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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, November 19, 2005

First ever Disaster and Emergency Warning Network pilot project launched

Daily Mirror: 15/11/2005" By Damayanthi Hewamanna

The pilot project for the nation’s first Disaster and Emergency Warning Network (DEWN) was launched yesterday by Dialog GSM and the Ministry of Public Security, Law and Order. SMS and Location Based Technologies have been used to provide this cost effective and reliable mass alert system.

“The development of an effective disaster and emergency warning system by innovatively leveraging of the key resources we have at hand was foremost in our minds over the past months,” Dialog GSM CEO Dr. Hans Wijayasuriya said.

DEWN capitalizes on the inherent strengths of GSM technology and the widespread access provided by GSM networks, to create the specialised Disaster Alert delivery and response system.

Its aims to provide a multi-model mass alert system to give advance warnings to key stakeholders in disaster management and the general public about life threatening disasters.

“We are also truly proud and appreciative of the innovations created by our partners in this project who are Microimage and the Dialog-UoM Research facility,” Dr. Wijayasuriya added.

The DEWN pilot features the deployment of the system at the main police stations in Rathnapura and Galle and other key disaster management stakeholders in the surrounding areas. The 118th centre in Colombo will function as the command centre for the pilot project.

The system will be tested and modified over the next few months leading to final deployment on a national basis.

“This is a great example of in depth collaborative research and development capabilities of multiple parties brought together to deliver a platform of national importance utilizing 100% local talent,” Microimage CEO Harsha Purasinghe said.

DEWN, which is capable of providing alerts in both Sinhala and Tamil, encompasses multiple areas of special GSM handset applications and proto-type wireless alerting devices for domestic and special use.

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Participatory approach for tsunami reconstruction

Daily News: 15/11/2005"

The Wellawatte in the Hikkaduwa Division stands as example for successful post-tsunami reconstruction and positive collaboration between a local community, an NGO and an international donor.

In this small village relief and rehabilitation have been carried out through the project "Let's reconstruct Wellawatte," realised by the Italian NGO Incontro Tra i Popoli on behalf of the Italian Civil Protection Department.

This Italian institution, relying directly on the Presidency of the Council of Ministers of the Italian Government, deals with disaster management and post-disaster reconstruction at national and international levels.

It was involved in the early post-tsunami response in the areas of Galle, Matara and Trincomalee. The first group of relief experts arrived here on December 27 immediately started to search for survivors and realise emergency-related activities, such as providing food-items, setting up emergency camps and arrange sanitary facilities.

Under the second phase, the Italian Civil Protection has undertaken the reconstruction and rehabilitation of schools, hospitals, houses, fishing boats as well as the supply of heavy machinery, water supply schemes and other requirements for the restoration of various parts of the coastal belt of Sri Lanka.

The interventions have been of two kinds: directly managed by the donor itself, as it is the case of most schools and hospitals, and realised through NGOs and other organisations. In this scenario the reconstruction programme proposed by volunteer of Incontro Tra i Popoli Roberto Nichele found its space and the possibility to be implemented.

He was already working in Wellawatte with a development project when the tsunami reached Hikkaduwa on December 26, thus, he had deep knowledge of the local with standings and of the papulation, and decided to propose a participatory approach for the reconstruction of Wellawatte project. In this regard, a Committee of nine has been formed with the purpose of assessing the people's needs of determine the beneficiaries and manage the overall handling of the project finance.

The involvement of local community has given very good results; having every brick, tile and every grain of sand checked by the Town Committee, the costs were reduced to the minimum: the average prices for the construction of a one storeyed house amounts to 3 1/2 lakhs (Rs. 350,000), which is far below the average of tsunami reconstruction projects of the same kind.

Moreover, the employment of local workers and the supervision of the masonry works carried out by a villager, have contributed to expedite realisation of the construction works:

Of the 74 houses scheduled in the project, 60 have already been completed ready and 14 are well under way.

Therefore, in consideration of the expenditure and the elapsed time for the project implementation, the project should be taken as example for further interventions.

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Friday, November 18, 2005

Danusha Marine tops in fibre boat making

Daily News: 15/11/2005" by Ramani Kangaraarachchi

He started working with only one helper in a hut built in planks on a small marshy land without any facility and carried the finished goods to the village hardware stores on foot. With the greatest difficulty he saved some money and brought an old push cycle and extended the market to the neighbouring towns.

As demand increased he bought a motorcycle and carried a three wheeler load on it. Yet to survive in the trade he had to compete with the well established giants of the trade. It was like the battle between David and Goliath."

The young man who won The Outstanding Young Persons (TOYP) award from Junior Chambers Sri Lanka in 2003 for Entrepreneurial Accomplishment and the Managing Director Danusha Marine Lanka (Pvt) Ltd, Sumithra Fernando said rembering his humble beginning of his business.

Today, Danusha Marine celebrating their 15th anniversary is not only one of the leading manufacturers of fibreglass products in the island ranging from lamp shades to boats but also in the international trade importing fibre glass raw materials and exporting boats to Holland and Maldives thus bringing foreign currency to the country.

Sheer determination, dedication and a win-win policy has brought the company to what it is today. The dedicated and untiring staff is the pillar of strength on his road to success.

Appreciating the support from his customers as well as employees, he said that both the customer and the worker are equally important and he has a very good rapport with all the employees despite their grades.

Danusha Marine has given employment to 120 in different fields at different levels today. Fernando strongly believes in research and diversification towards expanding his business in the future.

'I started diversifying my business in 1999 to the tourism trade. Danusha Marine supplies their products to 60 hotels in the country. He was the number one manufacturer in 2004, for the Day Fishing boats.

He was hit very badly after the tsunami as all his poor customers around the coastal area lost their boats.

He was the only one who helped those poor fishermen to purchase boats on an instalment basis because the banks were not prepared to take that risk. At the time of tsunami they owed me more than Rs 4 million and I had no way to recover that money. It was only the NGOs who came forward to save me by giving orders to manufacture a large number of boats for the affected fishermen.

Fernando also warned the government authorities about haphazard purchases of boats from mushroom companies that have emerged during the tsunami whose boats could not be used for more than three months and also result in an enormous environmental problem in the future.

The country needs only 20,000 boats but people have got nearly 40,000 boats after the tsunami and there won't be any business for boats for several years, he said.

