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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, January 21, 2006

Involving affected communities on rehab. process, key on tsunami recovery

Daily Mirror: 17/01/2006"

“Tsunami affected communities should not be helpless recipients. They have to be considered as the rightful owners of the process and the resources.

They should be the key planners and decision makers”, asserts People’s Planning Commission (PPC) report on Recovery after Tsunami released in a meeting organized at National Library Services Hall in Colombo yesterday. This commission, comprised of more than 130 people’s organizations, has been working out on the basic Principle that the process of recovery and all resources mobilized by what ever agency, whether Government or International NGOs or local NGOs, should belong to the affected people.

“The affected people have the right to plan their own process of rebuilding their lives”, said president of PPC, Prof. H. Sriyananda.

PPC has received support from some NGOs and INGOs on this People’s Process which aims to ensure tsunami affected communities’ participation and ownership on decision making process which affects their future.

“Since tsunami, various plans emerged from different authorities and agencies working for the rehabilitation of the affected communities. But many of them have been missing the most important thing: getting communities’ participation in the whole process. The initiation of the People’s Planning Commission tries to bridge this gap and build a stronger process of involving these communities”, said Saroj Dash, Policy and Programme Team Leader from ActionAid International Sri Lanka, one of the INGO which supports this People’s Process.

The Commission made recommendations regarding this necessary change of “structures of planning” at community level as well as at national level. “Structures have to be set at community and district of sub-district levels to ensure that tsunami affected communities participate on the bodies that make decisions”, affirms the Report. One of the main proposals from PPC concerns land allocation, buffer zone and resettlement of affected communities: “Definitive limits of the buffer zone have to be established taking into account the particular situation in each area. Exceptional measures will have to be taken for reconstruction within the buffer zone. A clear definition of land ownership is necessary for the zones of resettlement, with clear principles for compensation”.

The acceleration of permanent houses is also a priority for PPC, together with the improvement of the still provisional shelters. “People’s participation in the planning and in the construction of houses is central to success”, concludes the report.

PPC expressed its concern about the recovery and rebuilding of those affected by Tsunami as well as by the war in the North and East of the country.

ActionAid works in partnership with 18 local organizations in Sri Lanka, covering more than 200 villages and reaching over 33.000 people in eight affected districts in the first year.

Its interventions range from meeting immediate humanitarian needs, providing psycho-social support, rebuilding livelihoods, getting children back to school, strengthening community capacities, enhancing human security and ensuring aid reaches the poorest of the poor. ActionAid’s tsunami response program covers Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, the Maldives and Somalia.

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Friday, January 20, 2006

Robust SLPA helps Colombo port to grow

Daily Mirror: 16/01/2006" SLPA managed terminals clock a high 15.4% growth in volume handled to bolster Colombo port’s total throughput by 10.6% to 2.45 million TEUs in 2005 over 2004

A robust performance by the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) managed Jaya Container Terminal (JCT) has helped Colombo port to clock a healthy 10.6% growth in containers handled in 2005 to 2.45 million TEUs over the previous year.

In a year which showed a great comeback on the part of SLPA, its volumes crossed the milestone of 1.5 million TEUs handled, up by a higher 15.4% growth over 2004. The private sector managed South Asia Gateway Terminals (SAGT) managed only a 3.5% growth when it handled 0.93 million TEUs as opposed to 0.89 million TEUs in 2004.

SLPA also had the unique achievement of posting growth in every single month over the corresponding period of last year and this impressive performance helped Colombo port to retain its hub status and finish the year on a very healthy note. In April 2005 it clocked the highest growth of 31.9% while the lowest growth was 7.8% in August. The highest monthly volume handled by SLPA was 138,385 TEUs in October. It has been averaging over 130,000 TEUs per month since July. Colombo port’s overall highest monthly volume of 220,732 TEUs was recorded in August.

