Act awaits the Speaker's ratification.

At the special program reference will be made on curbing corruption and misuse of tsunami assistance as provided in Part VI of the Tsunami Law and the provisions of Bribery and Corruption Law No 19 of 1994. "

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Thursday, June 09, 2005

'Learning and discipline must be the keynote in university education'

Daily News: 07/06/2005" BY PREMAWANSA Ranatunga

A tribute to the late Dr. E.W. Adikaram in retrospect of his birth centenary which fell on 29th March, 2005.

THE late Dr. E.W. Adikaram, one of the greatest luminaries of learning and discipline in Sri Lanka, was also an educationist, philosopher and scientist with an uncommonly sane mind and a gayheart.

He valued the principles and teachings of philosopher Krishnamurti, which contributed immensely to establish a righteous society. After his career as Principal at Ananda Sastralaya, Kotte, he evolved a novel system of principles based on ethical and spiritual values.

Dr. Adikaram founded an association to propagate noble ideals and moral life patterns which helped to mould the character of individuals. He conducted lectures and seminars through his "Situwili Samajaya".

The convocation address he delivered on 13-12-1979 as Chancellor of the Sri Jayawardhanapura University stands testimony to the dual principle of learning and discipline which could produce fully-fledged citizens for a better Sri Lanka.

To highlight some of his ideals, I wish to quote some lines from his convocation address: "That learning is to look at something afresh and understand as it is. In that looking there is no pre-judgment. Pre-judgment is a hindrance to the understanding of what is. When a scientist investigates something with his microscope he has no pre-judgment of what he is going to see."

The above quotations will give the reader a brief idea of the philosophy he professed. Ronald Blythe in his introduction to "Emma" written by Jane Austen says that, "She can get more drama out of morality that most other writers can get from shipwreck, battle, murder or mayhem." Likewise, Dr. Adikaram gave preference to the subject of morals more than all other things.

Dr. Adikaram was very fortunate to have a staff of teachers who followed his principles and who conditioned and moulded the character of students by inculcating good morals in them. The staff as well as the students of college were in one entity like members of one family. There were no divisions or rifts among teachers or students. Discipline (sikkha) was adhered to the very letter.

All Pali students of higher education are acquainted with Dr. Adikaram's "Early History of Buddhism", He has written several books dealing with Buddhist philosophy. When Sinhala became the official language some educationists were of opinion that science could not be taught in Sinhala as there were no terms in Sinhala, equivalent to those in science.

But Dr. Adikaram took up the challenge and produced several text books for schools in Sinhala and disproved what others said. Dr. Adikaram published a series of journals called "Situwili". This series contributed to the character building of the adolescent immensely.

He was a great humanist and ardent lover of the younger generation. He spent most of his time and energy to mould the character of young boys and girls to convince them that education alone devoid of good morals, discipline and manners does not make one a fully-fledged person.

He abhorred the practice of smoking and taking alcohol. He vehemently opposed the consumption of meat. On several occasions he launched campaigns against the practice of eating fish, taking intoxicants and killing.

Following are two interesting anecdotes to indicate his noble principles!

One morning he opened his garage to take out the car to go to school. But to his great dismay he saw some mice had littered inside his car. He fell into such a condition of remorse, he left them there without disturbing them. Closed both the car and the garage and went to school walking.

* * *

It was the practice then that any latecomer to school, whether pupil or teacher, should stand under a tree in the compound for some time as a punishment. One morning to the surprise of all, the Principal himself became the victim and he was seen standing under the tree as he too was late.

He showed the others that he not only preaches but he practices what he preaches, a very rare habit among most of us.

* * *

The above are two random samples picked from the career of a rare personality whose life brimmed with virtues and deep learning.

Dr. Adikaram was not only a renowned philosopher and a psychologist but also a great humanist. He was metaphysical not only by virtue of his scolasticism but by his deep reflective knowledge and experience in religion.

It brings to my memory a quotation from "Maha Mangala Sutta'. Nibbanti Dhirayatha Yam Padipo, which means, the demise of a Holy person is like unto the flickering of a bright light slowly fading away.

His funeral was attended by an august gathering from all walks of life.

Around the funeral pyre stood all, reflecting on the many facets of an amazing life, a microcosm of a human civilization of a transcendental nature.

Before I wind up, a few lines from Shakespeare too:

"Life is but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then heard no more".

So we do not hear anything, any more from him. But this golden image of this rare personality will remain in our hearts until we perish.