Among the awards he has won over the years are Entrepreneur of the Year 1996 (Western Province merit award Industry Medium Category, Sri Lanka Entrepreneur of the Year 1999 National and Provincial Bronze Awards, CNCI Achiever of Industrial Excellence 2004 (National Level Medium Category Merit Award) and International Gold Star Award from India in 2000.

An old boy of Chandrasekara Maha Vidyalaya in Moratuwa, Fernando thanked his former boss Dudley Fernando of Blue Star Marine where he worked for five years after his Advanced Levels and mastered the craftsmanship which brought him to the present position.

He married Nilmini at the age of 23. She is the Finance Director of the Company. He is also the Chairman of SME Chamber of the Kalutara district.

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The role of standards in economic development

Daily News: 14/11/2005" BY DR. LALITH Senaweera, Deputy Director General - Sri Lanka Standards Institution

CENTURIES AGO, crafts people made products on a highly individualized basis. Operating in cottage settings, they employed unique and highly personalized design norms.

These design norms were the 'Standards' used by the crafts people to produce their products. The strengths or weaknesses of these 'Standards' were obtained one-on-one basis and used those inputs to improve the said standards.

Standardization itself became pre-eminent with the dawn of the industrial age. The concepts of interchangeable parts and division of labour were first introduced in the United States.

Eli Whitney, inventor of the cotton gin, applied the concept to the production of flintlock military rifles. Eli Whitney's work on the development of interchangeable parts can be seen as the starting point for the movement away from craft system to the standardization.

Military applications such as those continued to drive the development and refinement of product standards and eventually quality standards as well.

Application of Standards

Today in the industrial world, most of the manufacturing and service organizations use standards in different areas.

For instance, production checks can be made easier by the introduction of testing standards. Better operating scheduling, reduction in idle time and set-up time and lowering scrap rates can be achieved by introducing a process standard.

Purchasing of materials can also be simplified, if a material standard is specified for the product to be manufactured.

Moreover the producer can introduce a quality standard for the product, which would streamline the operational functions of the company to achieve the expected level of quality. That would help the suppliers to supply items to meet the set quality standard.

Whenever goods and services are exchanged, standards present a 'common langauge' and criteria for the assessment of goods and services.

Standards play a vital role in making sound decisions in accepting or rejecting goods in the business and regulatory environment. Standards increase the transparency of the market. Make the co-ordination of operations planning easier and contribute to reducing costs.

Standardization particularly favours vertical specialization between small and large companies a situation which is generally less pronounced in developing than in industrialized countries.

This would contribute to small firms fully utilizing their often considerable potential for expansion. They can achieve economies of scale because they able to supply to large companies with standardized goods.

National and International Standards

Each country has its own National Standards Body. For instance we have Sri Lanka Standards Institution (SLSI) as our national standards body. National Standards are developed by the said bodies considering the needs of the country.

In Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka Standards Institution develops the national standards and at present over thousand standards have been published covering different industry sectors.

International Organisation for Standardization (ISO), International Electro-technical Commission (IEC) and International Telecommunication Union (ITU) develop international standards and those are available to use at the national and regional levels to meet societal, market and regulatory needs.

These international standards organizations assist in disseminating best practices and new technologies, while avoiding new barriers to trade.

Economic development

The level of a national economy's technical knowledge is an important measure of its state of development and rate of growth.

The one way of achieving the momentum for growth is by means of transfer of technology which is made possible through standards. One of the accepted facts is technological growth contributes of the growth of labour productivity.

One particular problem of developing countries lies in the fact that there is too little diffusion of technical knowledge amongst the small and medium-sized firms, which are key elements in the structure of the economy.

Traditional and intermediate production techniques predominate in such firms. Standards represent a compilation of technical and technological knowledge and data, often bearing the results of many years of research and development work.

Therefore standards can fulfil the functions of technology transfer to the industry and in turn to the society.

Beyond the primary objectives of standards like rationalization, specialization and quality assurance, the passing on of know-how to achieve conformity with standards is becoming a side effect which should not be underestimated.

Therefore application of Standards can make a crucial contribution to relieving the problems of foreign trade for developing countries, and in further improving their potential for entering into international markets.

Benefits of standardization

Some of the benefits that can be achieved through standardization are as follows;

1. Direct network externalities

2. Market mediated effect: complementary goods become cheaper",

3. Thicker second-hand market;

4. Lower prices through competition of sellers.

5. Network Externalities in production.

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Thursday, November 17, 2005

ADB: Key Indicators of Developing Asian and Pacific Countries

ADB Key Indicators 2005
This year’s issue of the Key Indicators of Developing Asian and Pacific Countries features a special chapter, Labor Markets in Asia: Promoting Full, Productive, and Decent Employment. In addition, it has eight statistical tables that compare the Millennium Development Goal indicators across the 42 developing member countries of the Asian Development Bank (ADB); 30 regional tables on key economic, financial, and social indicators; and 42 country tables, each with 8-year data series on population, labor force and employment, national accounts, production, energy, price indexes, money and banking, government finance, external trade, balance of payments, international reserves, exchange rates, and external indebtedness. The theme chapter, regional tables, and country tables with 18-year data series are also published on the ADB web site (http://www.adb.org/statistics).

The special chapter stresses that improving labor market opportunities for Asia’s workers is key to reducing poverty and improving standards of living in the region. This is because, regardless of whether they are self-employed or working for others, most of Asia’s workers sustain themselves and their families by using their labor. Understanding how labor markets in Asia operate and generate the outcomes they do is, therefore, of critical importance for policymakers in the region.

While some parts of Asia have done exceedingly well in terms of employing their labor forces productively and generating many good jobs, in many other parts of Asia labor markets continue to operate with considerable unemployment and underemployment among the labor force. Out of a total labor force of around 1.7 billion, at least 500 million are conservatively estimated to be unemployed or underemployed. At the same time, Asia’s labor force is a growing one. The challenge for Asia’s policymakers is, therefore, not only to create productive employment for those currently unemployed and underemployed, but also to strengthen the economies’ capacity to create productive employment to absorb a growing labor force.

A key message of this chapter is that governments across the region must accord maximum priority to promoting full, productive, and decent employment. To achieve the objective of full employment it will be necessary to ensure that the formal sector of the economy generates many more jobs than it has been doing and that the earning prospects of workers in the informal sector improve rapidly. The jobs generated must be productive. This is to avoid the temptation of using ultimately unsustainable solutions such as the creation of hundreds of unneeded jobs in, for example, state enterprises. Finally, governments will need to ensure that employment is decent: workers must be provided with basic rights and have recourse to systems of social protection. This is most critical in the informal sector where the absence of basic rights at work and inadequate protection from the many risks workers face are most pronounced.

