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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, July 09, 2005

Sri Lanka promoting anti-mine awareness

ReliefWeb - Document Preview: Source: Xinhua News Agency, Date: 06 Jul 2005

COLOMBO, Jul 6, 2005 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- The first weeks of July and August have been designated as "National Mine Action" weeks to raise awareness about landmines that continue to kill in Sri Lanka's north and east, Daily News reported Wednesday.

According to the Sri Lanka National Steering Committee on Mine Action, the months of July, August and September are the most dangerous for landmine injuries, the paper said.

Each year at this time, people return to their fields to begin planting and harvesting crops. "It is then that the lands of the north and east, seeded with explosives, reap their deadly harvest, " said a statement from the United Nations International Children' s Emergency Fund (UNICEF).

"If we can reach people now so that they take the necessary precautions before they go back to the fields, then we can save lives. That is the aim of the Mine Action weeks," said Ted Chaiban, the UNICEF representative in Sri Lanka.

During these two weeks, activities will be held in the country' s north and east, and radio programs will be aired to alert people to the dangers of landmines and how to protect themselves against injury or death.

UNICEF is the leading agency for mine risk education in Sri Lanka under the overall coordination of the National Steering Committee on Mine Action, the paper added.

UNICEF and it partners also focus their work on school and community-based initiatives to educate children and communities about the dangers of landmines.

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lessons learned and best practices in the response to the Indian Ocean Tsunami

ReliefWeb - Document Preview - Regional workshop on lessons learned and best practices in the response to the Indian Ocean Tsunami - Report and summary of main conclusions: Source: United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
Date: 05 Jul 2005


1. A regional tsunami lessons learned and best practices workshop was held in Medan, Indonesia, on 13-14 June 2005. It brought together 75 government, UN and NGO participants from Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, in addition to representatives of regional organizations and donors (see List of Participants as Annex II). This event was the culmination of a series of four national-level lessons learned workshops held in May and early June 2005 in Indonesia, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Thailand. The aim of the regional workshop was to share reflections and experiences related to the national and international response to the December 2004 tsunami disaster, and to formulate recommendations to concerned actors that would help improve disaster preparedness and response capacity at the national and regional level.

2. The workshop consisted of plenary and working group sessions (see agenda attached as Annex I). The first session of the workshop (13 June 2005) consisted of presentations by government representatives of Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand that provided valuable insights on the preparedness systems in place prior to the tsunami, the relief and early recovery operations, and the main findings of the national-level workshops. Following these presentations, participants divided into working groups to discuss lessons learned and best practices in relation to the national-level response in the following areas:

3. On the second day (14 June 2005), participants focused on identifying recommendations on how to strengthen regional preparedness and response capacities that were addressed to the following actors:


4. The exceptional nature of the tsunami disaster was highlighted. Such an event was acknowledged to be extremely rare in the region, which largely explains why no comprehensive early warning systems were in place. The extraordinary scale of the disaster helps to explain many initial response difficulties experienced in the affected countries; no nation, it was recognized, was prepared for a catastrophe of such a scope. The disaster shed light on the shortcomings of existing preparedness systems, underscoring the need for their significant enhancement.

5. The level of risk awareness among the population was very low. This was identified as one of the main reasons for the high death toll. In a few cases, particularly in Indonesia and Thailand, isolated communities had retained an ancestral memory of similar disasters and had fled to higher grounds when alerted by the initial tremors, illustrating the effectiveness of risk awareness in reducing the human cost of disasters.

6. Amid the grief over the extent of death and devastation brought about by the tsunami, there was also a sense of satisfaction for the overall outcome of the relief operation. Affected populations in many areas swiftly received basic emergency assistance, while health care interventions notably minimized secondary loss of life and averted large-scale epidemics.

7. As is the case in the aftermath of any disaster, the affected communities themselves were the first and primary actors in the early relief efforts. However, it was recognized that these communities were not consistently consulted on important aspects of the relief and recovery work once organized national and international relief operations got under way. Their involvement in needs assessments, planning and implementation of emergency assistance programs was not prioritized, although it should have been.

8. The state of disaster preparedness in the affected countries prior to the tsunami was uneven. Whilst some countries benefited from a clear legal framework and institutional setup, the setup in others appeared weaker, with some confusion (especially in the early days of the response effort) in lines of communication as well as regarding command and control. Often new, ad hoc legislation was passed and new institutions created specifically in response to the disaster, further compounding the existing confusion in roles and responsibilities. Coordination within the government at both the horizontal level (among different institutions) and the vertical level (between central and peripheral bodies) was often inadequate. Allocation of resources for disaster management, or the ability to disburse funds at the appropriate level in the administration, appeared in some cases problematic. It should be noted however that all the countries affected by the tsunami are currently in the process of addressing some of the legal and institutional weaknesses that emerged during the response phase.

9. It was recognized that the militaries of the affected countries played a vital role in the immediate aftermath of the disaster. Being the first on the ground to assist communities, they quickly provided security, logistics support, communications, and delivered large quantities of relief supplies. In several instances, however, the military were severely stretched in their capacity to assist, partly because they had an insufficient amount of key assets, such as means of transportation, and partly because their assets and personnel had also been affected by the disaster. The transition from military to civilian control of the relief operations was considered satisfactory.

10. The generally excellent cooperation between national and international military forces was highlighted. It was noted, however, that in some cases the lack of status of forces agreements (SOFA) constrained the scope of the assistance provided by the foreign military.

11. Civil society organizations (NGOs, religious and other community organizations as well as - notably - national Red Cross/Red Crescent societies) were hailed for their extraordinary contribution to the relief and early recovery efforts. Such organizations, however, did not appear to be systematically included in the disaster management plans of the affected countries.

12. The level of involvement of private businesses - both local and international - in the relief effort was unprecedented. Businesses contributed not only financially, but also through in-kind donations, thereby helping fill some critical gaps.

13. While the high level of international interest in this disaster led to the provision of massive amounts of much-needed relief supplies, it also contributed to exacerbating many problems traditionally experienced during large-scale disasters that receive high levels of media attention. Numerous “well-wishers” arrived in the affected areas with or without resources, many without appropriate experience in working in disaster situations. The coordination and management of these well-meaning individuals and organizations placed further strain on local and national authorities. Furthermore, it was suggested that many less experienced actors did not follow established standards and guidelines on the provision of humanitarian assistance, raising serious accountability concerns. Some actors engaged in culturally inappropriate behavior that could be considered detrimental to the dignity of the victims. Lastly, the adverse impact of large quantities of unsolicited, inappropriate donations from private citizens, non-governmental organizations and even foreign governments was highlighted.

14. The very large number of often diverse actors created acute coordination challenges, particularly during the first weeks of the response phase. Local authorities, who were in charge of directing the relief efforts, were often weakened by severe human and material losses, and at times had to cope with unclear reporting lines and interference from various government bodies. Many non-governmental actors, who had little or no experience in humanitarian relief, were unwilling or unaware of the need to coordinate with other partners. In some cases, the very high budgets at the disposal of some NGOs acted as a disincentive to coordinated action. Even large international organizations with a long history of involvement in humanitarian operations, at times took initiatives without prior consultation with other partners, and in some cases bypassed the government. At the same time, it was recognized that some of the coordination mechanisms that were put in place were dysfunctional, which encouraged some actors to work independently.