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Contribution of agricultural sector for economic growth

Daily News: 07/06/2005" BY CHANDRASIRI Nanayakkara

THE Central Bank's (CB) annual report for year 2004 revealed that the country's overall growth rate was 5.4 per cent and the contribution of agricultural sector for which was negative 0.7 per cent and share for GDP was 17.9 per cent (Daily News, April 30, 2005).

The reasons given are drought and floods and 'several factors'. What are those unmentioned 'several factors'? Blaming the nature (floods and droughts) is an easy excuse and escape and present day habit because neither the CB nor any other organisation has done a valid estimate of the nature's damage. In actual situation and to the farmer 90 per cent of the retardation was due to 'several factors'.

To make contribution of agriculture positive and because any natural disaster is beyond the control of farmer and what he expects from the government is to clear the 'several factor' constraints.

This is an attempt to indicate those constraints for the attention of the government and a large number of departments, boards and corporations surviving because of our poor farmers.

The Census and Statistics Department in its handbook says the total population in year 2001 was 16,864 million, out of which over 80 per cent are in the rural sector engaged in some form of agriculture.

They may be the paddy farmers, tea, rubber and coconut smallholders, fruits and vegetable growers, cultivators of export agricultural crops (pepper, betel, cinnamon and cloves etc.) and many more scattered in rural areas.

Hence this is a serious situation to consider and rectify because at national level their contribution to country's economic growth is negative and their incomes are reducing from agriculture. To compensate they sell their labour (human resource) to Middle East.

In rural population, 50 per cent are below poverty level needs heavy expenditure for government on relief measures. The decreasing local production needs ever increasing food imports which drains heavy foreign exchange for an island labelled as an 'agricultural country'.

What the growth indicators implied are that the agricultural sector is not only deteriorating but facing a high imbalance because about 80 per cent of the population contributes 17.9 per cent to GDP with reducing income and savings. A good proof for this is the massive pawning of jewellery in banks to celebrate the last April New Year.

In contrast how many foreign funded long-term growth oriented projets were implemented in the sector during past three decades? Among them the projects of Mahaweli, Kirindi Oya, Integrated Rural Development of districts, Dry Zone Agriculture Development and Minor and Major Tank Irrigation Rehabilitation are a few to mention. Now they are in benefit generation phase but the impacts are not significant as expected.

There are more than fifteen negative factors through which a farmer suffers and debar their maximum contribution for the production and contribution to the sector.

i. High cost of market inputs: The cultivation of any crop need a lot of inputs to purchase from the market place.

They are machine power to plough, thresh and transport, weedicide to control weeds in the field, pesticides to destroy crop damaging insects, artificial fertilisers to get at least a threshold yield, high cost of imported hybrid seeds, implements to work, pumps and irrigation systems, green houses for intensive crops and so on.

The rate of increase of prices of those goods and services are very much higher than the rate of increase of prices received for various agricultural produce at the farm gate or market place.

The farmer is a 'price taker' both in buying and selling ends and squeezed between increasing costs and decreasing incomes.

ii. Risks and uncertainty: Most of our crops are seasonal and rain fed based on Yala and Maha seasons. In horticulture local fruits are flooded to the market twice a year in months of April-May and November-December periods.

No one especially the farmer knows the demand, the supply needed and the price formation of a produce. The risk of floods, droughts, pest and disease attacks are not unusual to reduce crop yields.

iii. Unavailability and high cost of labour: Today it is very difficult to find skilled workers for field activities and those available are unskilled. Not only the young generations are shy to work in agriculture but also they discourage their parents to engage as agricultural workers though they are poor.

For example in coconut sector there is a severe dearth of climbers, huskers and the rubber sector is affected by lack of skilled tappers. Even if one finds workers they demand high wages that the farmer cannot afford.

iv. Low productivity of available labour: The productivity of available agricultural labour is poor. If the labour force is dispersedly engaged in a commercial farm it is difficult to supervise them. If a target is given the quality of work is lowered to complete the task quickly and it applies to contract work too.

The attendance of workers is not regular thus one cannot have a planned set of activities to complete in time. The nutritional states of farm workers are poor and their drinking habits and addiction to it lowered their strength to perform well in the field.

v. Deteriorating (man made) environmental conditions: The fertility of agricultural soils is deteriorating day by day due to poor management of it. Lack of soil and moisture conservation measures, misuse of agro-chemicals and overuse of artificial fertilisers and neglect of using green manures and compost have lead to this situation. Most of our soils are sick or dead and lack soil beneficial microbes and other organisms like earth worms.