Achieving these objectives will not be easy. A variety of growth-promoting policies will be critical if the objectives of full and productive employment are to be met. These will need to be complemented by policies to improve the quality of human capital and, in some cases, reforms to certain aspects of labor regulation. Ensuring that employment is decent will require providing basic rights to all workers and enforcing these, especially in the informal sector. It will also require that effective systems of social protection be put in place. Unless the policy agenda of the region’s economies is not geared to meeting the objectives of full, productive, and decent employment, it is easy to conceive a region, say 25 years from now, which despite growth, will still harbor most of the world’s poor.

We appreciate the cooperation of developing member country governments and international agencies in providing data to ADB and, in the process, enhancing this year’s issue of Key Indicators. We hope that the Key Indicators continues to be a valuable resource for monitoring the development in the region.

Haruhiko Kuroda
President

Download 2005 key indicators for Sri Lanka

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PhD with guts

yapapolitics : Message: Pahalagedara Jayathilaka was born in 1975 in the remote village of Devahuwa near Dambulla, Sri Lanka. His father Appuhamy died of cancer when Jayathilaka was 10. His mother Dingiriamma earned about Rs. 4000 (40 US dollars) a month cultivating vegetables to feed her eight children.

Jayathilaka is crippled. He crawled on all fours till he was 10 years old and then someone donated a wheel chair. That's when he first started schooling in 1986. No school wanted a cripple crawling on all fours. 'Why educate him? He is a cripple' that is what Dingiriamma heard when she tried to enroll Jayathilaka in a village school.

The so named 'cripple' strode ahead to get the first place in the O/L exam in his educational zone of Galewala (Galewela), and raced further to secure the first place again in the Matale district for the A/L exam.

With Rs. 1000 (10 us dollars) in hand Jayathilaka came to the Moratuwa University to read a Degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1998. He passed out as top student in his field with a Super First Class Honours Degree. He has now received a full scholarship to read a PhD at the National University of Singapore in January 2006 which is a leading university in Asia.

How does a crippled boy in crutches from an obscure village walk into Moratuwa University with one thousand rupees and walk away as the top student? Why does he then join AFLAC, the organisation that helped him and become an AFLAC coordinator for another poor student in the
university who has no arms? Why does Jayathilaka then go from village to village with AFLAC and give speeches to little children inspiring them to struggle and study and example them with his 'nothing' to 'everything' story.
This is not talk the talk; it is much more. It is crawl the walk withempty pockets and crutches with nothing but pure raw courage. It doesnot stop there, Jayathilaka gets his medals and looks back on thepath he trudged relentlessly and goes back to help. That itself is afairy tale, of the crippled boy and his armless protoge.This is rare greatness. Jayathilaka should be honoured and emulated.If not for anything, at least for the wonderful footprints he leaveson the sand for others to follow. It is not only footprints, thereare crutch marks too.
Capt Elmo Jayawardena

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Tsunami affected at Vadamaradchchy East displaced due to heavy rain

ReliefWeb - Document Preview: Source: Tamils Rehabilitation Organisation, Date: 14 Nov 2005
Heavy rain in the Vadamaradchchy East area has left Tsunami affected people homeless. The Temporary Transit center is now flooded and the people are experiencing untold hardships. Tamils Rehabilitation Organization is organizing the supply of essential requirements to the people through welfare centres.
Although it is eleven months since the Tsunami, the people are still unable to find permanent houses due to financial difficulties.
The areas most affected by the flood are Thalaiyady, Chempianpattu, Mamunaiy, Maruthankerny and adjoining areas. Tamil Rehabilitation Organization provides basic needs to the displaced people at the welfare centers, including medicine, transport etc.
TRO Vadamaradchchi East Post Tsunami Rapid Rehabilitation Development Service project volunteers are providing necessary assistance.
Meanwhile, due to the incessant heavy rain, flood levels are increasing and the level sea water is also increasing.

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Norochcholai hangs in the balance

Weekend Standard: 05/11/2005" by Munza Mushtaq

The country's most vital yet highly controversial Norochcholai coal power plant continues to hang in the balance, despite a Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Sri Lankan and the Chinese Government and the insistence made by the Government to the effect that construction of the plant will begin soon. But the renewed opposition made by the Chilaw Bishop Rev. Frank Marcus Fernando in mid October, which comes just a few weeks before the Presidential polls, and a statement by the United National Party that if its candidate is elected as the country's new President, the coal power plant will be relocated from Norochcholai to elsewhere, has led to this uncertain scenario.

However, assurances, and oppositions apart, the failure by consecutive Governments to implement this coal power plant has so far cost the country a whopping Rs. 206 billion to date and this number is increasing by the day at approximately RS. 56 million a day, due to generating electricity from diesel as against coal, this was disclosed by Dr. Tilak Siyambalapitiya, a top expert on the Sri Lankan energy sector to the Weekend Standard.

The Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers’ Union (CEBEU) has also recently in two separate letters to the main two Presidential Candidates Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse and Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe have urged the future President to go ahead with the project, and not stall it in the event either of them get elected to the country's foremost top post.

Emphasizing why Norochcholai was a viable plant compared to the other sites, located in parts including South and East of Sri Lanka, the union pointed out that Norochcholai plant site, was 258 acres in extent inclusive of all the buffer zones, and is a thinly populated area with only 73 families to be relocated, and the area has much lower fertility compared with the rest of the country.

"The alternative worth of this extent of land is minuscule compared to the colossal sum the lack of it has robbed our nation," the Engineers pointed out.

The Chilaw Bishop who has in his latest letter, claimed (according to his personal conviction) the coal power plant will never see the light of day, "Firstly, it is the wrong place. Secondly, it deeply hurts the poor and the marginalized. Thirdly, it lacks the favour of the people and blessing from above," the Bishop claims, but sources from the Puttalam area itself disclose that most of these families out of the 73 to be relocated have already met Power and Energy Minister Susil Premajayantha and given their blessings for the plant, and have also given an undertaking that they are not opposed to this project.

The families to be relocated and are to get a large plot of land, a house, and other benefits, including compensation in the event the project affects their livelihood. The majority of them live in cadjan huts like homes, while over the last couple of years, a few very small houses build by brick and cement has come up.