15. On an operational level, the need for better information management was highlighted. This concerned the gathering of information on damages and needs, the sharing of information about ongoing and planned programmes among all actors, and the dissemination of information about the relief operation to the affected populations. Most countries experienced severe logistics and transportation challenges, as the tsunami affected a very large area and crippled already weak road and airport infrastructures. Telecommunications were also problematic, as wireless telephone networks - as well as many land lines - immediately went out of order and national and international actors had to rely on shortwave radios. The crucial role played in many instances by local radio amateurs was acknowledged.

Full report (pdf* format - 68 KB)

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Friday, July 08, 2005

Ambalangoda tsunami victims protest against government 'negligence'

ColomboPage, 6 - 29 - 2005:: Wednesday, June 29, 2005, 15:20 GMT, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

June 29, Colombo: Families in Ambalangoda displaced by the tsunami disaster came onto the road today, blaming the Sri Lankan government for its failure to provide relief as promised.

They complained that they received their Rs. 5000 allowance for only two months and demanded that they be provided with new houses as well as their allowance.

The displaced families came in groups to the Ambalangoda Provincial Secretariat premises and some of them entered the office. They criticized the government for deceiving and deserting them. Some charged that the government might not do anything until they are dead and gone.

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District Committees, key to deal's success- US Don

TamilNet: 28.06.05 [June 28, 2005 10:48 GMT]
For the Joint Mechanism to be successful, "It is important that the District Committee works for the betterment of the district, not a particular ethnic, religious group. Additionally, the Regional Committee has to ensure that the aid reaches those in the most need or those facilities that have the biggest impact on the people in the district, region," said Professor Brian Blodgett of American Military University when TamilNet asked for his views on the recently signed aid deal between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers.

Full text of Professor Blodgett's responses to TamilNet's questions follows:

TamilNet: What do you think the immediate impact of the Joint Mechanism on tsunami related reconstruction will be? What is the likelihood that the JM will succeed in its objective?
Blodgett: The immediate impact of the Joint Mechanism (JM) will depend on the ability of the JVP to disrupt its implementation. If the JVP is successful, then the JM will obviously fail to help the tsunami related reconstruction.

However, for the purpose of your questions, it will be assumed that the JM is implemented as is. Therefore, the JM will allow the release and dispersion of much needed financial aid to the northern and eastern sections of the country, which were severely damaged by the tsunami. The fact that both Muslims and Tamils occupy these areas should be of no concern for the government, the Tamils, or Muslims if they truly care about the welfare of the Sri Lankan citizens. The all three groups should be willing to assist all citizens, regardless of religious or ethnic backgrounds. The fact that it has taken this long for the government and the Tamils to reach a deal that will release the financial aid is deplorable.

In order for tsunami related reconstruction to occur, the individuals of the country need to unite against the common enemy – the disaster itself. There should be no issues between Tamils, Muslims, and Sinhalese and who receives how much of the financial aid. However, this is unlikely since each of the three groups will probably attempt to ensure that their ethnic / religious members are taken care of and will attempt to funnel more money to them than to other deserving ethnic / religious individuals.

It is therefore important that the District Committee works for the betterment of the district, not a particular ethnic / religious group. Additionally, the Regional Committee has to ensure that the aid reaches those in the most need or those facilities that have the biggest impact on the people in the district / region.

If the Tamils, Muslims, and Sinhalese work together for the betterment of the country / district / region, then it is likely that the reconstruction will work. If any of these three parties decide that it is in their best interest to ensure that they religious / ethnic group receives more than their fair share to the detriment of the others; then the reconstruction is likely to fail.

TamilNet: Do you think Muslims should have been included in a tripatrite deal?
Blodgett: As far as if the Muslims should have been included in a triparte deal, it is rather late to address this issue since the JM is already in place. In reality, the JM should have never had to be written and the government should have simply been able to disperse the financial aid as required; without regard to religion / ethnicity.

However, the government did not accomplish this simple act and has instead caused the delay of the release of the financial aid. Yet, the government finally opted to work with the Tamils and ensure that they financial aid was able to be released. Did the lack of active participation hurt the Muslims? At first glance, it appears that the JM is fairly written and that both the Sri Lankan government and the Tamils agreed to it. The fact that the Muslims have less members than the Tamils is only important if individuals want to further their own cause and help out their own ethnic / religious group and not the country / district / region as a whole. If the JM is to work, each side has to put aside its differences and work together – something that may be hard to do. However, if successful, then it will help unite the country more than it has been since its independence from Great Britain.

TamilNet: Do you think the Joint Mechanism will help to advance the peace process forward?
Blodgett: This is a tougher question. The fact that the government recognized the Tamils and officially included them in the JM is meaningful and should help reconcile some of their differences. However, hard-core members of both sides will see the JM in a negative light. Hard-core Sinhalese, believing that the government did not have to include the Tamils in the JM and that by including them it has actually officially recognized them as a legitimate power in the country, may cause problems within the government and with the general implementation of the JM. The Tamils can use the JM’s recognition of them as a group that had to be dealt with first prior to the disbursement of the aid to further their cause for autonomy. Likewise, some Sinhalese can use it to show that the government has gone too far in its recognition of the Tamils – as the JVP has shown by its actions.

The JM has caused considerable problems in the current government with the President losing much support. However, it was a bold move to include the Tamils in the JM and the decision was undoubtedly made after careful consideration and a desire to end the stalemate of the peace talks and to ensure that the aid to the victims of the tsunami is finally distributed.

Will the JM have a lasting effect on the situation in Sri Lanka depends on if any of the Sinhalese political parties or the Tamils or Muslims use it in an attempt to further their own agenda and not as it should be seen – as a tool to help the citizens of the country.

Brian Blodgett is a professor with the American Military University, Charles Town, West Virginia, USA, and recently published a book on Sri Lanka titled "Sri Lanka’s military: The Search For A Mission," where he examines the historical evolution of Colombo’s armed forces.

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Thursday, July 07, 2005

New York Academy of Sciences Update Magazine

Dealing with the Tsunami:
The New York Academy of Sciences Update magazine features articles on the Tsunami including one that reports on the panel that was held in March reportedly previously in this blog which included me. The pdf version of the article is on page 3 of the update magazine. This article was written by Sheri Fink, a doctor and writer, who also described her own experience with the Tsunami in Indonesia and Thailand, in the same issue. Also see the NYAS website.

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Quality improvement a road map to international markets

Daily News: 05/07/2005" by Dr. Lalith Senaweera, Deputy Director General, Sri Lanka Standards Institution

With the development of world trade, the movements of goods from one country to another country is now taking place in a very efficient and systematic manner and as a result the consumers have lot of choices in selecting a right product to suite to their requirements. We normally call this trend as globalisation.

Even we like or not it is necessary for us to face these challenges as protected or closed economies are diminishing in the world making room for open competition.

The best example is the phasing out of Multi Fibre Agreement or the quota system for apparel sector. In such a scenario it is very necessary to find out as entrepreneurs what areas have to be considered as the priority areas in order to survive in these markets whilst taking initiatives to enter into new markets. In this context it is very important to note that the ultimate goal of any entrepreneur is to make profits whilst maintaining its long-term survival.

