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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, August 20, 2005

CCC Seminar on Sethusamudram Canal Project

The Island: 20/08/2005"

The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce is organising a seminar on "Sethusamudram Canal Project: Implications for Business". The seminar is scheduled for 29th August 2005 at the Chamber.

The "Sethusamudram naval canal project" initiated by India has created much discussion and debate among government officials, environmental groups, business community and the general public both in India and in Sri Lanka. Diverse views are expressed on the implications of the project.

The seminar is intended to enlighten the business community on the progress made by the Governments of India and Sri Lanka on the proposed project and on the possible implications of the project on business to facilitate business sector to adopt appropriate strategies to face the implications more effectively.

Members of the Sri Lankan Government delegation that visited India recently for discussions on the project and experts who have studied the project have been invited to address the seminar.

The following areas would be covered during the seminar: Sethusamudram Canal: Why is it Built? Implications on Shipping and Ports, Measures to cope with Navigation and Emergency, Impact of the Sethusamudram Canal Project on Fisheries, Potential Impact of the Project on Environment and Steps taken by the government to address the concerns of Sri Lanka.

The panel of speakers will consist of Mr. Rohan Abeywickrama (Director, Sathsindu Group of Companies), Dr. Krishan Deheragoda (Vice Chairman, Sri Lanka Ports Authority), Mr. M A R Kularatne (Chairman, Marine Pollution Prevention Authority) and Mr. A L Ratnapala (Assistant Secretary General, Ministry of Foreign Affairs). Dr. Parakrama Disanayake (Chairman/CEO, Aitken Spence Shipping Ltd) will chair the seminar.

The participants would be afforded the opportunity to clarify their issues from the expert panel of speakers and panelists during the open forum.

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Friday, August 19, 2005

Five-year programme to face natural disasters

The Island: 18/08/2005"

"Systematic data collection needed"

"Integrate disaster risk management concerns with ongoing and upcoming development policies"

The Parliamentary Select Committee on Natural Disasters has recommended the formulation of a five-year programme to face an emergency situation.

The Select Committee chairman, Chief Opposition Whip Mahinda Samarasinghe last week released its report which had been unanimously approved by the members.

The following are the recommendations:

A five year Programme for setting up a comprehensive disaster risk management system in Sri Lanka will have following elements.

These activities will be made mandatory Act and with the required financial allocations from the treasury and where relevant incorporated in donor funded and assisted development projects:

The Disaster Management bill provides the basic institutional framework for disaster risk management at the national level.

This broad framework will have to be further development into an institutional system that spans the national, provincial, district and division levels.

Capacities will have to be developed at all these levels. This is the most crucial aspect which needs to be taken up immediately as all the other elements stems from this.

Systematic Data Collection, Research and Analysis, Disaster Risk Assessment and Information Systems.

Comprises the following:

Systematic data collection, Multi-hazard risk assessments, Risk Information system, Inventory of past disaster impacts, DRM Website

In Sri Lanka, while a lot of information is available on natural hazards, relatively little is available on disaster risks except for work done by NBRO on landslide hazard risks. A system needs to be developed that systematically captures the existing and emerging patterns of disaster risk.

The NDMC, with support from UNDP has already initiated the development of a disaster risk information system and a DRM website.

These initiatives must be taken forward with proper coordination with relevant R&D and S&T agencies and engaging specialist consultants as relevant, and if necessary international or regional experts.

Integration of disaster risk management concerns with the ongoing and upcoming development policies and programmes

In order to reduce future disaster risks, specific mechanisms will have to be developed to incorporate disaster risk reduction in the planning processes of some of the key development sectors such as environment, water resources, power and energy, education and health.

Activities required by programmes of UN Agencies should also be included under this activity to ensure timely completion of as required by the respective programmes (the following list must be checked for completeness and action taken).

Mainstreaming Disaster Risk Reduction into the National Poverty Reduction Strategy.

A Guide to Implementing the Hyogo Framework of Action — ISDR Working Document.

Mainstreaming Disaster Risk Reduction into In-Country Assessments and the Multi year Program Framework of International Development Agencies.

Mainstreaming Disaster Risk Reduction into the National Adaptation Plan of Action (NAPA) under the UN Framework on Convention for Climate Change

Mainstreaming Disaster Risk reduction into the UN Common Country Assessment and UN Development Assistance Framework Process.