Further, energy analysts also points out that Sri Lanka is not the first country in the entire universe which is going to operate a coal fired power plant. Coal is the most widely used fuel for electricity generation worldwide amounting to approximately 60 %. Even in the most technologically advanced country in the world, the United States of America, 51% of electricity is generated out of Coal.

Research also points out that World Petroleum reserves are only going to last for 40-50 years from now. But, there are known Coal reserves that can last for over 200 years. All future petroleum reserves are from sites that are very expensive to explore and oil prices are likely to go up further as reserves diminish.

The fact that CEB is planning to adopt the latest technology available for the construction of Norochcholai Coal Power Plant and the use of low sulphur coal will definitely cut down pollution levels to the acceptable limits. "We also would like to draw your attention to the fact that our neighbour India has 60,000 MW of coal power plants and USA has about 300,000 MW of coal power plants in operation. In Sri Lanka we are planning to put up only 900 MW of coal power plant in Norochcholai," the engineers stressed.

Meanwhile, Dr. Siyambalapitiya also points out that if the past Governments took a firm decision and began constructing the project six years back, today the electricity consumer will be paying only Rs. 3.81 per unit of electricity instead of the between Rs. 8.50 to Rs. 11 per unit. It costs the CEB today approximately Rs. 15 to generate a single unit of electricity, due to the high cost of oil.

"Any politician or Bishop attempting to further delay the project are merely paving the way for more diesel power plants. Even at today's oil prices, your electricity bills will reach about double the present bills, and remain there for ever," he warns.

He also adds, how can a person who is 11 kilometres away from the site, say the plant affects them. This is just like the Bishop of Colombo protesting about a Power Plant in Avissawella, complaining that it will affect a Church in Pelmadulla. Or the Bishop of Galle protesting about a power plant in Aluthgama. This country is fortunate that we have only one such Bishop, and the country is unfortunate that the Bishop systematically opposes all infrastructure development projects unsuccessfully with private sector projects, very successfully with government projects.

However, despite the coal power plant not being implemented, owing to so called 'environment impacts', eleven diesel plants have come up on a short and long term basis all over Sri Lanka. Eight of these plants are privately owned and the balance by CEB. However, surprisingly one of these diesel burning power plants is in operation in Chilaw diocese administered by the Bishop of Chilaw himself.

Over ten years from 1994, while the country was suffering from acute power shortages and high electricity prices, the Bishop of Chilaw, EFL, politicians and other interested parties have paved the way to establish eleven diesel or diesel-burning power plants on a long-term basis, but have been protesting against coal power, which would bear less repercussions to the environment when compared to these diesel generating plants.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Treasure Island

NewsWeek: 14/11/2005" By Ron Moreau

The country is a perfect candidate for globalization. But a new president must first put an end to decades of bloody civil strife.

Nov. 14, 2005 issue - Back in the 1960s, Singaporean leader Lee Kuan Yew said that he hoped his island nation could one day emulate the success of Sri Lanka. In those days, the former Ceylon had a lot going for it: its per capita income exceeded Thailand's and was roughly equal to South Korea's. What's more, Sri Lanka's literacy rate was very high and its infant-mortality and birthrates low—attributes that Sri Lankans still enjoy today. With its proximity to India, ancient Buddhist culture, enviable geostrategic location and 1,600 kilometers of coconut-palm-lined beaches, Sri Lanka seemed poised to become a shipping, airline, tourism andforeign-investment hub of Asia.

Things obviously haven't worked out that way. In the decades since Lee's praise, Sri Lanka has failed miserably to live up to its glowing postcolonial promise. (The country's per capita income is roughly $1,000, compared with nearly $28,000 for Singapore.) A series of economic and political errors over the years has stymied its development: long-discredited socialist policies; the nationalization of the once thriving tea, rubber and coconut plantations; populist subsidies for everything from rice to electricity.

Worst of all has been the country's failure to solve the long-running conflict between the ethnic Sinhalese majority and the Tamil minority. Twenty years ago, tensions boiled over into a bitter, budget-busting bloodbath. Some 60,000 Sri Lankans have died since fighting began in 1983 between the military and Tamil guerrillas, called the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Last December's devastating tsunami, which killed 35,000 Sri Lankans and left 500,000 homeless, was seen as a chance to get the government and the LTTE to cooperate in distributing aid. But those efforts were stillborn, largely due to government political infighting.

With a presidential election scheduled for Nov. 17, the country is now at a crossroads. "This is unquestionably the most important election since independence," says R. Rampanthan, a leading Tamil politician. "The outcome will determine this country's future." Sri Lanka has a spiraling budget deficit and a crushing public debt equal to 108 percent of the country's GDP. Lacking a negotiated, permanent peace, foreigners and even many Sri Lankans are reluctant to invest. If that doesn't change soon, the country risks being consigned to has-been status: with its neighbors gobbling up more and more of the global outsourcing pie, and the lifting of textile quotas threatening one of its major industries, the country's prospects are fragile. "We need leadership that will be—gin taking the dramatic steps necessary to give us peace along with political and economic stability," says Saman Kelegama, executive director of the Institute of Policy Studies in Colombo.

The election's two front runners, both Sinhalese Buddhists, present sharply differing visions. Current Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse is the more charismatic candidate, but his platform is more modest. He wants to proceed cautiously on the peace front, looking only to renegotiate a shaky ceasefire that ended major combat in 2002. He is skeptical of proposals to grant sweeping autonomy to the Tamil-dominated north and east as the price for peace. Before re-entering peace talks with the Tigers, he wants the Sinhalese Buddhist majority in the south, which makes up about 75 percent of the population, to reach a consensus negotiating position—a process that could take months, if not years. Rajapakse is also more of a populist economically. He opposes further privatization of state assets, and talks about hiring more civil servants to solve the problem of unemployed high-school graduates.

His opponent, Ranil Wickremesinghe, successfully negotiated the 2002 ceasefire and began Norwegian-brokered peace talks with the LTTE while he was prime minister between 2001 and 2004. He's a colorless campaigner, but his proposals are ambitious: an economic liberal whom one Western diplomat in Colombo calls a "neo-Thatcherite," he favors the privatization of ailing state companies. Most important, he strongly believes in a rapid return to talks with the Tigers and advocates a federalist solution—devolving substantial self-governing powers to the Tamil-dominated strongholds. In a recent campaign appearance he promised to negotiate a "permanent peace" with the LTTE in two to three years. Responding to such talk, Rajapakse's economic adviser, Ajith Cabraal, says Wickremesinghe "would give anything and everything to achieve peace."