The soils become very hard a few days after rain. The water absorption and retention capacity is poor due to low organic contents and hence run off percentage of rain is high and intensive causing surface erosion of reach top soil.

vi. Inefficient govt. extension service: An Indian technician working in our fields has made a good remark to me. "Your officers in agriculture know theory very well and work inside office rooms but we know how to apply the theory well in the field because most of the time we are with the farmer in their crop fields."

The agricultural extension officers employed to advise and solve field problems of farmer and time devoted with them are very much beyond the needs. Most young officers are not confident to handle a field problem. The agricultural diploma courses offered by technical colleges are without field practicals and farmer contacts.

vii. Most ignored sector and inability of the institutions to cater the end needs: The sector is full of govt. institutions with large staff strengths to cater to farmer. The old ones such as Paddy Marketing Board and Marketing Department are disappearing and new institutions such as Post Harvest Technology Institute are appearing.

The officers' monthly programmes of active institutions are full of meetings with higher officers and politicians, devote more time understand circulars and to fill data forms for exaggerated progress reports and no time to work in the field or to attend to a farmer who reached to his office. Restricted allocations for travelling and misuse of allocated facilities are two other constraints.

viii. Poor marketing facilities: The daily newspapers are full of rural news items as follows: In Polonnaruwa the highest paddy producing area farmers are worrying because they cannot sell their paddy at a reasonable price. In Puttalam (Neelabemma) farmers are waiting to sell their bumper big onion harvest but no buyers.

The farmers in Matale cannot sell their tomato for more than six rupees a kilo and income is just enough to pay the transport cost. In Moneragala the lime is allowed to fall because the price is not sufficient to pay the cost of harvest. In Kuliyapitiya farmers throw their betel after waiting hours because no mudalali to buy.

Fruits such as banana, mango, pineapple and papaya etc. have no market during the rainy days or glut seasons. The farmer sell their quality fruits at very low price and when there is a demand in off seasons the unripe artificially ripened fruits come to the market diverting the consumer to imported fruits.

Though various departments are there to teach 'how to grow' but not a single organisation to facilitate 'how to sell'.

ix. Exploitation of middle man: The middle man exploits heavily. They use under weights deduct percentage for various reasons and do not pay at once and keep a balance so that the farmer trapped with him for continuous supply.

Mudalalies and their catchers, village collectors and middle men always condemn the produce and demoralise the farmer before fixing a price.

x. Competition with imports: Our farmers grow what they have received from the Agriculture Department. For example the department nurseries promote wood apple / orange grafts. Its fruits (oranges) are with rough, thick and green coloured skin and full of seeds with high content of offal.

How could the local oranges compete with imported ones which are attractive in colour, size and softness and are seedless? It is same with the imported green gram from Australia, tomato juice from Iran for souse industry and other substitutes such as apples, grapes, mandarin and even guava.

xi. Post harvest losses: Post-harvest losses in fruit and vegetables are very high. Due to piece rate of transport to markets farmers are compelled to pack their harvested vegetables tightly in bags. Transporting the produce from field to collector, to wholesale buyer and seller and to retailer in tractors and trucks, cause lot of damage to it and are not visible.

This reduced the shelf life and it is estimated about 40 per cent is wasted. In compensating this one can see a 50 per cent price difference in selling price of farmer, in growing areas and consumer buying price in cities.

Now all the local fruits are excessively carbide treated for quick ripening. They do not give the real taste of a particular fruit. Most of the customers shift from local fruits to imported fresh or canned fruits because of this. It is very sad to see the canned 'warka' (ripe jak fruit) from Malaysia in our supermarkets while our jak fruits are wasted at the tree no processing industry absorb the crop.

xii. Poor contribution of research: The contribution of various research institutes are not focused to farmers problems or their recommendations are not practicable. The farmers' problems should be identified by the field extension officer and directed to researcher to conduct research to find solutions.

Tested solutions must go back to the farmer through extension officer through field days and training classes to rectify the farmer problems. The extension officer should act as a bridge between farmer and researcher. Is this happening today?

xiii. Consumer preference for imported produce: The consumer prefers green gram imported from Australia instead of local green gram, or the urban consumer prefers sunflower, soya or corn oil instead of coconut oil. The consumer preference is diverted to attractively packed highly advertised imported cereals to yams and local pulses. Thanks to free economy!

xiv. Changing food habits: Changing food habits mainly based on wheat flower and Chinese foods reduce the demand for local vegetables. The most natural drink of thambili reduced its market share among rich class and young generation to carbonated and addicting but repeatedly advertising chilled drinks.

xv. Not enough processing activities to absorb the seasonal gluts: The natural fruit based tippings, snacks and salads are very much better than sugar coated junks and ice creams. No investors to start fruit leather, dried fruits, fruit cubes and fried chips but only cordials and jams and are lagged behind in market place to artificial 'soft drinks'.