Establishment of effective early warning systems and Disaster preparedness and response systems and plans.

It is important to note that Sri Lanka is prone to a range of hydro-meteorological hazards that occur with much greater frequency than tsunamis. It is therefore, important that the development of early warning systems be looked at in a multi-hazard context. The efforts on generating improved forecast and warning need to be matched with equal (if not greater) emphasis on effective communication systems, public awareness and social infrastructure at the community level to act on those warnings and undertake life saving actions.

Disaster preparedness and response systems and plans have to be set up and in action.

Natural Disaster Mitigation Strategy for each level of Government and integration of DRM into development, Protection of Public Infrastructure from Impacts of Natural Disasters.

There is a great need in Sri Lanka to promote risk management at the local level, which encompasses preparation and implementation of village, division, district and provincial level disaster mitigation plans. The experience of the five southern districts after the May 2003 floods can be shared and replicated in other disaster prone districts of the country.

Strengthening is proposed to be implemented by promoting Emergency response systems and Disaster Risk Management Plans at all required levels made mandatory through legislation. For Protection of Public Infrastructure from Impacts of Natural Disasters and action to be taken.

A national public education and awareness generation programme

The proposed public education and awareness generation programme must be implemented by proposed NDMA utilising existing training and development agencies including NGOs and CBOs collaborating with them as partners.

A Five Years Programme can be represented in the form of an Action Plan as .... in Annex Resource mobilisation and Partnership Strategy Mobilising national, regional and international resources and partnerships for disaster risk management.

The implementation of the proposed road map will require additional resources as well as substantive partnerships at all levels. Systematic efforts need to be made in this direction. Regional and International Cooperation and Partnerships discussed below would be mobilised in implementing the DRM system.

Regional and International Cooperation and Partnerships

Following the May 2003 floods a number of projects were initiated, including the ADB Coast Conservation Project and rehabilitation of roads and irrigation schemes, and rehabilitation of damaged sanitation facilities by UNICEF.

The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, has committed approximately USD 1.3 million to support the recovery and DRM activities in affected districts of the 2003 floods, channelled through UNDP. In response to the drought of 2004, As of August, US $1.6 million was pledged for immediate mitigation by UN agencies, for water management tube wells and water purification seeds general relief and rehabilitation work for the drought and flood-stricken areas are underway by WFP, If RC, Oxfam, CARE and ITDGE. UNICEF, WFP UNHCR, and FAO are supporting the government through relief activities, needs assessment, and quick impact projects.

In terms of risk reduction, from 1997 onwards USAID’s OFDA has been supporting the Sri Lanka Urban Multi-Disaster Mitigation Project (SLUMDMP) implemented by the Centre for Housing, Planning and Building (CHPB) as the Sri Lanka country project of the AUDMP, a regional programme of ADPC, Bangkok, As demonstration activities the project dealt with LA level risk and vulnerability assessment, hazard mapping and integration in land use and development plans, action planning for mitigation of disaster impact, implementation of mitigation initiatives at local government level.

The project carried out demonstration activities in Ratnapura UC, Nawalapitiya UC, Kandy MC and Colombo MC areas. CHPB carried out several national level activities including training and awareness, has produced important publications, such as Guidelines for planning and construction in disaster prone areas and awareness ..... for different hazards separately. Activities included integration of DRM in subject of Geography of school curriculum, selected University courses and social marketing activities in selected schools. As an initiative under the USAID/OFDA sponsored AUDMP, a capacity building workshop was conducted in November 2003 on Lessons Learned in the 2003 disasters and Approaches for Long-term Disaster Risk Management in Sri Lanka.

ADPC played a key role in this project and the project activities were con..... in March 2005. SLUMDMP has carried out a range of training programmes in collaboration with NGOs such as St. John’s Ambulance, SLRC, ITDG, Oxfam etc. and a few local CBOs.

The Intermediate Technology Development Group, ITDG is a regional organisation which aims to improve the technical skills of poor people through appropriately designed technology and has been working in Sri Lanka since 1989. The disaster mitigation program, which aims towards disaster prevention, works in five south Asian countries and the project director for Sri Lanka, Madhav Ariyabandu, won the 2004 Fran Myers Award from the Gender and Disaster Network.