After years of war, so would many Sri Lankans. (Recent polls show Wickremesinghe with a slight lead.) The country desperately needs to upgrade its roads and seaports, and to exponentially increase agricultural and manufactured exports. Peace would allow the defense budget to be slashed, freeing up funds for development and education. Outsourcing is a potential growth area. The one bright spot is the garment industry, which continues to attract high-end contracts from companies like the Gap and Victoria's Secret. The industry has become the nation's leading foreign-exchange earner, with $2.5 billion in exports last year, and is the main reason the economy will grow by over 5 percent this year. "Sri Lanka has enormous potential," says U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey Lunstead.

Some analysts suspect that the hard-line LTTE leadership hopes for a Rajapakse victory. In that case the Tigers could accuse Sinhalese of rejecting the peace process, and justify a return to combat in order to win an independent Tamil state. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, executive director of Colombo's Center for Policy Alternatives, says only moderates on both sides can end the conflict. "The Sri Lankan state has to move toward power sharing and federalism," he says, "and the LTTE has to transform itself into a responsible, democratic player, giving up violence as well as secession." Unfortunately, neither side has shown much inclination to take any historical steps. Without them, Sri Lanka's genuine promise will never be realized.

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Sri Lankan refugees return and rebuild

ReliefWeb - Document Preview -: Source: International Organization for Migration (IOM)
Date: 08 Nov 2005

Sri Lanka’s long-running civil conflict prompted an estimated 80,000 people to seek refuge in India, but with a ceasefire in place, a growing number are returning to their homeland and rebuilding their lives.

At the age of 26, Pushparani Miranda has already lived a lifetime’s worth of turmoil.

When she was just 11-years-old, Pushparani and her family undertook a perilous journey from Sri Lanka’s northwest Mannar District to India to escape bloody fighting between Sri Lankan government forces and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

"I remember being very frightened as we travelled by boat to India and I had no idea when I would be able to return home again," said Pushparani.

In fact, Pushparani spent the next 14 years ekeing out a living in a dusty refugee camp in India.

"In India I managed to attend school until the tenth grade but then I dropped out to get a job because life in the camp was expensive and we didn’t get enough rations to survive," she said.

However, in 2002, the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE rebels signed a ceasefire aimed at paving the way for a permanent end to a civil war that’s clamed more than 60,000 lives.

The truce brought newfound security and stability to the island and convinced many refugees like Pushparani to return home.

"After I returned a year ago, IOM provided materials to help me build a house and provided tools and supplies for my sister and I to set up our own candle-making business," said Pushparani.

"Now we sell candles to local churches and shops and we’re making enough money to support ourselves as well as my sister’s husband and three children," she added.

IOM helps returnees deal with immigration formalities in Sri Lanka and provides transport back to their hometown or village. Many returnees have been living overseas for decades, so they’re provided with orientation to help them adapt to life back home and given information about how to access government services.

Former refugees receive health examinations, temporary shelter and financial support for six months after they return. IOM also helps families place their children in schools.

Kali Muttu Shankar also spent 14 years living in a refugee camp in India before returning to Sri Lanka a year ago.

"I was sick and tired of living overseas and the peace process convinced me that I should return home, but when I got here I had no idea what to do," said Shankar.

The 33-year-old turned to IOM for help to reintegrate back into his community and establish a welding business. Today Shankar employs two workers and business is booming.

"I'm so glad I returned home because, unlike in India, here I have my independence and I can make decisions about my own future," he said.

"Without help from IOM, I would be working for someone else, but now I am my own boss with a good life in my own country."

Since 2004, IOM, with support from Australian AUSAID, has helped more than 10,000 former refugees like Pushparani and Shankar to rebuild their lives in Sri Lanka.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Analysis-Lasting peace pivot of S.Lanka poll, rebels not game

ReliefWeb - Document Preview: Source: Reuters Foundation, Date: 08 Nov 2005
By Simon Gardner
COLOMBO, Nov 8 (Reuters) - Sri Lanka's presidential frontrunners both promise lasting peace with the Tamil Tigers if elected at this month's poll, but while their pledges strike a chord with ordinary voters, they may have misjudged the rebels. Sporadic grenade attacks and shootings in and around Tiger-held areas ahead of the Nov.17 poll serve as an eerie reminder of a silent conflict that has killed dozens since a 2002 ceasefire halted two decades of civil war.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) -- blamed for the August assassination of the island's foreign minister -- are refusing to resume peace talks they pulled out of in 2003 because they are not ready for a long-term deal, analysts say.
"The LTTE simply are not in a position to give up their demand for a separate state yet," said Kethesh Loganathan of the Centre for Policy Alternatives in Colombo.
"It is one of the factors which is holding them back from entering into negotiations on a permanent settlement," he said.
"They are not committed to a permanent peace within a united Sri Lanka."
The Tigers, who have an estimated 18,000 to 20,000 cadres, want interim self-rule in the 15 percent of Sri Lanka they control with their own courts, tax system and even speedgun-toting traffic police.
But they insist on dictating the terms in their quest for a homeland for minority Tamils, who they say are discriminated against by Sri Lanka's majority Sinhalese, which stalled the peace process under outgoing President Chandrika Kumaratunga.
Peace envoys and truce monitors say a return to a full-blown war that killed over 64,000 people is unlikely, but analysts expect little change whoever wins the election.
STRATEGIC STALLING?
"You get the inevitable feeling that they have an agenda and that they have been keeping to it," said Iqbal Athas, a defence analyst for Jane's Defence Weekly, referring to a spate of killings of intelligence and military officials.
"Since 2002 they have built a much stronger military machine ... That is one of the reasons the peace talks remain stalled at the moment," he added. "(The election outcome) is not going to make a substantive difference to the peace process."
Presidential hopeful and main opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, who brokered the truce as former Prime Minister and is seen by many as best placed to cement lasting peace, is offering the rebels devolution of power along federal lines.
His main opponent, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse, has allied himself with hardline Marxists and Buddhist monks who detest the rebels, and has angered the Tigers by ruling out a Tamil homeland and vowing to tighten the rules of the ceasefire.
The Tigers say they don't trust either candidate, and pro-rebel students and worker unions have been urging Tamils to boycott the poll, which analysts say could go against the more moderate and conciliatory Wickremesinghe.
"After the election, all the promises are forgotten," S.P. Thamilselvan, head of the LTTE's political wing, said last week. "We are totally unconcerned about the outcome of this election."
Frustrated diplomats and investors fed up with the protracted impasse are resigned that any permanent peace deal -- key to opening the gates to foreign investment in the $20 billion economy -- is a distant ideal for now.
Nordic truce monitors who oversee the ceasefire say both sides must urgently take steps to rebuild trust eroded by months of escalating violence between the Tigers and a breakaway faction led by a former top rebel called Karuna.
The LTTE accuse the army of helping Karuna mount attacks, a charge the military denies.
"The way the two parties have been behaving in the last few months is not exactly in the spirit of the ceasefire agreement," said Helen Olafsdottir of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission.
"If (the Tigers) are committed to peace, then they had better well sort themselves out, and that goes also for the government," she said. "The killings will not stop until you have the LTTE and the government sitting down to find a political solution."
(Additional reporting by Peter Apps in KILINOCHCHI)