Then one can ask the question "why farmers engage in agriculture if it is not viable and profitable?" The answer is that there is no other alternative for them to engage in rural areas.

To correct these shortcomings are not easy for a country. It needs a vision, the political will, long term plans and heavy investments and the dedicated service of officials to bring back to positive growth of agriculture.

(The writer was Marketing and Enterprise Development Consultant NWP Dry Zone Participatory Development Project)

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Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Still a sea of tents

Sri Lanka WORLD: "Sunday, 5 June 2005 - 5:46 AM SL Time

Six months after the devastating tsunami, many displaced people are still living in canvas tents in contrast to the sunshine stories of government officials. Even in Galle, which received a substantial amount of aid and assistance in the aftermath of the December 26 disaster, compared to other districts, many people are still languishing in tents in Devata, Mahamodara and Unawatuna.

However, Galle GA, Asoka Jayasekera claims that temporary houses have been built and there was no necessity for people to live in camps. 'Five thousand four hundred and three houses were destroyed by the tsunami. We have so far built about 4000 temporary houses and the rest would be completed in about three days. There is no one living in the camps since they have been resettled in the temporary houses. Now we are focusing on building permanent houses,` Mr. Jayasekara said.

Charging that some people were staying on in the tents and not moving to temporary houses because they could get more aid and assistance from wellwishers, Mr. Jayasekera said they would be removing the tents with the help of the police.

Despite the GA's claims it is obvious to anyone who goes along the Galle coast that there are many people still living in the camps. When we visited some of these camps and told the inmates that the GA was planning to remove the tents since they had been provided temporary shelter, they retorted in anger and frustration, `If we have been provided with temporary shelter we would like to know where it is'`

Some of them are under the impression that the government was delaying providing them shelter because they would be getting permanent housing once and for all.

Some residents say that local authorities were doing little in the way of rehabilitation and most of the houses were being built by NGOs. Explaining the process, Project officer of the NGO AMURT International, Pranav Manu said the organisation had built some of the best temporary houses but they had to wait for the government to provide them with land and this was delaying their rehabilitation and construction work.

While bureaucracy appears to be delaying whatever rehabilitation and building that is being done, the long suffering people complain specially of the health hazards the children have to face living in tents.

The heat inside these tents is unbearable, during the day. When we walked into one of the tents for just a few minutes the humidity and stuffiness hit us hard and we even found it difficult to breathe. On top of the stuffiness, when it rains, the bare, flat terrain on which the tents have come up get water logged resulting in the canvas floor cover of the tent getting bloated like a water bag.

At times the muddy water comes in to the tents posing a health hazard especially to children. Listening to the woes of the inmates we found it difficult to believe that they would continue to live in these conditions if they had temporary shelter-as the GA claimed- merely to get more aid.

In Devata, few miles away from Galle town there are still 47 tents on what is called CGR watte. These tents have been donated by an Austrian NGO and we saw that about 60 families were still living in these tents, contrary to the Galle GAs claims.

An inmate of the camp K. Pushpanandan, who is a painter told us that after the tsunami not a single government official had come to see to their welfare. He also said they had not received any information about getting temporary shelter.

`We went several times to meet the Minister for Vocational Training Piyasena Gamage and the previous Galle GA, H.L Gunawardena, but their secretaries always said they were at meetings. Our village was beyond the 100m buffer zone, and because of this we are not even getting the Rs.250,000 compensation to build our wholly damaged houses. We don`t enjoy living in these conditions and government officials have no right to make sweeping accusations that we are living on in these tents, inspite of being provided temporary homes, merely to grab aid. If they don`t visit these areas how would they even know about our plight'` he asked.

When we visited another camp in Mahamodara, that has 74 tents, donated by the Italian Government, the inmates said only 10 temporary houses had been built for them so far.

`We stayed within the 100m buffer zone and our houses have been entirely destroyed. The heat in these tents in unbearable and many of us have fallen sick,` Monica Weerakody lamented.