ITDG has produced important publications such as "Gender Dimensions in Disaster Management" (2004) and "Defeating Disasters: Ideas for Action" (199(), as well as video documentaries meant to influence policy makers. The main technology areas that ITDG works in for Sri Lanka are agro processing and food production, energy, transportation and disaster mitigation. ITDG is implementing "entry point" rainwater harvesting and micro-irrigation projects in drought prone areas.

UNDP remains committed to assisting the Government of Sri Lanka in strengthening the disaster risk management system in Sri Lanka. Implementing the provisions of the disaster management bill (when enacted) will require capacity development in a number of areas. Possible areas of UNDP support include:

Institutional capacity building at all levels (at national level for various ministries and departments, including a National Disaster Management Centre and other appropriate levels-provincial, district, division levels)

Mainstreaming disaster risk management in recovery and development planning processes

Establishment of disaster risk information systems.

Strengthening local level disaster risk management systems.

After the May 2003 floods and landslides, the district administration of the affected districts with the assistance of the National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC) and UNDP have been working to capture lessons learned and to develop district and division level disaster preparedness plans. In the after math of the Tsunami, it is an opportune time to evaluate this work and appropriately replicate it in other districts of the country.

Under its ongoing collaboration with UNDP, the NDMC has also undertaken a stock taking study of all the past and ongoing disaster risk management initiatives in the country. This can be useful input to capacity development initiatives that might be undertaken.

These initiatives would complement capacities currently existing in the country in the form of the government institutions like the Landslide Studies Division of National building Research Organisation (NBRO) centre for Housing, planning and Building (CHPB), National Aquatic Resources research and Development Agency (NARA), Geological Survey & Mines Bureau (GSMS) etc.

The reporting and monitoring mechanism that needs to be put in place will also monitor the progress of associated regional and national Projects. Conducted on a quarter yearly bases, the mechanisms will identify gaps and recommend measures to fill these gaps, to enable successful implementation of the DRM Programme.

Concluding Remarks

Immediate action needs to be taken to initiate the DRM system. There could be another disaster in the country, some times in the already affected areas (just after the tsunami Ampara was again affected by a flood). Next could be a major flood or a cyclone. At least the emergency response plans should be prepared immediately to be ready to face such a calamity, possibly with an effective warning system and other essentials associated with such a system. It is also necessary to find out how the basic paradigms could be changed so that these systems that are created would function if a calamity occurs.

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Thursday, August 18, 2005

Assassinations and Emergency Laws Will Not Bring Peace

Srilanka-NGO-Link Messages::
FORUM ASIA statement on the assasination and emergency law in Sri Lanka

FORUM-ASIA strongly condemns recent wave of assassinations in Sri Lanka, including that of the Foreign Minister, Radio and TV broadcaster and her husband. Such killings must not be allowed to continue for it will strongly undermine the ongoing peace process which is still fragile even after years of efforts.

Though the Memorandum of Understanding between the Sri Lankan Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in February 2002 had put a stop to thousands of killings due to the war, we are still concerned with regards to the escalating violence, particularly the killings of Tamil political parties, journalists, intelligence offices in the last few years.

FORUM-ASIA would also like to express our deep concern in relation to the declaration of the state of emergency by the President, and subsequent reports of detentions without charges. While we note the importance of security measures in the present context, we would like to caution the Sri Lankan government that emergency laws usually give rise to increased human rights violations by the state, leading to more violence, as evident from past experiences in Sri Lanka as well as other countries. Members of the minority Tamil community have already expressed fears of being harassed by the police and security forces.

We urge the authorities to conduct speedy investigations into all killings, irrespective of status, political ideologies, ethnicity and identity of the victims and to ensure that justice is done, following due process. We also urge the LTTE, all political parties and all others concerned to cooperate in the investigations. Premature public statements without proper investigations by the President, Police Chief, politicians, other responsible offices and media, pointing fingers towards perpetrators should be avoided for it could further undermine peace efforts.

While we are conscious that these killings will be a major setback to the peace process, particularly the confidence-building efforts underway, we urge all parties concerned, particularly the Government, LTTE, other political parties and foreign governments to renew their commitment to the peace process and to resume peace talks.

Anselmo LEE, Executive Director

For further details of the statement, please contact

Mr. Ruki Fernando, Human Rights Defender
(HRD) Program Coordinator / Focal Point on Sri Lanka
rukiii@gmail.com, Tel 66-4-099-1538

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Over 50% houses destroyed in six tsunami affected districts — IPS

The Island: 17/08/2005" by Gamini Perera

The launching of a report: "Listening to those who lost: Analysis, rebuilding and relocation of tsunami affected households in Sri Lanka," took place at the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), Colombo.