This goal can be achieved only by providing error free service of defect free products as far as possible so that the customers are willing to purchase that service or product in a repeatable manner. The one and only way of doing is that quality must be organised to recognise that 'it is everybody's job' in the organisation.

Today's business environment demands a new understanding of quality and a new definition, one that enables CEOs and business executives to 'do quality' in a way that creates value and economic worth for the customer, the employee, the shareholder and the organisation all at the same time.

Considering this important concept most of the companies place increased emphasis on customer satisfaction as they realise customer perception of product and service quality is a significant determinant of market share and profitability.

Organisation activities

Organisations of today and tomorrow are faced with intense competition, demanding customers with rapidly changing desires, shrinking response times and demanding employees. In response to the current trend, the best companies are forced to become fast response, flexible, participative and must focus on customers. These types of organisations have been identified as 'horizontal' or 'process centered'.

In the traditional business organisational approach, the key objectives are productivity, profits, and smoothly managing change processes, while the quality related objectives are often restricted to meeting minimum required standards. Education and training are strictly job related rather than broadening the competencies of employees.

This type of approaches has not only undervalued the importance of quality improvement programmes but also led to unhealthy situations where the company has to spend its resources without any purpose.

In such a situation how can an organisation come out of chaos? Which quality principles, tools and techniques should require to be used and in what order? The issue becomes how to prioritise and organise the required tools to be practised to achieve the required results.

Considering the importance of improving the quality of the products and services of organisations, different types of quality improvement tools have been introduced by the experts and those tools and the application of such to the industry are briefly discussed in the following paragraphs.

One of the basic and very important tools is Five S (5S), which can be used to streamline the workplace to give a good appearance whilst paving a way to improve quality and productivity of the workplace. This concept would also help to change the minds of the employees of the workplace to obtain their commitment to maintain a clean and tidy work environment. In simple terms Five S (5S) can be explained as follows:

Five S systems

Seiri - Eliminate clutter.

Seiton - Arrange everything for easy location - a place for everything and everything in its place.

Seiso - Create a high level of cleanliness.

Seiketsu - Standardise all procedures.

Shitsuke - Train and discipline.

Different kinds of quality improvement tools are available at present which are introduced with different objectives to achieve the quality.

This concept should be practised in daily basis so that most of the workplace related basic issues can be resolved to a very great extent.

Process management approach

The second important concept is the management of an organisation's processes.

Most of the organisations rely on inspections instead of managing their processes. The act of inspection does not add value to the quality of the product. It simply verifies that it meets some specification or function. In other word relying on inspection alone, there is no guarantee that it will improve performance.

Therefore, the most important thing is to improve the processes and by analysing the existing problems of the processes and initiating actions to correct those problems. Not only that, managing of processes would also cover the competence of personnel engage in such work. Therefore when managing a process it would automatically help us to check the inputs related to that process and to consider to what extent those inputs are controlled by the organisation.

This approach would definitely help the organisation to assess the processes in a pro-active manner and making a room to improve quality and productivity of the organisation.

ISO 9001: 2000 Quality Management System

This approach has been introduced as ISO 9001: 2000 Standard on Quality Management. This standard talks about the process approach and to practise that approach within the organisation, standard very clearly identifies five major clauses as given below set in a Plan - Do - Check - Act Cycle.

* Quality Management System

* Management Responsibility

* Resource Management

* Product Realisation and

* Measurement, Analysis and Improvement.

The beauty of this standard is that promotes incremental or continual improvement within the organisation with the practice of the quality management requirements.

The standard is not designed to provide details about how to run the business of an organisation. But it provides information related to best practices enabling an organisation to achieve business excellence.

In this context one of the important things is to conduct regular internal audits of the Quality Management System and to initiate actions based on the finding so that the organisation can always proceed in the right direction in achieving its set business goals and objectives.

Total Quality Management (TQM)

Moreover the organisation can also consider a Total Quality Management (TQM) approach to improve the quality of the products or services. TQM is a management process to instill a culture of continuous improvement in an organisation.

Such improvements will balance productivity enhancement against the established quality criteria. The successful implementation of TQM programme defends on a technical and behavioral journey or an organisation. In other words technical areas address the specific disciplines and methodologies of the business activity whereas behavioral aspects address the organisation issues and human resource development activities.

It has been proved that TQM concept has helped the organisations to improve communications, develop better relationship with customers and reduce wastage by improving quality and productivity.

However it is very important to note at this stage that quality is everybody's business and therefore the active participation of all employees of an organisation and their fullest support and co-operation are very much important to make any quality improvement programme a success.

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Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Empowerment not charity, the answer to poverty

Daily News: 05/07/2005" by Lynn Ockersz

"Let's use fun to spread peace!" This slogan which is blared forth at 'Live 8', "the biggest music show on earth," which has just been launched in a series of Rock-Pop music concerts across the continents, aims at focusing on the situation of the poverty-stricken millions of Africa.

Reports said that the musicians would be snapping their fingers every three seconds while on stage to indicate the frequency at which a child dies due to poverty somewhere in the world.

The immediate backdrop to this epochal happening in the music world is the G-8 summit opening in Gleneagles, Scotland on Tuesday, which is already coming under unprecedented public pressure in the West to "make poverty history," by bringing immediate relief to Africa's deprived populations, reeling under endemic poverty. At least 100,000 demonstrators have already converged on Gleneagles to impress on the world's mightiest economic powers - including Japan - the need to make drastic, concrete moves to "make poverty history".

The public protest, we are told, would run in tandem with the Rock-Pop music concerts, to dramatize the plight of the poor, in an unprecedented, people-powered drive to stir the conscience of those who hold the world's purse strings.

The music component of the demonstration is the brainchild of Western pop music icon, Bob Geldof, who in 1985, orchestrated the now famous "We are the World" musical extravaganza aimed at highlighting the dire condition of the African child, dying relentlessly in the stranglehold of poverty.

Such massive outpourings of public concern in the West in particular, for the "Wretched of the Earth," are the proof we have that all is not lost in terms of awakening the conscience of the world to the continuing, unalleviated, problem of poverty but the hope of those awaiting real change is likely to be that this time round pious wishes would be translated into concrete, poverty eradication measures.

Hopefully, the G-8 would be stirred into positive action by their publics and we would see - to begin with - a meeting of the commitment made long ago, by the world's richest countries to siphon 0.7 percent of their national income towards shoring-up the economies of underdeveloped countries.

This aid pledge would need to precede all other anti-poverty measures, such as working towards the UN-sanctioned Millennium Development Goals, if a dent is to be made in the lingering poverty issue which results in some 29,000 children dying yearly around the world in a condition of extreme deprivation.

While demonstrations of public support for the cause of eradicating global poverty are most welcome and are, in fact, necessary, the defenders of social justice everywhere are likely to wish that a process would, from now on, take place to ensure the true empowerment of the world's poor, globally as well as at the level of national societies.

It is a change in the power balance between the rich and the poor-globally as well as locally - resulting in the poor wielding more power, which would see a change for the better in the condition of the underprivileged and deprived.

It just wouldn't do to only demonstrate one's sense of outrage at the continuing poverty crisis. Those demonstrating at Gleneagles, for instance, need to ensure that the poor in their societies are truly empowered when they get back to their home countries. The poor would need to be strong parties to decision-making both at global and local levels, if progress is to be made in the direction of poverty alleviation.