Some of the people also accused the government of forgetting the people who lived beyond the 100m buffer zone, although they were equally affected as those living within the 100 metres. "

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Rich keep the poor just where they want them

Daily News: 06/06/2005" by George Monbiot The EU is keeping the poorer nations exactly where it wants them: beholden to their patrons

REJOICE! the world is saved! The Governments of Europe have agreed that by 2015 they will give 0.7 per cent of their national income in foreign aid. Admittedly, that is 35 years after the target date they first set for themselves, and it is still less than they extract from the poor in debt repayments. But hooray anyway.

Though he does not become president of the EU until later this year, Tony Blair can take some of the credit, for his insistence that the G8 summit in July makes poverty history. It is inspiring, until you understand the context.

Everyone who has studied global poverty - including European governments - recognises that aid cannot compensate for unfair terms of trade.

If they increased their share of world exports by five per cent, developing countries would earn an extra $350 billion a year, three times more than they will be given in 2015. Any government that wanted to help developing nations would surely make the terms of trade between rich and poor its priority.

This, indeed, is what the U.K. appears to have done. In March it published the most progressive foreign policy document ever to have escaped from London. A paper by the U.K. Departments of Trade and International Development promised that: "We will not force trade liberalisation on developing countries." It recognised that a policy that insists on equal terms for rich and poor is like pitting a bull mastiff against a chihuahua. Unless a country can first build up its industries behind protectionist barriers, it will be destroyed by free trade.

Almost every nation that is rich today, including the U.K. and the U.S., used this strategy. But the current rules forbid the poor from following them. The EU, the paper insisted, should, while opening its own markets, allow poor nations "20 years or more" to open theirs.

But two weeks ago the Guardian newspaper obtained a leaked letter showing that the European Trade Commissioner, Peter Mandelson, was undermining the U.K.'s new policies. His most senior official complained that the policy document was "a major and unwelcome shift ... Mandelson is taking up our concerns and will press for a revised UK line." Double game

We are being asked to believe, in other words, that a man who owes his entire political career to Mr. Blair, and who has repaid him with nauseating sycophancy, was conspiring to destroy his cherished policy.

It does not look likely, and it does not take a great imaginative effort to see a double game being played. Before the election, Mr. Blair makes one of his tear-jerking appeals for love, compassion and human fellowship, and gets the anti-poverty movement off his back. After the election he discovers, to his inestimable regret, that love, compassion and human fellowship won't after all be possible, as a result of a ruling by the European Commission.

This outcome was predicted by the World Development Movement when the remarkable paper was published in March. "Time will tell if the U.K. ... will put real political capital into this announcement, or if they will hide behind the European commission and claim inability to affect the negotiations."

The idea that Mr. Blair had no more intention of introducing fair terms of trade than I have of becoming a Catholic priest gains credence from the U.K.'s support for the bid by Pascal Lamy, Mr. Mandelson's predecessor, to become head of the World Trade Organisation - a post he won on recently. Making Mr. Lamy head of the WTO is as mad as making, say, Paul Wolfowitz ... er, satire doesn't really seem to work any more.

Everyone seems to have forgotten that Mr. Lamy was the man who destroyed the world trade talks in Mexico in September 2003. He tried to force through new rules on investment, competition and procurement, which would have allowed corporations to dictate terms to the poor world's governments. He persisted with this policy even when he had lost the support of European governments, and when it became obvious that his position would force the poorer nations to pull out. For cynics like me, it was not hard to see why.

For the first time in the WTO's history, the poor nations were making effective use of collective bargaining and demanding major concessions from the rich. By destroying the talks, Mr. Lamy prevented a fairer trading regime from being introduced. He left the rich countries free to strike individual treaties with their weaker trading partners. And the U.K. and the rest of Europe hid behind him. Continued exploitation

So the poor world is going to need the extra aid, in 2015 and far beyond. This means that it will remain obedient to the demands of countries with an interest in its continued exploitation. Those demands have done more than anything else to hold it down. As the World Bank's own figures show, across the 20 years (1960-80) before it and the IMF started introducing strict conditions on the countries that accepted their loans, median annual growth in developing countries was 2.5 per cent. In the 18 years after (1980-1998), it was 0.0 per cent.

The British Government has made its own contribution to the poor world's misery by tying aid disbursements to the privatisation of essential public services. It has been paying the Adam Smith Institute, a rightwing lobby group, up to nine million a year to oversee privatisation programmes in developing countries.

Tanzania pulled out of a deal the British Government had rigged up for the British company Biwater to privatise water supplies in Dar es Salaam.