In 2004 the Colombo port handled 2.2 million TEUs up by 13% while in 2003 the growth over 2002 was 11%. In that context the overall growth of container handling at Colombo port as percentage was slightly down 10.6% as opposed to 13% in 2004 over 2003. However it has managed to marginally better the performance in terms of transshipment boxes handled with a 12.7% growth to 1.64 million TEUs as against 12% increase to 1.46 million TEUs in 2004. Domestic boxes handled improved by 7.2% to 0.74 million TEUs.

Analysts noted that had SAGT, which had reached saturation point, improved its performance consistently, the Colombo port would have surpassed the original target of 2.5 million TEUs for 2005.

SLPA Chairman Dileepa Wijesundera singled out the achievement of positive growth on a monthly basis over 2004 as a key highlight. He said that robust performance by SLPA has enabled Colombo port to end each month of 2005 on a positive note irrespective of a downturn in SAGT volumes. He stressed on the fact that shipping lines look at the overall performance of Colombo port and not separately by terminals and rated the 10% plus growth as very satisfactory.

Unlike when the previous administration was in office, SLPA management has ensured that volume growth was achieved without compromising an increase in revenue. As per provisional data as of early November SLPA revenue had increased by over Rs. 2 billion compared with the corresponding period of 2004.

Mr. Wijesundera attributed the resilience of and growth on the part of SLPA managed terminals to “greater customer orientation” and quick satisfaction of customer needs and redressing of problems if any. “Since the new management took office the SLPA had signed 9 Terminal Services Agreements (TSAs) which are linked to higher productivity. Aggressive and focused marketing of going to customers rather than they coming to us helped improve Colombo port’s positioning and performance,” Mr. Wijesundera emphasized.

The signing of TSAs along with commencement of new services has given global shipping lines lot of confidence on Colombo and this in turn has encouraged SLPA team to enhance productivity and overall efficiency. “We have offered a better product to shipping lines thereby ensuring consistency in our growth,” the SLPA chief added.

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Thursday, January 19, 2006

NGOs come under scrutiny at philanthropy conference

Sunday Times: 15/01/2006" Lot of work but more could have been done –tsunami worker By Feizal Samath

One non governmental organization (NGO) offered refrigerators as an inducement to persuade tsunami victims to take up their offer of housing. In some areas, there was a price war in the labour sector as NGO’s outdid each other to secure labour for the many housing projects for the tsunami-homeless.

At a recent conference held in the beach resort of Phuket in Thailand on the role of philanthropy after the tsunami, one of the issues that was raised was the unhealthy competition between NGOs virtually elbowing each other in – spending money that was secured for tsunami work.

In Colombo, some NGOs – who came here for tsunami work – left with houses and other projects incomplete when the money ran out. The competition to build houses quickly was very intense, creating social disparities. “Social disparities will be a major problem and a challenge in the future,” noted Yu Hwa Li, national director of World Vision Lanka. He said that post-war and conflict housing costs around 400,000 rupees per unit while houses for tsunami victims cost anything between 400,000 rupees and Rs 1 million. Distortions in the labour market were rampant.

Again in Sri Lanka there was a huge battle for staff with the bigger and newer international NGOs enticing skilled workers from small groups with higher salaries and leaving wide staff gaps in smaller NGOs and longer established NGOs. In the three months after the tsunami, the most number of job vacancies in Sri Lankan newspapers were in the NGO sector – drawing experienced personnel even from the private sector.

Aid workers said the tsunami didn’t only uproot communities but disturbed the future of these communities during the post-tsunami reconstruction programme. The Thailand conference, organized by the Asia Pacific Philanthropy Consortium (APPC), brought together some 150 participants, mostly leaders from government, the non-profit sector, private sector, media representatives, disaster response experts, and representatives of the philanthropic community both in Asia and around the world.

Titled “Philanthropy in Disasters: TSUNAMI and After”, the conference discussed critical issues such as effective and cost-efficient forms of collaboration, the challenge of developing community disaster preparedness and response mechanisms, accountability to donors and affected communities, and the role of media and electronic communications in promoting philanthropy and development in a disaster environment.