The report analyses, view of tsunami survivors on rebuilding, relocation and land issues. It was prepared by the IPS with MG consultants and a team of supervisors and enumerators. The report was funded by the World Bank. It presents the views of the Institute of Policy Studies, based on the survey data and not those of the World Bank.

"The report is based on surveys conducted in six tsunami affected districts, where Grama Niladari Divisions (GNDs) had over 50% houses destroyed. Originally, the survey covered eight districts, but due to obstructions placed by the LTTE in approving the survey in Mullativu and Jaffna, only six districts were accounted," said Dushni Weerakoon, Deputy Director, IPS.

"From the GNDs," Weerakoon said that, "14 GNDs were selected to reflect the ethnic, religious diversity of tsunami affected areas. Data was gathered in April, 2005, after the tsunami warning of March, 28, 2005, which may have impacted the results. Interviews were held with 622 households from both within and outside the buffer zone. (approximately 45 households per GND) randomly selected from among those whose houses were "unusable." Focus groups and interviews were conducted with government officials and other key informants," said the deputy directory.

Following are some of the results presented: Characteristics of households who suffered damage due to the tsunami, rebuilding houses for those outside the buffer zone, Relocation of households within the buffer zone, Land issues and recommendations for donor support for post-tsunami rebuilding.

According to Paul Steele, Associate Research Fellow, of IPS, "the government with the assistance of the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Swiss Development Bank Corporation and other donors provide grants for households outside the buffer zone to rebuild.

"While the government states that "ownership" is required to receive the rebuilding assistance, it seems that households who are living on state land, with a valid permit or grant will also be eligible. Of the households in the survey, 16% said they lived on state land," said Steele. He said that, "a significant proportion (averaging 37%) of households outside the buffer zone would like to rebuild in another location than their current land, primarily because they are afraid of living too near the sea.

He further said that, "pre-built houses were preferred by (48%) households outside the buffer zone, while 28% preferred credit, 10% materials and for 10%, it did not matter, although these averages conceal significant variation between GNDs."

"One third of households (35%) said they could not rebuild their houses if money was provided. Ability to rebuild houses is constrained by several factors: lack of skills and equipment within affected households, concerns about accessing funds and whether funds are sufficient, limited help for rebuilding from other households and community based organisations and concerns about cost and availability of labour and materials," Steele pointed out.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Sri Lanka: Political killings escalate

ReliefWeb - Document Preview: Source: Human Rights Watch (HRW)
Date: 16 Aug 2005

Murder of Foreign Minister Spotlights Crisis

(New York, August 16, 2005) -- The assassination of Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar in Colombo on Friday highlights Sri Lanka’s spiraling crisis of political killings, Human Rights Watch said today.

Kadirgamar is the latest and most prominent victim of political violence that has continued in Sri Lanka since the 2002 ceasefire between the government and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Since the ceasefire, more than 200 people, mostly Tamils, have been killed for political reasons. Most of the murders have been attributed to the LTTE. The rate of attacks has escalated since April 2005, with credible reports estimating the rate of killings at one a day by June 2005.

“The murder of Lakshman Kadirgamar is the latest act of political brutality in Sri Lanka. Sadly, it is unlikely to be the last,” said Sam Zarifi, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia Division. “Real action is needed by all sides to get the killings to stop.”

Responsibility for the murder of Kadirgamar, a Tamil politician who had long been critical of the LTTE, has not been determined. As Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister from 1994 to 2001, and again since 2004, he was instrumental in having the LTTE declared a terrorist organization in several countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom. Sri Lankan authorities have blamed the LTTE for the murder, but the investigation is continuing. The LTTE denied any role in the murder, blaming forces opposed to the cease-fire agreement. The LTTE has issued similar denials even in other cases of political assassinations where they were clearly involved.

In addition to Kadirgamar, Friday night marked the murder of Relanghai Selvarajah, a Tamil producer of a popular radio program that was very critical of the LTTE.

Human Rights Watch expressed concern about possible reprisals against Tamils living in government-controlled areas. The police have deployed 1,000 officers to find Kadirgamar’s assassins. The government also declared a state of emergency nationwide, giving security forces sweeping powers to deploy troops, arrest persons without charge, and search and demolish buildings.