While using the right language and flattering their critics, the U.K. and the EU are keeping the poorer nations where they want them: beholden to their patrons. Suddenly, an increase in aid doesn't look like such good news after all.

(Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004)

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Tuesday, June 07, 2005

MSD stockpiles tsunami relief

Sunday Observer: 29/05/2005

Medical supplies and food items received from abroad in the aftermath of the tsunami disaster are lying unutilised in three stores run by the Medical Supplies Division (MSD) of the Health Ministry at Deans Road, Narahenpita and Wellawatta in Colombo.

These include among others substantial quantities of infant milk powder, baby cream, biscuits, soap, Magi noodles, surgical gloves, drugs and syringes. Some of these items are perishable and some others would go out of date if not distributed early.

Some of the medical accessories like syringes are in short supply in outstation hospitals. It is not clear whether these items are inventoried or whether there has been any attempt to distribute them for the last five months. Health officials confirmed the existence of large stocks of relief goods but said that they await requisitions from hospitals to distribute them.

When contacted by the Sunday Observer Health, Nutrition and Uva Wellassa Development Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva promised to inquire into the matter and distribute the goods early.

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Are the debates on water privatization missing the point?

Environment and urbanization, journal, research and articles: "Are the debates on water privatization missing the point? Experiences from Africa, Asia and Latin America

This paper has two principal aims: first, to unravel some of the arguments mobilized in the controversial privatization debate, and second, to review the scale and nature of private sector provision of water and sanitation in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Despite being vigorously promoted in the policy arena and having been implemented in several countries in the South in the 1990s, privatization has achieved neither the scale nor benefits anticipated. In particular, the paper is pessimistic about the role that privatization can play in achieving the Millennium Development Goals of halving the number of people without access to water and sanitation by 2015. This is not because of some inherent contradiction between private profits and the public good, but because neither publicly nor privately operated utilities are well suited to serving the majority of low-income households with inadequate water and sanitation, and because many of the barriers to service provision in poor settlements can persist whether water and sanitation utilities are publicly or privately operated. This is not to say that well-governed localities should not choose to involve private companies in water and sanitation provision, but it does imply that there is no justification for international agencies and agreements to actively promote greater private sector participation on the grounds that it can significantly reduce deficiencies in water and sanitation services in the South.
Download PDF (397Kb)
Related Post: ADB wants Sri Lanka to privatize and charge money for water given to farmers

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Monday, June 06, 2005

Recycled rubble from tsunami-hit coast to be used to build new homes and roads

Reuters: 03/06/2005"

Tsunami survivors in Ampara may soon be living in homes built from the rubble of their previous houses under a radical new recycling scheme run by Lanka Environmental Recyclers Institute and World Vision.

The environmentally friendly concept, in which rubble is crushed to make dust for bricks and shingle for foundations and road construction, is the brainchild of the Institute’s chairman, Dr Ajantha Perera.

The plan also includes chipping and composting organic debris littering tsunami-struck beaches and lagoons.

Dr Perera had the idea after seeing the Ampara coastline littered with rubble, wood and broken plants and trees. She said that recycling this material will mean so much more to Sri Lanka than just saving money.

“We need to reduce the costs of rebuilding materials in Sri Lanka because the country just can’t afford it,” she said. “Sand is especially expensive.

“But it’s more than that. People want something positive in their lives to make up for what they have lost. Instead of saying to them that we’ll build a brand new home for them, we can give them something that has sentimental value attached to it.

“We shouldn’t be telling them that they need to start over again. It’s just not as easy as all that. By rebuilding their homes with some of the original material, we are keeping back some of what they have lost. That’s part of the healing process.”

While this concept will not trialed for another two weeks, Dr Perera said she truly believes it will be a success. In fact, she thinks it will be so effective that the Institute and World Vision will, before long, be extending the project further along the coast.

She added that, in her experience, this kind of project also encourages different communities to work together for a common cause. In Ampara, both Muslims and Tamils live side by side.

Another practical reason why this project has a good chance of succeeding is that many of the houses destroyed in Ampara were middle-class homes of a good quality, so the rubble left is good enough quality for recycling.

World Vision’s Operations Director Andrew Lanyon said that this revolutionary project would link all areas of the organisation’s work.

“Local people collecting the rubble, those working the crushers, they will all being paid by World Vision for the work they’ll do. So will those rebuilding the houses and roads. That’s economic recovery and shelter.

“Those people clearing the lagoons of debris will be allowing people to fish again. That’s livelihood recovery. And the organic material taken from the lagoons and chipped down will be turned into compost for paddy or coconut farming. That’s agricultural recovery. This really is a holistic, environmentally sound project.”