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Major push to woo Lankan CEOs to think “Off-shoring”

Daily Mirror: 07/11/2005"

A major push to woo Sri Lankan CEOs to think and profit from “off-shoring” will be kicked off later this week.

The initiative is spearheaded by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce ICT Sub Committee in partnership with the World Bank. As part of their efforts to make a concerted effort for companies in particular and Sri Lanka in general to benefit, a top level conference titled “Off-shore Sri Lanka” will be held on November 10 from 9.00 a.m. to 3.00 p.m. at the Waters Edge, Battaramulla. Around 300 CEOs as well as key Government officials have been invited for the event which the Keynote Speaker will be World Bank’s Senior Economist Ismail Radwan. The event will also include a luncheon presentation by the author of “The Offshore Nation” Avinash Vashistha, who is considered as the guru of off-shoring.

Offshoring, or the process whereby one company delegates responsibility for performing a function or series of tasks to another company based in another country, represents a US$100 billion market and is growing at more than 30 % per annum. In India, a global leader in this area, IT exports account for close to US$20 billion and almost half of total export revenues. The total number of jobs created in the Indian IT industry is close to one million, many of them filled by women.

A spokesman for Ceylon Chamber ICT Sub Committee said “Developing ICT and professional services offshoring opportunities should be a high priority for development-oriented countries such as Sri Lanka. Not only will the development of this industry segment create job and export opportunities, it will also create positive spillovers such as: enhanced incentives for education, technology and knowledge transfer, environmental protection and an improvement in the quality of locally provided services.”

“Outsourcing, BPO, and off shoring are becoming buzzwords in the ICT industry but there is lack of awareness among top CEOs . This conference will define these activities and highlight the potential that it offers for Sri Lanka in terms of; industry growth, employment creation and economic development,” he said adding that Lankan CEOs must reach out to their overseas partners and talk about off-shoring possible functions in Sri Lanka.

The broader objective of the conference as well as the “Offshore Sri Lanka” initiative are to: Build awareness of the potential for off shoring services in Sri Lanka; Incorporate the main findings of the conference into government policies; Start a dialogue between key stakeholders in the industry and government and Lead to progress in off shoring investments in Sri Lanka.

The conference would bring together speakers from the ICT industry, Government and International Financial Institutions and put them before 300 stakeholders of the budding off shoring industry in Sri Lanka.

The conference at which the chief guest will be US Ambassador in Sri Lanka Jeffrey J. Lunstead, will have presentations from such as HSBC/EDPL Managing Director Alan Burton, ICT Agency CEO Manju Haththotuwa, WTP Capital Managing Partner Abhishek Hain while a panel comprising LIRNEasia Executive Director Prof. Rohan Samarajiwa, ICT Agency Legal Advisor Jayantha Fernando and Employers Federation Director General Gotabaya Dasanayake will be involved as well. A foreign delegation of prospective collaborators/investors on offshoring is also expected.

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Monday, November 14, 2005

The Thrift Column – Roots of Poverty

Lanka Business Online: 04/11/2005"

Post independent Sri Lanka's budgets have always been instruments to buy votes and make the population collectively poorer from the results, and the upcoming one (if something unforeseen does not happen) would be no different.

In the words of once sentence, the 2006 budget would have revenue targets that would fail, and deficit targets that would overshoot, though the expected 8.2 percent GDP deficit is already too high.
If that is the case, why do we need a budget at all?

We need a budget so that the Finance Minister can stand up in parliament and (probably against his own conscience):

a) make a political circus of the unsustainable policy matrix within the budget,
b) sing the virtues of the public service and how it can be made more efficient, by hiring more people,
c) take pot shots at big business,
d) sing the virtues of agricultural development,
e) rail at the unfairness of western province oriented development, and,
f) promise instant relief for all economic ills, aches and pains.

If, after the elections, Victor Hettigoda of Siddhalepa fame, promises a cure-all, people can be excused for believing the promises. After all, he has a track record of soothing our ills for some years, even if the price of Siddhalepa is also subjected to the inflationary pressure from previous budgets.

As usual soon after the budget the business community would praise the budget for the tax breaks and various incentives offered. The man on the street would praise it for the ‘sahana’ and other goodies promised.

The opposition would criticize the only responsible provisions in it. A few months later rampant inflation would reduce everything to square one or worse.

Credibility

It is sad that a mere (cynical) columnist can sit on the side lines and predict the outcome of a budget even before it is presented.

Fuss-budget would have been best pleased if the dire predictions made in this column had not come true last year.

That, 2004/2005 was a record year for economic mismanagement is now quite well accepted among the economically educated sections of the population.

No policy matrix has failed so spectacularly as Rata Perata, as economic growth plunged, inflation skyrocketed and the country was driven towards a balance of payments crisis within the space of just a few months (Thrift Column – Print Job).

But how the Rata Perata policy framework made all this happen is not so universally known. (Thrift Column-Friends and Enemies).

For this the blame must squarely lie with the UNP. If the UNP had properly educated the public, such policies would have been banished from the country forever.

But that it did not, points to the success of the JVP in propagating their policies. They were so successful, that elements of their failed, poverty creating policies also found their way into the latest UNP manifesto, the Niyaya Patraya.

Anti-inflation

Having said that, Fuss-budget can hardly fail to applaud the parts of the UNP manifesto which promises to contain inflation and stop printing money.

But some of the rest is surely economic nonsense. Subsidising milk food and parippu (dhal) is stupid and unsustainable. (Shudder! Shudder!). And 10 percent economic growth?

The only consolation is that the Niyaya Patra types are saying the subsidies will only last a year or so.