Human Rights Watch reminded the government that even under a state of emergency it cannot violate basic international human rights such as the right to life; freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; and freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. Arbitrary deprivations of liberty or deviations from the fundamental principles of a fair trial, including the presumption of innocence, are not permitted. Human Rights Watch urged the Sri Lankan government to publicly issue instructions to the army, police, intelligence services and other state institutions to this effect.

“At this critical hour, the government needs to exercise restraint, and make sure the security and investigative forces follow internationally accepted norms,” said Zarifi. “Many innocent Tamils have suffered unjustly in the past when the government has ignored their basic rights. The government must vigilantly safeguard the rights of the minority communities.”

Human Rights Watch also called on the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission, the Norwegian-led body responsible for enforcing the terms of the Cease Fire Agreement, to inquire into and hold accountable those responsible for the growing crisis of political killings.

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Micro Credit on an interest free basis

Daily News: 15/08/2005"

MERCI Lanka Foundation has been formed recently by a group of Muslim professionals and businessmen. The prime mover and the Chairman of the Organization M.S.M. Liyawdeen, former Deputy General Manager of Bank of Ceylon explained that MERCI stood for Micro Enterprise Relief Credit Initiative. The primary objective of the NGO is to provide Micro Credit on an Interest Free basis to poor bread winners especially women who posess some skills, ability and the will to embark on self employed cottage industries, agricultural pursuits, animal husbandry and poultry farming projects.

Liyawdeen also explained that the recipients of credit facilities will be selected from amongst the deserving from all communities. He explained that Islam emphasized on the need to be helpful to humanity irrespective of creed or race.

Our aim in encompassing those worthy of help from all communities is also to promote goodwill harmony and mutual trust among all segments of the Sri Lankan society, which we trongly feel is the crying need of the hour.

Although our initial effort towards poverty alleviation is minuscule in comparison to the magnitude of the problem, we anticipate the lead given by us will inspire other like minded people to launch similar schemes.

The Grameen Micro Credit scheme has won world-wide acclaim as a success story in helping the down trodden specially women in Bangladesh.

The Trustees are arranging to offer around one hundred loans ranging between Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 25,000, initially. Currently applications are being processed to select 10 potential borrowers from each community who will be granted the loans at the launch ceremony to be held in September 2005.

The Trustees of MERCI Lanka also express their desire to work in collaboration with any locally based social, cultural or religious organizations which could facilitate the task of obtaining information and background of applicants monitoring and recovering of loans and marketing of products, etc. All those willing to extend their co-operation and need information or loan applications are kindly requested to contact the Secretary-General S. Najmudeen at their office No. 21, Dr. E.A. Cooray Mawatha, Colombo-06, email: mercilanka@bizemail.com

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Sri Lanka must drive branding in the key industry sectors - former EDB Chief

Daily News: 13/08/2005" BY HIRAN A Seneviratne

THE Coconut Products Traders' Association organised a seminar on " Marketing strategies to promote Global Trade" at the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce last week, where the guest speaker was former Chairman of the Sri Lanka Export Development Board (EDB) Rohantha Athukorala, a top marketer.

During his tenure Lankan exports grew to Rs. 194 billion at a 11.8% growth with innovative out of the box marketing strategies.

If Sri Lanka supplies 70% of the world demand and the Cinnamon grown in Sri Lanka is unique given the soil structure, we must drive a premium price with branding to make this business a Rs. 10 Billion industry before the competitor 'Cassia' makes in roads into our markets.

Branding 'Ceylon Cinnamon' under a geographical basis can be costly globally and time consuming for approval but may be from a type style would be the easiest and practical.

With the support of John Keells who is to launch their top end hotel properties under the 'Cinnamon Branding,' the country can use this as an effective medium to communicate to the world.

Each room can have a stick of Ceylon Cinnamon with its uniqueness that can be taken back by a tourist as a memento - meaning a 600,000 visitors being our ambassadors to the world.

A Cinnamon outlet in each hotel exhibiting the portfolio is another way to communicate to the world other than magazine and web advertising and brochures together with MGM (Member gets member programmes) can be done below the line with publicity in the local media.

Another area is the sapphire segment. Princess Diana's wedding ring had a sapphire from Sri Lanka. "We need to maximise this opportunity that exists globally now that the VAT has been taken off. An eminent designer called Webster has been contracted by the sapphire council and 50 designs developed.