In recent months, World Vision already worked with more than 1,000 tsunami survivors who were paid to clear the rubble along more than 15 kilometres of the district’s 36 kilometres of devastated coastline.

The charity provided heavy engineering vehicles, equipments and other resources including eight dump trucks, five backhoes, three front-end loaders, a lorry, a dozer and a 4,500 litre water bowser.

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Traditional Technology with a Modern Twist

DevelopmentMarketplace - Project #1193:
Summary

OBJECTIVE: To provide farmers in India with a cheaper and eco-friendly pest management alternative to costly pesticides.

RATIONALE: Helicoverpa armigera (pod borer) is a pest that attacks nearly 200 crops including cotton, beans, cereals, vegetables and fruits, causing annual global losses amounting to US$2 billion. An additional US$500 million is spent on insecticides to control this voracious pest. Usage of pesticides in India has steadily increased leading to erosion of farmers’ incomes, insect resistance to insecticides, pesticide residues in the food chain, and the resurgence of minor pests such as white fly in cotton. This indiscriminate and excessive use of pesticides has also increased morbidity and mortality rates. Managing H. armigera in South Asia is critical since it not only affects the livelihoods of poor farmers but also contributes to environmental pollution and operational health hazards.
INNOVATION/EFFECTIVENESS: The project team has developed an eco-friendly and sustainable pest management strategy well-suited to small-scale farmers. Traditional
methods to control the pests are 85 percent effective. The project encourages farmers to return to traditional methods and train them to introduce the nuclear polyhedrosis virus (NPV), a viral disease that causes heavy mortality in pod borers without harming other organisms. NPV can be produced for one-third the cost of pesticides and has the added benefit of creating an additional income-generating opportunity for farmers. The project will reach 50,000 farmers in 100 villages, and directly train 300 farmers in NPV production. Increased productivity, reduced cost of inputs and yield loss, a paired low pesticide-use will have tremendous economic, health and environment benefits.

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Sunday, June 05, 2005

30 psychiatrists for 20 million in Sri Lanka

Asiantribune.com: Forum for Research and Development: Date : 2005-05-31

In a written submission to Minimize the Damages from Natural Disasters the Forum for Research & Development has revealed to the Select Committee of Parliament some glaring gaps inadequacies:
• The recent tsunami revealed that the nation neither had a policy nor the capacity to identify dead bodies. Therefore it is of paramount importance to raise awareness of this basic principle and then work toward developing the necessary capacity.
• Sri Lanka has only 30 psychiatrists for a population over 20 million, and no formal psychology service. Mental health services are more or less based on institutional care and lack any kind of public health or multi disciplinary perspective. Psychological and psychiatric services have been grossly neglected, although Sri Lanka had one of the highest suicide rates in the world and also was subjected to civil and political unrest, including a civil war for 20 years.
• The psychological as well as ethical considerations of electronic media’s repeated telecasting of highly emotionally charged scenes containing dead bodies and other recordings of sensitive nature with regard to this disaster is of particular concern as it can lead to re-traumatisation.
• In Sri Lanka genetic testing in a satisfactory scale is only available in the private sector - by Gene-Tec. Why is the state sector unable to provide such services in spite of genetic research facilities being available (although fragmented) in some universities? This is particularly important considering that our research group had secured funding to establish a genetic laboratory and were attempting to set up such services within the Health Ministry, for more than 2 years. It had no costs implications to the state, and it is collaboration with the Human Genetic. Programme of the Non-Communicable Department of the WHO.
• Lack of an efficient and central ethical framework, specifically to deal with disaster related human subject research have left room for foreign nationals to perform unethical “Parachute Research” because it is easy and cheap in the developing world. Establishing a Central Ethics committee under the Ministry of Health is needed to ensure highest standards in research and to prevent exploitation of disaster survivors.
• A revealing positive feature highlighted in the report says: “Buddhist and Hindu children were less vulnerable to depression compared with Christian children, even though they reported more exposure to violent events such as bomb blasts. There may be protective factors in the Buddhist and Hindu philosophies (e.g., active acceptance of pain and suffering, an understanding that the future can provide relief through rebirth), which may be utilized to maximize recovery for survivors.”Forum for Research and Development is a professional organization dedicated to establish a research culture in Sri Lanka. It is linked to the UK Sri Lanka Trauma Group, a charitable non profit professional organisation led mainly by employees at the Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College, University of London. It has been active for over eight years working to provide care for people traumatised by direct experience of the Sri Lankan civil war. Dr. Athula Sumathipala has been an active member of this group. He spent most of his time from 1997 up to 2003 in Sri Lanka for his academic work. He also contributed to capacity building in mental health services, training and research particularly through the medium of the Forum for Research and Development, which he co-founded. The Forum recommends the following components for a central disaster management plan.
• Efficient grass root structures and networks that can be mobilized with short notice are essential to execute disaster management .
• Capacity for compressive forensic service, including genetic capabilities.
• Should ensure ‘National Plan of action for the management of psychosocial and mental health services for people affected by the Tsunami’ developed by the Mental Health Directorate of the Ministry of Health should be implemented in full.
• Expansion of Mental Health Services based on a Primary Care and Public Health approach to cater to the long term needs.
• Research and Development should be one of the most important ingredients of future disaster management.
• Central ethics committee should be formed in the Ministry of Health to ensure highest standards in research and to prevent exploitation of disaster survivors.
• Media is an important stakeholder in the national disaster plan and should be involved in all stages- Asian Tribune –