The Mahinda Chinthana of course is even worse (Shudder! Shudder! Shudder!) Chinthana types say subsidies are an investment. Do we need say anything more?

The balanced economy is nonsense too. Where did that come from? Must be a New Chinthanaya. It is a nice Chinthanaya. It certainly cannot push growth to 8.0 percent.

Legacy of 57 years

But one should not be really surprised that the Rata Perata type poverty creating policies survive and thrive in Sri Lanka. In order to remain poor, we must be doing something right to preserve poverty!

As Presidential candidate Hettigoda says, we have mismanaged the country for 57 long years. Subsidies are not a leftist instrument by any means.

The UNP Niyaya Patraya is a partial throwback to the Dudley Senanayake type policies, which are at the root of most of the economic problems we see today.

Misuse of public funds in a grand scale, to give food subsidies (usually imported) at the expense of capital expenditure that give lasting long-term returns, is a post independence stupidity that has been diligently followed by most of our leaders.

But the resultant fiscal profligacy and inflation that comes soon in its wake, increases poverty.

Beginning of the end

Dudley Senanayake had a 'hartal' when he tried to cut subsidies raise the price of rice to 75 cents.

This was the decisive battle for subsidies, which the 'left' won, and the poor lost. From then on debt has been piling up, inflation rising, and no money was left for sustained investment in capital projects and people got poorer as a result.

Dudley of course came back with more subsidies later, and left the country more indebted when he left. People still love him for his rice rations, though he also grew the economy.

In 1951, his father, D S Senananayake achieved 6.2 percent economic growth and even brought national debt down to 16.3 percent from the 18.0 percent level it was Sri Lanka became independent.

But in his first term Dudley managed to push the national debt up to 27.0 percent and growth down to 1.9 percent, but under Sir John Kotelawala (after Dudley resigned) the economy turned around, recording the only two budget surpluses in the last 57 years.

Growth picked up and the national debt fell. With fixed exchange rates, inflation was yet to hit the country in a big way then.

After Mr and Mrs. Bandaranaike came and went, (with Dudley having a brief sojourn) National debt was already topping 50 percent.

Though we are just looking at the macro numbers, there were other measures that had progressively set the economy back and increased the role of an inefficient government in the overall economy during the intervening period.

Green revolution

During his third stint, in 1968, Dudley managed to push economic growth to 8.2 percent, but by this time, the vicious cycle of inflation and depreciation had already started.

In any case in 1950 the Central Bank was set up, and the citizens of the newly independent country had the power to print money. It was the case of the proverbial monkey with the razor blade. (What would John Exter say about later Governors of the Central Bank who printed money to finance the Treasury?)

Stagflation

When Mrs. Bandaranaike returned in the 70's, she topped everyone else by strangling the economy with some of the worst controls imaginable.

With the oil prices rising (sounds familiar doesn't it?) the country had high inflation while the economy stagnated. But high inflation also pushed the national debt down, just like it did in the late 80's and will now.

Overheating

While we are at it, we may also have a bash at JR. Though he unshackled the economy, he and Ronnie de Mel mismanaged the fiscal and monetary sector in grand style.

Talk about galloping inflation! In 1980 the budget deficit was 23.0 percent. Inflation was 26.0 percent. Can you beat it? Nobody has so far. Not even the Dr (Sarath Amunugama + P B Jayasundera) combination (The Thrift Column-Invitation to Disaster), has managed that.

Massive amounts of money were printed to provide counterparty funds for projects in the eighties.

We had relatively high growth but high inflation as well in the 1980's. So people, government servants in particular, were reduced to paupers.

Then of course the war came.

Mixed results

It was President Chandrika Kumaratunga (with A S Jayewardene), who articulated an explicit anti-inflationary strategy for the first time since independence.

She had some success in cutting the deficit and reducing inflation, in the first few years of her rule.

Chandrika inherited the UNP's desperate election budget of 1994. By 1997 she had pushed growth up to 6.3 percent, but an escalating war soon destabilized the economy, leading to negative growth for the first time since independence, and a balance of payments crisis.

It was Ranil Wickremesinghe in 2002/2003 that made a determined effort to boost growth and slow inflation. He succeeded on both counts, but he was a poor communicator, and nobody really knew what he was doing.

So he was kicked out for his pains in 2004. The Rata Perata framework had the distinction of creating another balance of payment crisis, sans a war, and the rest is history.

Brainwashing

So now we are back to the enduring populist policies, which fostered poverty in this country for nearly four decades.

That should not really surprise us.

For instance, the Bandaranaike nationalizations were clearly wrong. But anti-privatisation sentiment is still going strong. That is because leftist parties are better at promoting their policies than the right wing ones.

It is like religion. You do not have to prove anything. You have to just say this is the truth, so believe it. If you repeat it often enough you can make people believe anything.

For example:
a) How can the JVP claim to save state institutions when they were people who killed CTB bus drivers, burnt CTB buses and burnt CEB transformers?
b) Under Parivasa and Rata Perata, CEB and Petroleum Corporation made the biggest losses in the history of the country. Sathosa went bankrupt during the Parivasa period, with a crippling Rs. 9 billion loss, but who now are the saviors of Sathosa?
c) How can the JVP claim to safeguard Buddhism when they attacked the Dalada Maligawa and killed so many priests and more recently happily photographed a poor monk whose genitals were being mutilated inside parliament itself?

But they can and they do. The JVP can talk their way out of almost anything – mass murder included - and brainwash the people. But the UNP cannot talk their way out of Regain Sri Lanka.

This is also why the World Bank and IMF are constantly blasted by the poverty merchants of the left. The IMF wants inflation down more than even the left, but IMF tells practical ways of doing it, (The thrift column-Trickle Up) while the left wants it done by creating money out of nothing.

This is the basic reality of poor countries. The poverty merchants win, because they only have a strategy to brainwash the people. The doers have a strategy to do things, but they do not have an effective communications strategy to convince the people, or 'Economic Statesmanship' as a Singaporean leader once said.
But this matters only if you want to fix the country. If you just want power you do not have to fix the country.

A President can only serve two terms. So might as well become President, give some subsidies, enjoy the trappings of power and buzz off.

Of course the national debt would be ten percentage points higher and more people would be pushed below the poverty line. But who cares? That is the next man's problem.

You do not really have to fix the country or reduce poverty. That is a peculiar mania reserved for stupid politicians. Most of our politicians are far more practical. We can carry on as we have done for the past 57 years.