National socio-political systems and global society should be democratized to such a degree that the voice of the poor is not only heard at such levels but also acted on. If not, we would be having endemic poverty and violence as the case of Nepal, for instance, so graphically demonstrates.

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Nearly 3,500 Lankans have AIDS - ILO

Lankanewspapers: Nearly 3,500 Lankans have AIDS - ILO, Tuesday, 5 July 2005 - 1:47 AM SL Time

The number of HIV/AIDS cases reported from Sri Lanka, by the end of 2004, was around 614. The International Labour Organisation said yesterday that the numbers could increase as these were only the official numbers.

However, persons with the disease were reluctant to come forward due to the immense changes that take place in ones appearance and the social stigma associated with it.

According to ILO and UNAIDS reports, the estimated number of people living with HIV/AIDs in Sri Lanka is around 3,500, ILO sources said yesterday. A majority of them belong to the productive section in society, such as drivers, those in the hotel trade, the army, teachers and artists. A majority of them are within the age of 30 - 39, they said.

`Even though Sri Lanka is one of the South Asian countries in which HIV/AIDS has not posed such a threat the possibilities of the disease spreading are much higher. The reluctance to use condoms, the large number of commercial sex workers and external and internal migration are only some of the reasons, the ILO said.

However, the ILO and the Ministry of Labour Relations and Foreign Employment have come up with a three-year program to control the spread of HIV/AIDS among workers. The program would introduce various programs and policies in workplaces, develop work skills, implementing awareness programs and preventing the differentiating of those who have contacted HIV/AIDS.

The final aim of this project is to develop a definite National Program to combat the disease, they stated.

The ILO urged the government, the trade unions and service providers to join hands to combat HIV/AIDS in workplaces.

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Condominium concept in Post-tsunami construction

Daily News: 05/07/2005" by Athula Wimalaratne, B.Sc. Eng. (Hons.), Dip. C.Sc. (Hons.), E.D.B.A., C.Eng., MIE (SL)

Most of the state implemented Housing Apartments were done 2-3 decades back. Those housing units were distributed mainly to the middle income groups of people in the society on rent purchase basis in which they had to pay their monthly rental for a long period to acquire ownership of those housing units. Until such time the developer, being a statutory body has to maintain the entire Housing Schemes mainly the common elements and common amenities.

As per Apartment ownership Law, with the transferring of ownership of individual housing units only the undivided shared ownership of common elements and common amenities could be transferred to individual unit owners.

Until such time, the ownership of those common elements and common amenities belong to the original developer, in this case the statuary body. By now there are many complicated issues in those housing apartments for which all parties concerned are held responsible up to a certain extent.

With the depreciation of rupee value rental charges are insufficient even to cover maintenance cost and therefore the relevant statutory bodies find in difficult to maintain the common elements and common amenities in the proper way. Most of the common elements and common amenities have been misused by different parties due to the fact that their ownerships belong to the statutory body. Maintenance of common elements and common amenities becomes a fairly ineffective and inefficient process due to the long-term involvement of statutory bodies with limited resources.

The corporation received from housing unit owners and respective occupiers of those housing schemes in maintaining those common elements and common amenities is very poor. Increase of their rental is also dubious due to various reasons.

Obtaining the corporation of unit owners and occupiers in maintenance activities by inculcating certain common attitudes for the well-being of all occupants is also somewhat difficult at this stage due to their present mindset on these aspects and their past experiences in some long outstanding issues and malpractices such as unauthorized constructions.

Some occupants find it difficult to pay their monthly rental and some of them neglect paying the rental owing to different types of reasons. Some of them expect the ownership of individual housing units without any further payments and some are refusing to obtain ownership of housing units purely to avoid any sort of responsibility on maintenance of common elements and common amenities.

One has to admit the fact that there are lot of needy repairs and improvements in those housing schemes. Some of them are due to poor maintenance activities during the past and some of them are due to certain malpratices of connected parties. It is not reasonable to blame one party as all connected parties contributed to the ineffective and inefficient system, and hence it is a system failure. It is a conceptual error done by not paying enough attention to the Condominium Concept.

* Are we going to correct them now?

* What sort of corrective actions are available to the present problems?

* Do we have a system to introduce preventive actions?

* How can we introduce Management Corporation Concept to housing unit owners in state implemented housing schemes of 20-30 years old?

* Do we need a National Policy and uninterrupted long-term action plan to solutions?

* How do we address dilapidated condominiums and ensure earthquake resistant apartments in future along with other disaster mitigation programmes?

* Do we have sufficient standards for condominium constructions?

* Are we regulating the condominium industry properly?

Out of all;

* Can we allow tsunami victims who are going to be occupied in apartments to face similar problems in future?

If not what shall we do now?

* How do we plan out of all these activities?

What information are lacking?

* Are you going to adopt correct systems and procedures?

* Are you ready to accept at least the basics of the condominium concept?

If so, please come and discuss with us. It is not easy to convince you by an article alone.

The Condominium Management Authority has no hesitation to interrupt and act against unscrupulous condominium developers as empowered by Apartment Ownership (Amendment) Act. No. 39 of 2003 to regulate all condominium industry activities for the long-term well-being of occupants.

Condominium Management Authority,
Sahadhipaththiya Pivisum Sevena, NHD Building,
Sir Chittampalam A. Gardiner Mawatha,
Colombo -02.

(The writer is the General Manager of the Condominium Management Authority, Ministry of Housing Construction Industry, Eastern Province Education and Irrigation Development.

He is a member of the Institution of Engineers (Sri Lanka) & Institution of Project Managers (Sri Lanka). He had worked for many reputed overseas Companies and conducts several Awareness Programmes to regulate continual enhancement of habitable Condominium Properties.)