Dr. Athula Sumathipala MBBS, DFM, MD (Sri Lanka), MRCPsych, CCST (UK), PhD (London)Honorary Director, Forum for Research and Development in Sri Lanka. Hon. Research Fellow, Section of Epidemiology Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College, University of London, UK
Forum for Research and Development in Sri Lanka

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Environmentalists urge Kumaratunga to take up canal issue with Manmohan Singh

Asiatribune.com: Date : 2005-06-02 By Sugeeswara Senadhira -Bureau Chief, Asian Tribune, Colombo

Sri Lankan environmentalists urged the government to take up the Sethusamudram project as a top priority issue with Indian leaders as the shipping canal that India plans to dig off its southern coast could have disastrous consequences for the marine and coastal ecosystems in the island nation.

On the eve of the President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s visit to New Delhi to meet the Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, Sri Lankan environmentalists have called on the government to make high level representations to Indian authorities on the controversial Sethusamudram ship canal project, before it is too late.

“Sri Lanka is still not cleared of all likely negatives resulting from the project, including possible implications on the monsoonal rain patterns which the country's agricultural sector is solely dependant on,” a leading environmentalist said at a seminar organised by the Green Movement of Sri Lanka at the Mahaweli Centre. “The canal project could trigger unforeseen environmental impacts that would be detrimental in the longer run other than the predicted ones like irreversible damage to the rich marine ecosystem and environment pollution.”

The seminar was attended by academics, diplomatic community, local environment groups and Green Peace, India. Citing reports by Indian academics and environmental experts, Sri Lankan environmentalists pointed out that the Indian EIA lacks an adequate assessment of how the marine environment would be affected by dredging and also possible blasting if hard rock is encountered under the soft sediment.

The Sethusamudram project proposes to dig a 300m wide and 20 m deep shipping canal in the Palk Straits, the narrow sea stretch dividing India and Sri Lanka. The project, costing US $ 550 million is aimed at connecting India's western and eastern coasts for ship movement without circumnavigating Sri Lanka. Only small fishing boats can pass through the Palk Strait at present and vessels of up to 30,000 tonnes, including Indian Navy patrol vessels have to circumnavigate Sri Lanka to sail from Indian west coast to east and vice versa.

The Sethusamudram project was initially prepared 20 years ago and after a long debate it received the approval of the Tamil Nadu state government and the central government this month. The project, entirely in the Indian territorial waters involves dredging in two shallow locations in the sea including part of the Adams bridge.

The conference focused on the environment impact of the project as well as the role and responsibilities of the Sri Lankan Government with respect to the International Ocean Law.

It is still not clear whether the Sethusamudram project is on the agenda for President Kumaratunga’s talks with Indian Leaders during her visit beginning on Thursday. The main purpose of the visit is to discuss the tsunami reconstruction plan and the proposed joint mechanism with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Dredging in the shallow depths between India's southern tip and northern Sri Lanka could upset delicate ecosystems in the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve and Palk Bay and spell doom for fishermen from both countries, Sri Lankan environmentalists stated at the seminar held by the Green Movement of Sri Lanka. "No-one in their right mind would dig a canal between India and Sri Lanka... The environmental impact in Sri Lanka has not even been studied," T. Mohan, an Indian environmental lawyer told media. "We are talking about changes to the ecology ... sedimentation and risks to human lives if cyclones and tsunamis are to occur."
For Dicussion
- Asian Tribune -

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