APPC is a 10-year-old network of grant making philanthropic institutions and organizations that support the growth and development of philanthropy in the region.

The conference was told that sizable funds were raised by inexperienced agencies and badly spent due to lack of coordination. There was infighting amongst NGOs to get the ‘best” area. Some of the bigger NGOs worked in many sectors – housing, sanitation, livelihoods, schools, education, etc – elbowing out the smaller community groups who just couldn’t compete in terms of funds and resources.

NGOs that relied on community support to build houses – projects that took longer to implement – were outpaced by the bigger organizations that bulldozed their way hiring labour at will and paying higher-than-market rates. Naturally victims flocked to these groups. Mismanagement, infighting and turf clashes were the order of the day, which didn’t however sufficiently get into the media draw or public attention.

Another key issue that was raised was the lack of similar global support for the earthquake in Pakistan, which during a discussion was reasoned out because foreigners were unaffected there unlike in the tsunami. “The tsunami impacted on everyone – there was someone’s family member of relative affected – so there was a kind of urgency to help from the world,” noted one participant.

In Colombo, it also raises the question as to whether Sri Lanka’s civil society or business community would have responded so magnanimously if the tsunami – like regular floods or the devastating 1978 cyclone in eastern Batticaloa – affected only poorer and marginally-deprived classes like fishing folk or farmers. If the tourist industry was untouched and the local elite were not holidaying in southern resorts, would the world and wealthy Sri Lankans come to our rescue? While this is not meant to undo the good work and compassion by thousands of Sri Lankans here and abroad and foreigners, it does however raise some pertinent questions.

An example was the eastern coast – worst hit in terms of casualties and homes – which didn’t get that much attention as the south where battered build-up areas with hotels provided excellent pictures to shock the world. The first relief trucks from Colombo hit the southern trail and it was many days later when real relief hit the eastern parts.

Of course, one cannot forget that the scale of the violence was high and much more than any single incident in Sri Lanka that brought the best out of our people. Another area in which the media failed was in not paying enough attention to the work of NGOs and exposing major flaws in their work amidst the clash for locations and communities. This was essential given that a lot of the money that came in – not committed funds – were from private donors and thus made the non government sector an almost equal partner with the government in the reconstruction process.

Thus while the media focused on weaknesses in the government’s reconstruction programme and questioned the process all the way, happenings in the NGO sector were largely ignored. Charlie Ayco, Director for Regional Programmes at Habitat for Humanity, said donors dictated locations and quality standards on housing were based on impractical and inappropriate western standards.

These houses were too costly, too sophisticated and didn’t blend with the rest of the community. There was lack of cultural sensitivity in these processes.
One of the questions posed at the Phuket conference was as to what prompted people and organizations across the world to kindle the spirit of giving.

For decades the UN had asked for funds for humanitarian relief but didn’t get that much. In the tsunami case the outpouring of support, it was discovered, was due to human compassion. People were more sympathetic towards natural disasters than man-made ones.

The Phuket parley saw calls for a Code of Conduct and a humanitarian charter along with humanitarian accountability processes being made to better coordinate the work of the NGO sector.

Cobus De Swardt, Global Programmes Director at Transparency International, said humanitarian relief was particularly vulnerable to corruption and mismanagement because of the speed of work and avoiding standards. “If we have another disaster, people will ask what happened to the money given earlier,” he said.

At the end of the conference, it was agreed that NGOs did a lot of good work after the tsunami that must be appreciated but that it could have been done better and made more effective had they worked together – not against each other.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Hanitarian Situation Report : 06 - 12 Jan 2006

ReliefWeb - Document Preview : Source: United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) ,Date: 12 Jan 2006