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Tuesday, July 05, 2005

World Bank Launches New Publication: Treasures of the Education System in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka - World Bank Launches New Publication: Treasures of the Education System in Sri Lanka: Colombo, June 30, 2005
The cardinal challenge facing Sri Lankan education policy makers is to develop and sustain a high quality education system, says a new World Bank report Treasures of the Education System in Sri Lanka: Restoring Performance, Expanding Opportunities and Enhancing Prospects. The Bank will officially present the findings and policy implications of this analysis of the Sri Lankan education system today at the Ceylon Continental Hotel.
The Sri Lankan education system has been commended in development policy circles and in economic literature for its success in providing widespread access to primary and secondary education. Although the country attained a high level of human development for a low-income economy, Sri Lanka has lost the initial advantage it had in Asia. “The people of Sri Lanka have always placed education very high on their list of priorities,” said Peter Harrold, World Bank Country Director for Sri Lanka. “Development initiatives and strategies to widen education access to the poorest and most disadvantaged economic groups requires strengthening to improve the efficiency and quality of service delivery so Sri Lanka can gain lost ground,” he added.
The publication is the most comprehensive and scientific analysis of the education system in Sri Lanka ever undertaken by the World Bank. The report provides extensive statistical data and examines “Policies, Enrolment and Organization of the Education System” and presents in the second chapter a strong case on the “Economic and Social Benefits of Investing in Education.” The chapter on “Resources and Service Delivery in Education” that follows analyses education investment in Sri Lanka, with a special focus on public investment, internal efficiency, and the quality of service delivery. “Status, Challenges and Policy Responses to Education” examines several important dimensions of education quality and presents four case studies undertaken especially for this report. The last chapter, titled “Training and Links to the Labor Market,” seeks to fill an important information gap by undertaking an analysis of technical education and vocational training. This analysis complements the preceding study of the general education system. The discussion is enriched by comparative information on the various aspects of the education systems of a number of countries around the world, including Argentina, Australia, Chile, Columbia, Egypt, India, Lesotho, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, South Korea, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.
“Sri Lanka needs to look beyond universal access to primary education, which it achieved many years ago, to second and third generation reforms to develop a high quality education system for economic prosperity and social well being,” said Harsha Aturupane, Senior Economist, World Bank, who headed the study team and is the main author for the report. “We need to shift the focus of the capital budget from classrooms, administration buildings, and staff rooms, which have been the past focus, to science laboratories, computer centers, libraries, and activity rooms in future. Similarly, in the recurrent expenditure budget, free up resources from the salaries bill for teaching learning material,” he added.
As the first component of the new wave of aid for education that will flow from this report, the World Bank is leading the efforts of donors to help the Ministry of Education and the Provincial Councils prepare a five-year rolling plan to develop the basic and secondary education systems in the country. The report lays the foundation for the World Bank’s future support to the Education Sector in Sri Lanka, commencing with a US$60 million World Bank Education Sector Development Grant planned for 2006 – 2010.
In Sri Lanka, the World Bank has been the leading donor to the education sector, providing foreign assistance worth more than US$200 million over the last 10 years.
For more information on World Bank activities in Sri Lanka, please visit: http://www.worldbank.org/lk
ContactsIn Colombo: Chulie De Silvae-mail: cdesilva@worldbank.org, (94-11) 5561-323
In Washington: Benjamin Crowe-mail: bcrow@worldbank.org, Tel. (1-202) 473-5105

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Bush Exaggerates Increase in U.S. Aid

POLITICS-AFRICA: Bush Exaggerates Increase in U.S. Aid: "WASHINGTON, Jun 27 (IPS) - U.S. President George W. Bush has been significantly exaggerating the amount of money his administration has provided in aid to sub-Saharan Africa, according to a new study released here Monday.

Instead of a tripling of U.S. aid to Africa between 2000 and 2005, as Bush has frequently insisted, Washington has increased aid by only 56 percent in real terms, according to the report by the Brookings Institution.

The report, entitled ”U.S. Foreign Assistance to Africa: Claims and Reality”, is almost certain to increase pressure on Bush to announce a major new initiative to bolster development in the world's poorest continent in the run-up to the Group of Eight (G8) summit meeting in Gleneagles, Scotland, to be hosted by British Prime Minister Tony Blair Jul. 6-8.

The pressure on Bush to be more forthcoming toward Africa has grown steadily despite his agreement to join a debt cancellation plan with other G8 nations that should benefit about a dozen of Africa's poorest nations.

The G8 represents the world's most industrialised nations: the United States, Canada, Japan, Russia, Britain, France, Germany and Italy.

During his visit here earlier this month, Blair stressed that increased aid and other support for Africa will be among the top agenda items at Gleneagles. Along with the United Nations and the World Bank, he has called on industrialised countries to double aid to Africa over the next few years as part of a series of measures, including debt relief, to substantially reduce poverty and sustain economic growth in the region.

After Blair's visit, the leaders of several African nations who had been invited to the White House publicly criticised the administration for not disbursing aid from Bush's new Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) more quickly to needy nations.

Several days later, several influential conservative black clergymen who had been wooed by the administration sent a letter to Bush calling for him to offer full support for Blair's Africa-related initiatives, including comprehensive debt relief and a doubling of official development assistance (ODA) to Africa to 50 billion dollars a year.

”Some were confused by the fact that Prime Minister Tony Blair, who stood with the president on Iraq at enormous political cost to himself, did not appear to be receiving the same level of concrete support from the president when it came to Africa,” Rev. Eugene Blyers, a Boston pastor who backed Bush's re-election last year, told the Los Angeles Times.

”It is our hope that the president will stand with the prime minister as strongly as the prime minister stood with him at the height of the controversy over the Iraq war.”

Blair's call for increased aid has been well received elsewhere, leaving Bush increasingly isolated. In late May, EU leaders agreed unanimously to almost double assistance to the world's poorest countries over the next five years. One week later, Japan promised to do the same in three years' time.

In addition, key EU members, including Britain, France, Germany and Italy, have also committed to increasing their official development assistance (ODA) for poor countries to 0.7 percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) by 2015.

But Bush has been far less forthcoming, insisting that his administration has already tripled U.S. aid to Africa and that a promise to provide 0.7 percent of U.S. GDP -- nearly five times what Washington provides today -- ”doesn't fit our budgetary process.”

”Over the past four years, we have tripled our assistance to Sub-Sahara Africa, and now America accounts for nearly a quarter of all the aid in the region,” he told Blair at a joint White House news conference Jun. 7.

According to the Brookings study, however, aid to Africa under Bush ”has not 'tripled' or even doubled.”

The report finds instead that between fiscal year 2000, the last full year for which Bill Clinton was president, and FY 2005, total U.S. aid for Africa increased only 56 percent in real terms, with the majority of the increase consisting of emergency food aid, rather than traditional ODA that is used to promote long-term development.

During the same period, Washington's ODA for Africa increased only 33 percent in real terms, according to the report, which was written by Susan Rice, who served as Clinton's top Africa aide from 1993 to 2001 and is currently with the Centre for American Progress.

If funds earmarked for FY 2005 are considered, total aid to Africa will have increased by 78 percent in real terms since 2005, and ODA by 74 percent, according to the study.

”The administration has made some assertions about spending levels that are not accurate,” Rice told reporters in a teleconference Monday. ”The rhetoric has been more compelling than actual performance.”

U.S. foreign aid in general reached its nadir in the mid-1990s after Republicans took control of the House of Representatives, according to Rice, who noted that it began rising again in the late 1990s. Even with the increase in assistance, Washington has been the most miserly of the major industrialised nations, contributing only about 0.16 percent of its GDP to ODA.

Rice described Bush's overall record on aid to Africa as ”mixed.”

On the positive side, Bush's Presidential Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which is supposed to provide 15 billion dollars over five years in support for AIDS initiatives in 15 countries, 12 of which are in Africa, has been a major advance, she said, even if it is ”flawed” both by substantial restrictions on how the money can be spent and the fact that most of the money has been channeled through the administration's own bilateral programme rather than through the multilateral Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

At the same time, another major Bush initiative that also primarily targeted Africa, the MCA, has so far failed to gain any traction and now faces sharp budget cuts by Congress precisely because it has been so slow in disbursing aid.

The MCA, which Bush announced with great fanfare at a major U.N. summit on development finance in Monterrey, Mexico, in March 2002, was supposed to have provided 10 billion dollars in additional assistance to countries committed to far-reaching economic, anti-corruption and political reforms over three years beginning in fiscal 2003 and five billion dollars a year as of FY 2006.

While Congress has appropriated 2.5 billion dollars for the MCA over the past two years, the new agency has so far approved just four projects, in Honduras (215 million dollars), Nicaragua (175 million dollars), Cape Verde (110 million dollars) and Madagascar (108 million dollars), as well as 400,000 dollars for administrative expenses.