The Sri Lanka value addition products can be a Rs. 115 billion business for Sri Lanka. The way forward is Lankaprene. The local company that comprises all the key plantation companies have been formed.

The distributor in the United States to the pharmaceutical industry has been also identified. We need get into a meaningful partnership backed by the American Chamber of Commerce so that we can drive this market with purpose with the brand name - Lankaprene.

Athukorala, will be staging a "World Marketing Forum" end of this year taking Sri Lanka's industry to branding which can further give impetus to this concept.

The Sri Lanka's spice market is worth around Rs. 7 billion in export proceeds. Out of this, 80% is cinnamon. "Ceylon Cinnamon" is unique globally due to the soil structure in our country. It is far superior to Cassia that comes from the south east Asia.

There have been many attempts to build the concept of Branding to this treasure, that comes from our land so that it will be worth in terms of a 'brand name' more than the export proceeds of Rs. 7 Billion. By accident this is coming through with a large conglomerate branding its hotels under the 'Cinnamon Branding'.

The tea market is worth Rs. 75 billion for Sri Lanka on export proceeds. We need to very clearly position Pure Ceylon teas under the "Ceylon Tea" branding and any blended versions under the "Sri Lanka Tea" brand name.

We already have one of the seven top brands of tea in the world, but we now need to focus on a national picture for the long-term benefits to the country.

The Jewellery collection developed by acclaimed jewellery designer Webster needs the strong advertising muscle of magazine advertising and in store merchandising. First we need to launch in Sri Lanka and build an identity in our own country before moving globally.

Sri Lanka is also known for quality fruits and vegetables. We need to brand these exports under a 'Ethical Banner' so that we can gain a premium price due to us using environmental friendly chemicals, without child labour and equality at work place.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Lack of infrastructure inhibits economic growth - Treasury Secretary

Daily News: 11/08/2005" by Rohan Mathes

Finance Ministry and Treasury Secretary Dr. P.B. Jayasundera warned that the lack of proper infrastructure facilities was the greatest challenge for posting a good economic growth around eight per cent.

Participating in a seminar on 'Post Tsunami Development Perspectives' organised by the Society for International Development (SID) at the Industries Ministry auditorium, Dr. Jayasundera noted that the budget had been presented to the satisfaction of domestic and international stakeholders, within a new economic policy framework in order to navigate the country's future.

Although a fairly decent growth rate of around 5 per cent had been maintained during the last 15 years despite adverse effects, the country has not addressed the fundamental economic problems yet, he said.

"The issue of having around 20 per cent unemployed youth, is still unresolved, as little employment generation has taken place during the period of over 30 years. The per capita income has reached around US Dollars 1000, predominantly around Colombo and Gampaha districts only. Our unutilised foreign aid is around three million dollars, with expectations of a further increase in the post-tsunami period", he said.

He said that free access to markets in India, Pakistan and the EU have been recognised with all free market policies in place. Financial markets have been substantially liberalised and there is sophistication in the foreign exchange markets. The country has attracted upmarket investors and the apparel industry has sustained the transition period successfully.

Jayasundera pointed out that for the private sector to be the 'engine of growth', re-thinking and re-positioning of the sector is needed. The partnership and strategic role of the State is also necessary. "We should not grab everything that is offered by the foreign donors, but instead take only what we require, like India and China does," he opined.

Jayasundera added that the escalation of oil prices in the international market has pressurised the 'Balance of Payments' (BOP), which had to be realised and adjusted accordingly.

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Monday, August 15, 2005

Preserve traditional fishing sector

The Island: 12/08/2005" by Amarasiri de Silva, Professor of SociologyUniversity of Peradeniya

It is well documented that the Tsunami disaster on December 26th was so destructive that all the fishing harbours in the coastal areas of Sri Lanka were severely damaged and fishing equipment all washed away or irreparably destroyed. In addition, the traditional canoes, nets and fishing equipment that had been laid on the beaches were all washed away. The government and the private sector as well as the NGO sector, together with donors, are in the process of providing the surviving fishermen with some modern fibreglass and mechanised boats in an attempt to restore the economy and the livelihood of fishing communities. However, no agency has shown an interest in restoring the traditional fishing sector by preserving traditional knowledge, folk wisdom, equipment and culture. I argue that the traditional fishing sector that provided livelihood for the poor and the marginalized communities in the country’s littoral, should be assisted not only to restore their livelihood, technology and know-how of traditional fishing but also to bring back the vigour of the culture that embodied the much valued folk wisdom coming down from many generations.