Overall Situation
In Galle district the transitional shelter local government authorities (Municipal Council and Pradeshiya Saba) with the directive of the District Secretary, and the Care and Maintenance working group are working to play a more active role in the management of solid waste and sewage. Affected beneficiaries in transitional shelter sites as well as unaffected people in the district are experiencing discomfort due to unsatisfactory management of waste. Also the need for the active involvement of the local government authorities is seen for the decommissioning of transitional shelters in future.
In Galle heavy afternoon and evening showers in the district have caused minor, ‘regular’ flooding but the situation is not alarming.
In Ampara there were unusually low levels of rainfall during the months of November and December. However, January saw daily rains both during day and nighttime, which has caused the causeway to Thirukkovil Division to be flooded. IOM reported on 12 January that one of their sites in Alaydiwembu Division in Ampara district is experiencing high water levels.
The past week in Ampara has been calm, with no enforcement of restricted movement due to security reasons. No hartals (work stoppage) have been reported for the reporting period, the last one was reported on 5 January. The situation is not characterized by frequent security incidents, as in other districts such as Batticaloa, Trincomalee and Jaffna. During the night between 10-11 January, heavy winds caused damage to houses in the Sammanthurai and Eragama Divisions in Ampara district.
Trincomalee was characterized by a hartal (work stoppage) and a tense situation prevailed in the area. Normal life and business in the town is paralyzed with all shops, government offices, schools, non governmental organizations, financial institutions closed down. The ban on fishing ordered by the Sri Lankan navy in the sea area from Koneswarm to the harbor continues with some 1500 fishers directly affected as reported to OCHA by FAO.
Main challenges and response
The Coastal Conservation Department in a letter to the Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies (CHA) states a further relaxation of the buffer zone for the Galle district. The set back is from 60-35m for Galle district. This has caused much confusion among government authorities and NGOs. Also there are rising concerns over how this would affect the housing policy imposed by the government earlier. A policy circular is awaited from Colombo.
A situation with 46 cases of Hepatitis A in Sammanthurai Division Ampara was reported on 12 January by MERLIN to OCHA and other relevant actors. The affected villages are Sennel 1, Malayadi and Vilinayadi. A health education and vaccine campaign will be launched at the end of the week by the Ministry of Health (MOH) of Sammanthurai with MERLIN support. Discussions with the MOH have confirmed that in the areas where the cases have been reported, there are chronic water supply problems, interruptions in the piped water supply, open wells and an inadequate number of wells. MERLIN made an appeal to WATSAN actors for quick response to the emergency needs. Around 1,700 individuals were vaccinated for Hepatitis A in the area on 12 January.
OCHA Ampara further reports that the last District Education Coordination Meeting on 19 December was attended by only one actor and highlights the need to enhance coordination within the sector.
Coordination and common services
Distribution of boats without the coordination of the Ministry of Fisheries or FAO, for fishers, is still on-going in the Galle district. A local bank recently distributed 25 horsepower FRP boats (one package worth Rs 450,000) to fishermen, without consulting the Ministry or FAO for a beneficiary list.
According to Water Board statistics, the permanent housing site in Galagodawatte, Hikkaduwa could be provided with a permanent water connection in another 2 to 3 years time.
The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) will conduct a Site Management learning workshop in Batticaloa for Transitional Accomodation Project (TAP) appointed Site Officers on the 25-26th January. On 8-9 February there will be workshops for Site Officers simultaneously in Ampara and Galle.
The OCHA Batticaloa field office is in the process of assisting in identifying funding for the construction of permanent houses for 22 families residing in the Paddy Marketing Board Building.
In Batticaloa the data for the TSST project has been entered. HIC in collaboration with TAP will collect GPS location and photos of the sites.
The government’s Disaster Management Center is carrying out disaster awareness programs at community level throughout Galle district.
Food security
WFP wound up its Emergency Operation 31 December and its activities were integrated into the Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation (PRRO). The PRRO will support the rehabilitation and recovery process in conflict areas and meet ongoing needs of tsunami victims who have not yet recovered their livelihood.