”The MCA exists in name only,” according to Rice, who stressed that the agency, whose director, Paul Applegarth, announced his resignation earlier this month, illustrated the gap between the administration's rhetoric and what it was actually doing.

Aside from emergency food aid, which has increased by 184 percent from 2000 to 2005, the Africa aid accounts which increased the most over the five-year period in percentage terms, according to the Brookings Report, were mostly security-oriented.

Contributions to peacekeeping operations grew 263 percent in 2005 compared to 2000, while foreign military financing -- which is used to buy training and equipment -- rose 163 percent. The costs of weapons non-proliferation, anti-terrorism, demining, and anti-drug programmes in Africa doubled over the period.

*Corrects paragraph 25 on MCA disbursements. (END/2005) "

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Monday, July 04, 2005

40% of tsunami-victims who have lost their jobs still need means of livelihood - 6 months after

ReliefWeb - Document Preview: Source: International Labour Organization (ILO)
Date: 24 Jun 2005

Six months after the tsunami, 40 per cent of the affected people who have lost their jobs are still in urgent need of livelihood recovery assistance. Nine out of 10 men and women in affected areas lost their jobs due to the tsunami. As of May 2005, only about 60% of them managed to regain some source of income. These are findings from a recent survey by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) on the status of livelihood recovery.

The livelihood losses have an enormous impact on the women and men affected by the tsunami. “Continuous monitoring of the recovery process is of key importance as it provides necessary guidance for assistance providers”, says Claudia Coenjaerts, Director of the ILO Office in Colombo.

The Needs Assessment Survey for Income Recovery (NASIR) interviewed, in April 2005, 1,600 households in eight affected districts: Colombo, Galle, Hambantota , Ampara, Batticaloa, Trincomalee, Mullaitivu and Jaffna. It covered people living in camps, those displaced who live with relatives as well as women and men not displaced but living in affected areas and surroundings within 300 meters of the coastal belt. It follows up from the Livelihood Rapid Assessment Survey carried out by ILO and WFP in mid-January 2005.

The results of this survey will be used in the planning and delivery of government and non-government livelihood assistance provided under the umbrella of the Rapid Income Recovery Programme (RIRP).

Eighty seven per cent of households interviewed suffered loss or damage of their productive assets. Areas most affected were Mullaitiviu, Ampara and Batticaloa districts, where poverty levels are already high and people need development support. The same proportion (87%) lost their livelihood. While 60 per cent have regained some source of income, more men (55 per cent) than women (40 per cent) are back to work. The situation is more worrisome for workers over 40 years of age, relatively few of whom have recovered their source of income.

Job recovery varies by sector, the most difficult of which are agriculture and trade. Half of those who work in the fisheries have gone back to work. The main reason for not working is lack of assets and materials to work. Eighty eight per cent identified equipment, loans and grants (in kind or cash) as most critical to their recovery. Surprisingly only fifteen per cent expressed the need for training, yet, this still implies an approximate number of 30,000 women and men. If the aim is to build back better, and following the existing levels of poverty in the districts concerned, training will be needed for higher numbers even.

Thirty six per cent of respondents are willing to do temporary paid manual labour known as “cash for work”, particularly in Ampara, Jaffna and Batticaloa Districts. More than 70 per cent of those would accept a daily earning of Rs.350 or less, while 86 per cent will accept receiving part of payment in food (especially in camps).

Eighty three per cent of respondents are, or intend to be, self-employed or run their own business. Twenty-one per cent of entrepreneurs tried to get a business loan since the tsunami, while another 23 per cent plan to apply for a loan.

More than 97 per cent of affected households have received from Government, full or partial payment of Rs.5,000 per family per month, plus Rs.375 per person per week. However, as of end May, most only received two payments.

Sixty per cent of respondents feel they lack information about services and entitlements offered. Radio, newspapers and television are the most important channels of information.

Eighty per cent of affected households are in temporary or incomplete shelters (60%) with friends or relatives (21%). The situation is worrisome in the Eastern and Northern areas, especially in Ampara, Jaffna and Batticacoa Districts. Seventy per cent of those living in their own undamaged houses expect they might be relocated.

Eighty per cent say the uncertainty of possible relocation is a major stumbling block for sustainably rebuilding their livelihood.

The ILO is assisting the Government in setting up a coordinating framework that will help ensure quality, relevance and targetting of livelihood recovery assistance, provided by a myriad of organizations.

In order to help regain livelihood, the ILO also started some small scale cash for work projects to repair roads. The project commenced in April and will continue for six months, providing 1,600 workdays. It involves among others Beruwela Pradeshiya Sabha, Kalutara District, West Province who are clearing debris and repairing two roads connected to the A2 National Highway (Colombo-Galle) damaged by the tsunami. Experience from such projects, is being used to direct policy technical advice which the ILO provides to the Government through the RIRP of the Task Force in Rebuilding the Nation (TAFREN). It will be important to move beyond debris clearing and identify other useful community reconstruction work to provide temporary employment for large number of people.

In May the ILO also published a guide entitled: Livelihood and Employment Creation. It provides recommended management and policy options for employment friendly reconstruction in Sri Lanka. The collection of 12 booklets describes activities which will contribute to the promotion of social and economic recovery in livelihoods. Topics covered include: Business development services, Cash for work, Community contracting, Food for work, Labour-based infrastructure projects, Local economic development, Micro finance, Micro and small enterprise promotion, Public employment services, Start and improve your own business, Vocational and skills training, and Women entrepreneurship.

Additionally, the ILO is providing financial support to the Start and Improve Your Business (SIYB) Association to conduct SIYB training to some180 entrepreneurs affected by the tsunami. Partner organizations are in the process of selecting eligible entrepreneur applicants. The five-day training which will be conducted for nine groups will enable participants to draw up a business plan, which they can submit to a bank for loan.

ILO Office in Colombo, 24.06.05

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Facts regarding post-tsunami recovery six months on

ReliefWeb - Document Preview: Source: United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Date: 16 Jun 2005