In the 1950s, when mechanised boats, nylon nets, and modern fishing gadgetry were introduced to the fishing communities in Sri Lanka, with the hope of increasing fish output and fish consumption in the country, there were some resistance from the existing fishing communities that such a move would completely destroy the traditional fishing culture, techniques and methods. Although the mechanisation program had mixed results, it had in fact transformed many traditional fishing communities into those that use modern techniques, and the fish output and consumption was tremendously increased. However, the poor and the marginalized communities who could not afford to meet the requirements of the modern fishing industry resorted to traditional fishing and continued to engage in that trade. Although the mechanisation programme in the 1950s was a great blow on the traditional fishing sector of the country, the age-old culture of indigenous fishing was saved, and continued to prosper because of the efforts of the poor people. The beautiful catamaran canoes, with masts and sails on, stilt fishing, fishing with the help of vessels made of logs tied together (Teppam), use of various throw nets and drag nets were tourist attractions in some parts of Sri Lanka’s beaches because traditional fishing and its culture continued in the country. The traditional fishing has attracted a particular brand of consumers who did not like the fish caught using modern methods, such as mechanised boats and trawlers, because such modern technology used various artificial nets (nylon etc.), and fish caught with them are kept for several days in the sea before they were bought ashore for sale.

People believe that such fish have lost their blood in their struggle to life while entangled in nets. Unlike the fish caught using modern techniques, the fish caught in traditional canoes and nets were brought ashore immediately after they were caught. The types of fish caught in those traditional crafts were chosen, selected fish, and the traditional fishermen did not engage in indiscriminate fishing unlike by the modern mechanised boats. Because of the reasons alluded to and comparatively low price of fish caught by traditional crafts, a special consumer group has evolved in the low country beach areas who prefer fish caught by traditional techniques. Those consumers are environment-friendly, very much like the traditional fishermen, who do not use diesel, nylon or artificial gadgetry for fishing. This group could be considered one of the native bio-food consumers in the country. The fact that such traditional fishermen are environment-friendly is evident in the way they keep the beach clean, devoid of debris of modern technological waste. Moreover, unlike modern fishing, which is highly technocratic, traditional fishing depends on folk wisdom and knowledge accumulated over centuries of fishing experience. The culture of traditional fishing with minute details as to selection of logs for carving out dugout canoes, folk-technological knowledge of using special instruments with particular skill that has comedown from generation to generation, and making sails involving unique technological features such as use of various forms of hand sewing techniques, weaving and knotting, and making other paraphernalia such as hooks, traps etc, are quite distinct.

Such technological practices are interwoven with rituals and beliefs in the communities which portray an extremely rich culture. The gender and age based division of labour in carrying out such activities are distinctive features of the traditional fishing culture.

The Tsunami devastation has not only destroyed the various traditional canoes, nets, and equipment of fishing, but also damaged the sites in the beaches and communities where such fishing was practised. Moreover, most of the traditional fishermen who were knowledgeable of such traditional practices have perished in the disaster.

Sadly, the government of Sri Lanka and the donor agencies have not addressed what has befallen the traditional fishing industry. They are either not knowledgeable of the damage to the traditional fishing sector, or not interested in resurrecting the traditional fishing culture and practices. The suggested proposal to distribute mechanised boats to the devastated fishing communities, by the government and the various donors including the EC, will not help solving the problems of fishermen who use traditional fishing methods and technology.

Why revive traditional fishing

It is imperative that traditional fishing which has been affected by Tsunami be resurrected for the following reasons:

a) Traditional fishing is environment-friendly and based on micro level simple technologies. Fishermen are engaged in selected types of fishing, using environment-friendly material and methods. Preservation of such practices will improve the environment of the shallow seas around the country, and such practices will help mitigate the effects of any future Tsunami and sea erosion. (It has been noticed that locations where the sea has been eroded due to commercial exploitation of corals, sea weeds and ornamental fish had been affected by Tsunami more than the beaches where traditional fishing was practised).

b) Traditional fishing is a culture and technology, and it is important to preserve both for posterity. Traditional fishing is practised by a particular group of fishermen, who inherited that knowledge from their forefathers. The traditional fishing culture is interwoven with community practices and rituals that are part and parcel of the overall culture of the fishermen.