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Revival of life in Tsunami-hit Southern Province

Daily News: 05/11/2005"

DAILY NEWS Journalist Indeewara Thilakarathne recently toured the Southern coastal belt to assess the progress of tsunami reconstruction.

THE sun blazes over the vast expanse of the Southern coastline against the Indian Ocean. The sea is now claimed and quite as if nothing had happened but everybody knows the death and the physical destruction brought about by the South Asian Tsunami.

Before the tsunami hit, livelihood in this part of the country was sustained by the fishing and the flourishing tourism industry that brings much needed foreign exchange to the country besides creating direct employment and an equal number of indirect jobs for youth. The tsunami waves had wiped out entire communities.

Nearly one year on, life is beginning to kick up with the gradual arrival of tourists, still made up largely of international volunteers who had been working for various NGOs in the rebuilding of the coastal settlements wiped out by the tsunami.

Most of the fishermen have begun their daily routines with whatever fishing gear they have and were donated by NGOs.

Except for a few isolated makeshift tsunami relief camps and tents, housing schemes are coming up for the tsunami displaced.

Abundant generosity on the part of the International Community and the Sri Lankan expatriate community has helped in constructing housing schemes and in some places entire villages to shelter thousands of fisher folk who lost their livelihood and their loved ones among the ferocious tsunami waves.

Hela Sarana is one of the housing projects that came up in Peraliya, now famous for the world's worst railway catastrophe in which more than thousands perished and washed away by the tsunami.

The wreckage of the compartments of the ill-fated train remains beside the newly constructed Colombo-Matara tracks.

A host of foreign NGOs are active in the area, mainly in the reconstruction of destroyed settlements and restoring basic sanitary facilities such as digging up wells and constructing toilets.

The Hela Sarana housing project, which was founded by Sri Lankan Buddhist Society of Calgary in Canada, is a unique housing scheme where the housing unites are planned and designs to the requirements of the prospective owners.

Under the project, a family or an individual is provided with Rs.225,000 worth material to design and construct a house to suit them.

So far 25 houses had already been handed over to owners and construction of 53 houses had also been completed and only nine houses remain to be completed. The 4th Engineering Brigade of the Sri Lankan Army had contributed the project in terms of labour.

The Malgampura Housing Scheme with 106 housing units is a role model. The community is located about two kilometres off the sea. The villagers, all of them are fisherfolk, are gradually adopting to the new environment to commence their trade.

A large number of volunteers and voluntary organisations such as Hilfwerk from Sweden are busy at work in various sites and individuals from different parts of the globe had constructed houses and single housing units for the tsunami affected people perhaps due to the global media coverage given to the catastrophe.

Along the coastal belt from Galle to Matara, settlements sprawl in double quick time occupying the shattered landscape. With the reduction of the buffer zone by the Government, beachfront restaurants are being reconstructed and tourist arrivals in areas like Unawatuna and Mirissa is returning to normal.

The fisheries sector is also taking off with multi-day boats starting to fishing in the deep sea. Most of the fishermen who lost their boats had complained that Grama Sevakas, the grassroots level administrative officers, had favoured with and donated boats to persons who had never been fishermen. Bureaucratic delays are rampant, especially in the case of allocation of State lands.

Fisherfolk complain of the lack of fishing gear and boats and the deepening of breakwater of fisheries harbours.

Most of the physical infrastructure of the fisheries harbours had been destroyed by the tsunami and especially the temporary breakwaters made of granite would not be strong enough to avert giant tide.

Fishermen are complaining that they have to store ice at their homes and sometimes bring from outstations to keep the fish harvest freshly unloaded from multi-day boats which normally bring ashore a large stocks of fish.

The ice-manufacturing plants at the most of the harbours had been partially or completely damaged by the tsunami.

However it is obvious from interviews and the observations that ninety per cent of the fisherfolk had, in fact, received tsunami relief and some of the fishermen who worked at boats before tsunami have been lucky enough to get boats and become boatowners.

The fishermen, who have been located in the interior, are now gradually adopting to a different environment while resuming their trade.

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Sunday, November 13, 2005

Natural Disasters Preparedness and Response

Environment and Development Development Gateway:
A magnitude 7.6 earthquake struck Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan, on October 8, 2005, at 8:50 a.m. local time. The epicenter of the earthquake was located near Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani Kashmir, and approximately 60 miles away from Islamabad, Pakistan. The disaster has already killed more than 50,000 people, injured some 74,000 others and left over 3 million more homeless.The aftermath of the earthquake has brought up the urgency to develop disaster risk reduction and management policies, nine months after the adoption of the Hyogo Framework for Action at the United Nations World Conference on Disaster Reduction in Kobe, Japan, January 2005, a ten-year plan to combat natural disasters. According to the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR), in the broader sense of the expression, disaster reduction involves all measures designed to avoid or limit the adverse impact of natural hazards and related environmental and technological disasters. Authorities truly need to ensure an institutionalized dialogue mechanism and adopt an integrated, comprehensive and multi-hazard strategy for disaster risk reduction, including prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response, recovery and rehabilitation. Particular focus is required in the following areas: 1. Gaps in knowledge for disaster risk assessment: a first step towards more concerted and coordinated global action on disaster risk reduction must be a clear understanding of the depth and extent of hazard, vulnerability and disaster loss; 2. Governance for risk management: appropriate governance for disaster risk management is a fundamental requirement if risk considerations are to be factored into development planning, and if existing risks are to be successfully mitigated; 3. Mainstreaming disaster risk into development planning: development needs to be regulated in terms of its impact on disaster risk; 4. Integrated climate risk management: building on capacities that deal with existing disaster risk is an effective way to generate capacity to deal with future climate change risk; 5. Managing the multifaceted nature of risk: Natural hazard is one among many potential threats to life and livelihood; 6. Compensatory risk management: In addition to reworking the disaster-development relationship, a legacy of risk accumulation exists today and there is a need to improve disaster preparedness and response. How the world responds to the current and future disasters will demonstrate to what extent the Hyogo Framework, as well as other plans, actually produce an impact in our practices. Collaborating in the production of this highlight was Muhammad Taimur Ali Khan, virtual intern, Development Gateway, from City Dera Ismail Khan, North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan.
South Asia earthquake
Natural Disaster Profile: Earthquakes
The link between Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and disaster risk reduction
Natural Disaster Preparedness and Mitigation of Human, Economic and Environmental losses

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