The tsunami’s devastating impact

By 16 June, the Government of Sri Lanka reported that:
- 31,229 persons died as a result of the tsunami.
- 4,100 persons are missing.
- 516,150 persons are currently registered as tsunami-displaced in welfare centres or staying with friends and relatives.
- 14 out of 28 Sri Lankan districts were affected by the tsunami.
- 23,449 acres of cultivated land were affected, including 9,000 acres of paddy, 645 acres of other field crops, 12,928 home gardens, 559 acres of vegetable farms, and 317 acres of fruit trees according to FAO and the Ministry of Agriculture.
- 16,479 fishing craft were damaged or destroyed which represents 50 per cent of the Sri Lankan fleet, according to FAO and the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture.
- 86 medical facilities were damaged or destroyed, not including pharmacies and other medical-related facilities, according to TAFREN.
- 195 educational facilities including universities and vocational training centres were damaged with 59 schools totally destroyed and 117 partially destroyed, according to TAFREN
- 275,000 lost jobs -- nine out of ten working men and women -- according to ILO with 34 per cent of such jobs having been in the fishing industry.
- 31,000 transitional shelters have now been completed by a variety of actors, including international and national NGOs, private groups and UNHCR, IOM and various other agencies and NGOs nationwide with some 150,000 family members now living in them. Another 9,000 transitional shelters are expected to be completed by the end of June, according to TAFREN.
- 54,266 transitional shelters in all are currently scheduled to be complete in the coming month, housing more than 250,000 people according to UNHCR.
- 9,480 families were still living in tents as of 8 June, according to the Head of TAFOR.
- Over 480,000 non-food relief items (mosquito nets, lanterns, cooking utensils, buckets, etc.) have been provided to affected families by UN agencies.
- Some of the assistance provided to date by UN agencies
- 53,000 tonnes provided by the World Food Programme, feeding some 910,000 people
- 101 emergency health kits have been provided to hospitals and clinics by UNICEF and WHO benefiting some 1,500,000 tsunami-affected people
- Approx. 6000 malaria rapid diagnostic kits and over 100,000 anti-malarial tablets supplied by UN agencies.
- 48,000 impregnated mosquito nets have been provided by UNICEF and WHO with 50,000 more are on the way.
- Some 10,000 chlorine tablets, 500 chlorine testing kits, 30 bacteriological testing kits and 900 sanitation kits for toilet maintenance by UN agencies.
- 384,885 children between 6-months to 5-years of age in the10 tsunami-affected districts have received vitamin “A” mega dose supplementation.
Water and sanitation
- At least 650 wells have been cleaned by UNICEF.
- Water purification tablets have been distributed extensively in camps and shelter sites by UNICEF and WHO.
- Over 100,000 persons are being provided 15 liters of drinking water per-day by means of 285 water tanks, 96 water bladders holding 1,500 liters each and 11 water bowsers supplied by UNICEF.
- 3,109 School-in-a-Box kits have been provided for over 200,000 children and more 1,350 recreation kits have been distributed reaching some 81,000 Children by UNICEF.
- 172 schools have been cleaned with the support of UNICEF.
- 104 temporary teaching facilities -- out of 277 planned -- have been provided by UNICEF plans to restore 24 school buildings.
- Over 227,000 school uniforms, 50,000 desks and chairs, 480,000 textbooks, and over 114,000 school bags have been provided by UNICEF.
- 10,198 boats in total have now been repaired or replaced by government agencies and NGOs, according to FAO.
- 3,415 boats, 212 inboard engines and 658 outboard motors have been repaired by FAO and it enables some 12,000 fishers to resume their livelihoods.
- 25 IOM sewing centres have been opened by IOM in camps to provide training and employment to tsunami-affected people and fifty-nine carpenters have been provided with IOM replacement tool kits to help rebuild their livelihoods.
- Cash-for-work and food for work projects by various UN agencies are on-going, including a pilot cash-for-work project, assisted by the ILO, in which two roads are being cleaned and repaired, providing 20 people some 1,600 workdays. The pilot project will provide valuable experience for ILO policy technical advice to the Rapid Income Recovery Programme (RIRP) of TAFREN.

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OCHA post-tsunami update Jun 2005

ReliefWeb - Document Preview: "Source: United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Date: 30 Jun 2005

United Nations Activities in Support of the Relief and Recovery Efforts of the Sri Lankan Government and Its People
Stay the course and "build back better"
Six months after the tsunami, with the emergency relief phase winding down, but not yet completely over, daunting challenges lie ahead. They will require the full coordination of the government and international agencies and NGOs, and a constant ear to the views and aspirations of tsunami-affected communities. They will also require patience and understanding -- from the beneficiaries themselves, and from all actors, Sri Lankan and international. We must remain committed to the reconstruction phase and stay the course.
Given the sheer scale and complexity of the task - securing adequate land, building 90,000-plus
permanent homes, and restoring livelihoods for every family - that will be impossible to achieve in only a few short months. On that, there should be no confusion. As UN Special Envoy Bill Clinton said on his visit to Sri Lanka late last May, it will take three-to-five-years for Sri Lanka to "build back better." And that's the goal that Sri Lankans and their international partners all share.
The Sri Lankan government now has a national reconstruction plan and UN agencies and NGO's are lending their support and underpinning to it. "Get people into homes," "Get people back to work," "Ensure health, education and protection for all affected people," and "Upgrade the national infrastructure." These are the titles of the four main action programmes of the Taskforce for Rebuilding the Nation (TAFREN). They are ones the UN agencies support and the entire international community are committed to see realized. In the interim, there are still pressing humanitarian needs to be met - full support and assistance to those people who remain in inadequate shelters comes to mind. The UN agencies and NGO's must remain particularly pro-active in responding to the plight of these people as long as is necessary.
Nonetheless, it is worth acknowledging at this point that some real achievements have occurred in recent months, as some of the statistics and articles in this second issue of "Post-Tsunami Update," affirm. Some 30,000 transitional houses have now been built and more than 20,000 are to be completed in coming weeks. The pace in construction in permanent housing is picking up, people are getting back to work and a variety of cash-for-work, cash-for-food and micro-credit schemes are helping, as well, to restore lives and livelihoods. It is a promising start to the long road ahead.
Miguel BermeoUN Humanitarian and Resident Coordinator for Sri Lanka
FAO and Cey-Nor repair boats and restore livelihoods
FAO has repaired over 3,400 boats in Sri Lanka, enabling nearly 12,000 fishers to resume their livelihoods since last December's tsunami destruction. According to government and FAO estimates, 54 per cent of the total fishing fleet was either made unseaworthy or was totally destroyed by the tsunami. FAO, which works through the government-owned boat building and fishery supply company Cey-Nor Foundation Ltd, mobilized resources from a number of international donors to fund its boat rehabilitation activities.
FAO is supporting Cey-Nor through the provision of tools, boat repair materials and payment of labour charges. The aim of the activity is to ensure that fishers in all affected districts are allowed to resume their livelihoods as quickly as possible. Close to 5,000 fishers were killed by the tsunami waves in Sri Lanka and tens of thousands of others saw their houses destroyed and their means of earning a living -- their boats, nets and other equipment -- washed away. Through its partnership with the government and Cey-Nor, FAO has already repaired 3,415 fishing boats in Sri Lanka and has supplied 75 percent of the funds and raw materials made available to Cey-Nor. FAO is also funding the repair of inboard engines and outboard motors. To date, 212 inboard engines and 658 outboard motors have already been repaired by Cey-Nor using FAO funds.

Full report (pdf* format - 1.6 MB)

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Sunday, July 03, 2005

Shall we be ready when the next tsunami strikes?

Daily News: 02/07/2005" by Koichiro Matsuura (Director General UNESCO)

Two thirds of humanity today lives in coastal areas. By 2030, this figure will reach 75 per cent. Last December's tsunami reminded us of how vulnerable populations in these areas can be. Will we be ready when the next one strikes?

Almost six months later, an interim tsunami warning system is operating in the Indian Ocean basin. UNESCO's Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) has overseen the installation or upgrading of tide gauges, deep ocean pressure sensors and seismic equipment across the region. This equipment is already transmitting information about climate, tide changes and other scientific data at hourly intervals.

IOC teams have also been sent to several Indian Ocean countries to assess their needs with a view to help them set up their national plans for dealing with such disasters, including public education programmes, communications and other vital infrastructure such as evacuation routes, emergency accommodation and medical facilities.