The ritual worship of traditional deities in these communities, shows how old and ancient the culture of the fishing communities is. Most of those rituals are performed on the beach at the beginning of the fishing season, invoking the blessings of the deities for an increase in fish output, and protection of fishermen, equipment, canoes etc. In order to preserve the rich traditions of art forms and ritual dancing etc the preservation of fishing tradition is imperative.

c) Traditional fishing is the occupation of a particular group of people who live in communities along the beach. Any blanket solution to the problem of Tsunami devastation, such as provision of mechanised boats, would completely ruin the cultural diversity and community life in the coastal areas. Such a move is a violation of the rights of the traditional fishermen, who have been indulged in traditional fishing for centuries.

Proposed Programme

We have to be innovative in preserving traditional cultural practices. Such cultures should not be preserved merely for the enjoyment of the future generations and tourists but such conservation should bring about some qualitative improvement and conviviality among the people who practise such traditions. First of all, it is necessary to document the traditional fishing technology and culture that has so far been transmitted through the word of mouth within families and communities using modern technology such as computers, tape recorders and videoing. The collection of traditional technological knowledge should lead to inculcating such practices in the young people living in fishing communities who are the survivors of Tsunami. In order to achieve this task, engineers, anthropologists, communication specialists, and such other specialists should get together and initiate a project where, a training centre and a museum are established to teach, introduce and display traditional fishing technology.

Since income from traditional fishing has been low, it should be able to heighten the interests and enhance tastes of the particular consumer group through propaganda, and liaise with the tourism industry, which also has been badly affected in the area.

Preserve traditional fishing sector

The trained young ‘traditional fishermen’ can display their techniques to tourists in a programme of eco-tourism, who would be taken in fishing expeditions in the shallow and deep seas for a fee.

The proposed programme will be a success, as it will make traditional fishing lucrative and attractive to the young fishermen in the traditional fishing communities. The proposed programme should be organised as a project with financial support from the government, donors and also from the people in the fishing communities. The people should be made the owners of the project, who would manage it through a committee of community leaders. Initially an outside expert, may be a planner cum anthropologist, could facilitate the project by playing an advocacy role, but when the project is set, it should be managed by a committee appointed by the fishing community. Experts such as engineers, anthropologists and communicators should be hired by the community – based organising committee. By making the programme a community-owned one, sustainability of the programme can be assured. However, before the programme is made completely a community-based venture, it should be assisted and managed by an outside body such as the government or an NGO or by a committee of outside experts, who would gradually hand over the management to the community after a few years of successful implementation.

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India, Sri Lanka agree to monitor environmental impact of canal project

TamilNet: 03.08.05 : [TamilNet, August 03, 2005 11:24 GMT]
During the second round of Technical Level Discussions held between India and Sri Lanka on the Sethusamudram Ship Channel Project in New Delhi on 1st August 2005, the sides agreed to an arrangement to share relevant data. which could enable them to assess and monitor the environmental impact of the project,' said a press release issued by the Sri Lanka Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Colombo Wednesday.

The Indian delegation was led by Mr. D.T. Joseph, Secretary to the Government of India responsible for the Department of Shipping. The Sri Lanka delegation was headed by Mr. A. Hewage, Advisor to the Ministry of Ports and Aviation.

The text of the Agreed Note as issued at the end of the discussions under the joint signatures of the two Heads of delegation, quoted in the press release follows:


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Sunday, August 14, 2005

'Sethu Samudram' will destroy environment!

Lankatruth_news_CBK ready for talks on CFA_in Sri Lanka: [July, 27th Wednesday 6.00pm]
The intervention and the interest of the Government of Sri Lanka in addressing the threat posed to the environment, fishing industry, the coastal areas and economy of the country by India's ‘Sethu Samudram' project is trivial states a communique issued by Green Party of Sri Lanka.

India has already commenced "Sethu Samudram" project aiming to fulfill economical, military and many other goals. The 82 million cubic meters of sand and stones that is to be removed in constructing the channel will destroy the coral reefs in the western coastal belt of Sri Lanka points out the communique adding that fishing grounds will be destroyed making fishermen who use these areas for their living without a livelihood.

Hence, GOSL should mediate to call for bilateral environmental studies and take measures to halt the environmental destruction that would definitely occur if the project is implemented states the communique.

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