At the IOC Assembly at UNESCO Headquarters lates this month (June 21-30), the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System will be formally launched. However, despite often difficult negotiations and titanic efforts to draw up a viable blueprint for the system, this has been the relatively easy part of the task.

UNESCO's ambition, goes beyond the Indian Ocean and the Pacific region, where a regional tsunami warning system has been operating under the aegis of UNESCO since the 1960s. Rather, we are working towards a worldwide warning system, to protect other tsunami-vulnerable regions, such as the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, the South West Pacific and the Atlantic.

The challenges ahead are legion. They can only be met if we succeed in promoting a worldwide culture of anticipation and prevention. Setting up a detection and warning system is not always easy. It requires not only material inputs, but also the mobilisation of the countries concerned.

Many countries, for example, take the view that certain kinds of information - such as seismic data and underwater topographic maps - belong to the realm of their national security and commercial interests. Yet tsunamis know no boundaries and an effective warning system demands that vital scientific data be made readily available in real time. Such a system also requires long-term investment.

The IOC's experience in the Pacific shows that maintenance of a specialised regional system often lapses over time and disappears from the list of government priorities. In 2004, for example, three of the six seafloor pressure sensors in the pacific system were out of commission.

This is why UNESCO advocates the creation of a global ocean observation system, covering the planet as a whole and offering a whole range of oceanographic services to scientists, governments and the private sector. These services would include other climate-related hazards such as storm surges and cyclones, which are much more frequent than tsunamis and just as deadly, as evidenced by the 500,000 deaths caused in Bangladesh in 1970 and 1990.

Apart from the science and technology, disaster prevention also requires preparing people at local level. They must be educated and informed so as to be alert to tsunamis and other major hazards and to know what to do in the event of a warning being issued.

There is surely no better illustration of this than the case of the young British girl who, remembering what she had been taught in a geography lesson on tsunamis, was able to save the lives of hundreds of people on a beach in Thailand in the face of the retreating sea; or that of the native inhabitants of islands in Thailand and Indonesia who were able to save thousands of people thanks to legends deriving from their oral tradition.

Contingency planning also concerns the human environment: identifying risk areas, designating or developing evacuation zones and, above all, prescribing the construction of earthquake-resistant buildings and refusing permission to build on dangerous sites. In January 2005, the World Conference on Disaster Reducation held in Kobe (Japan) recommended that critical sites such as schools, hospitals, communication and transport lifelines, power stations and heritage sites should be protected.

Finally, nothing will be possible without a constant exchange of knowledge and information between the authorities, local communities and scientists. The concern for such a dialogue prompted UNESCO to devote a recent session of its 21st century talks to the topic: 'Tsunamis: Foresight and Prevention'. Organised by Jerome Binde, this international meeting brought together two world-renowned geophysicists, the former French Minister Claude Allegre and Emile K. Okal, together with Patricio Bernal, Executive Secretary of the IOC responsible for the global oceanographic programme.

A new social contract between science and governance is necessary if decision-makers are to act other than as blind pilots with scientists as their lucid but impotent passengers. For it is essential that leaders should be clear-sighted and that science should possess the necessary leverage, if, in keeping with Archimedes, it intends to move the world.

This article is a revised summary of the author's presentation to the 21st century talk on Tsunamis: Foresight and Prevention', recently organised at UNESCO.

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Six months on the tsunami exhibition draws huge crowds

Daily News: 02/07/2005"

Vakarai, Batticaloa, Armugam Kannagi wiped off the tears in her eyes and hastily walked out of the room. She went to the next room to see some other exhibits that were about different kinds of vocations that people can start.

"I could not stop my tears when I saw the single shoe hanging from the board and the message next to it saying," 50-year-old Kannagi. "I lost everything in the tsunami and had always thought that I had suffered the most, but when I saw the things displayed in the room I realized that some people have suffered more than me."

Kannagi had come with her family and neighbours to see the exhibition put up by Oxfam and its local partners in a government school in Vakarai. She lives in a camp of displaced people, a few kilometers away from the school. This was the first time she got an opportunity to leave the camp and meet with other people affected by the tsunami.

The exhibition was organized on June 26 to mark the six months of the tsunami devastation that left some 31,000 people dead and thousands homeless. The theme of the exhibition was "We will wipe the tears caused by the tsunami".

Broken tea cups, family pictures, utensils, a sewing machine, parts of radio and television sets, shoes, school bags, grocery bags and household items that survived the killer wave on the Boxing Day were on display in the one section of the exhibition. Each of the items had a message pinned next to it explaining why it had been brought there.

"This pair of shoes, my daughter liked most" an inscription pinned next to a single shoe read. "My son carried this bag to school," read another. Long winding queues were outside all the three different sections of the exhibition. Some 2,500 people - men, women and schoolchildren - who visited the exhibition, were keen to see what was on display.

Dressed in his Sunday best 10-year-old Kajan spent a long time in the Public Health section trying to understand why the life-size model of a woman beeped. "The man demonstrating the model told me that if the model gets any impure water it beeps," he said. "It was fascinating, I had never seen such a thing."

"It's a part of the healing process," said Shanti Sivanesan, Oxfam GB's Gender and Protection Project Officer, who organized the exhibition with the help of partner organizations and volunteers. "We wanted the people to come out of their camp environment and spend some time with others who have also been affected by the tsunami." Most of the people affected by the tsunami have been holed up in their camps and never got an opportunity to spend a day away from the camp environment.

"I never expected such a huge response to our invitation," said Karim, district coordinator of Sarvodaya, a local partner organization. "For the past one week we have worked round the clock to set up this exhibition. It seems to have paid off very well."

Visitors were asked to write their impressions on a saree that was produced by the tsunami-affected weavers in the neighbouring Ampara district.

"Like Oxfam distributes water and quenches our thirst, this exhibition will heal our wounds," wrote M. Mooraj.

"The exhibition makes me feel that I was not the only one affected by the tsunami. It gives us confidence that we can overcome hardships and rebuild our lives," read another comment. "Thank you for holding the exhibition," wrote Jagadees. "This exhibition strengthens the confidence of the people," read another comment.

"This exhibition gives us peace of mind, it seems this exhibition will bring us out of the tsunami situation," wrote Jude from Vakarai.

Oxfam has been working in Vakarai, one of the poorest divisions in Sri Lanka, for the past 10 years. "After the tsunami we enlarged our programme in this area and now we have provided assistance to all the 6,000 families affected by the tsunami,'' said M. Yogeswaran, Oxfam's Batticaloa Programme Coordinator.

Along with the partner organizations, Oxfam GB has built 176 transitional shelters all over the district. Some 150 are under construction in Eralodai village in Vakarai division. Oxfam is working in 12 camps, providing people with 135,000 litres of drinking water everyday. Also the residents of these camps are given cash grant to start their own businesses as well as they are involved in Cash For Work programmes undertaken in the area to clear the debris.

"Several livelihood programmes have been implemented,'' said Raghurama Murthy, Assistant Programme Coordinator. "We are going to distribute boats fitted with outboard motors and fishing gear to some 40 fishermen, who have been identified by the Fisheries Department." Providing livelihood grants and raising the living conditions of the people are the key components of Oxfam GB's tsunami response programme in the country. (OXFAM)

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