The third cash distribution of WFP’s Cash Transfer Pilot Project through Samurdhi bank societies to beneficiaries was carried out during the last week of December in the Galle, Hambantota and Batticaloa districts and two more cash distributions are due end January.
The third round of a nutrition survey in tsunami-affected districts is underway and conducted by the Medical Research Institute (MRI) with financial and technical support from UNICEF
and WFP. The objective is to monitor the changes in the nutrition situation of tsunami-affected children and women and the survey will further assess the impact of interventions in tsunami-affected communities.
UNICEF provided support to rehabilitate the tsunami-damaged salt fields of the Hambantota salt iodisation factory, which produces iodised salt to protect the population against iodine deficiency disorders.
Merlin held a Health Fair on 7 January in Kallady Batticaloa focusing on hygiene promotion and good and healthy domestic practices which was attended by more than 300 people, mainly children and teenagers.
WHO provided technical and financial support to conduct a training Workshop for Entomological Assistants on "Dengue vector surveillance "for Dengue Control during the last two weeks of December 2005. The training workshop was held in Colombo with participants from Colombo, Gampaha, Kalutara, Galle, Matara, Tangalle, Hambantota, Kandy, Kurunegala, Rathnapura.
Water and sanitation
Recently the water supply to the transitional shelter site in Alokapura in the Hambantota AGA Division was disconnected due to non-payment of bills. However the Transitional Accommodation Project (TAP) and the Municipality attended to the matter and rectified the situation.
Information collected by Project Galle 2005 on water tanks and transitional shelters in the Habaraduwa division in Galle has been mapped by HIC and the maps were distributed among the participants of the WatSan group recently. The maps indicate the locations of transitional shelter cluster settlement sites, sites with 2-9 shelter units, individual shelters and water tanks, and help to differentiate shelters sites and units that have good and poor access to water tanks.
WFP and UNICEF are working collectively to ensure watsan facilities for their school kitchens programme. Currently UNICEF is looking into 20 schools and WFP is building 100 kitchens.
Non-food items and shelter
In regards to the progress of payments for fully damaged houses in the Galle district, out of 2,302 approved cases 2,302 have received the first installment while 876 have received the second installment, 251 the third installment and 75 fully have received the fourth installment.
In regards to the progress of payments for partly damaged houses in the Galle district out of 5,952 cases approved 5,952 have received the first installment and 2,446 have received the second installment.
On care and maintenance of transitional shelter sites the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) recruited ten trainees for Site Management Training in the Galle district and they received a training in Trincomalee at an ongoing workshop.
The Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies (CHA) together with the Community Tsunami Early Warning Center (CTEC) held a fire preparedness program for transitional shelter sites in Walawwatte, Dadella and Balapitiya in the Galle district on 6 January.
SED Galle/Caritas International received the beneficiary list they have been waiting for since October from the Divisional Secretary for their housing constructions for 7 beneficiaries in Gaminiwatte and 126 beneficiaries in Walawwatte of Galle Four Gravets division.
OCHA Batticaloa reports that 98 per cent of transitional shelters are complete in the Batticaloa District and has identified upgrading and care and maintenance of shelters as the main priority. In this regard 38 newly appointed Care and Maintenance Officers have received orientation training by NRC, financed by IOM.
The Tsunami Education Rehabilitation Monitor (TERM) circulated a list of tsunami-affected schools in the Galle district that need minor repairs, which have not been assisted so far. Most of the eight schools, three in Ambalangoda and five in Galle were used as Transit/Welfare Centres for IDPs during the emergency phase, and hence need repairs for it to be suitable for classroom/ teaching activities.
ILO’s International Programme for the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC), funded by the United States Department of Labour (USDOL) has commenced constructing a community center for children in Kinniya and more than 500 children in Kinniya continue to receive remedial education under this project. ILOIPEC in collaboration with National Workers Congress funded by USDOL continues to provide remedial education to 60 children in the Galle District.
FAO and the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (MFAR) distributed 3,571 nets and 15 outboard engines to 290 beneficiaries in Kalmunai recently. The distribution was funded by the governments of Japan, Belgium and the Humanitarian Aid Department of the European Commission.
On the 8th and the 10th of January Divisional Livelihood Planning workshops were conducted by the RADA Livelihood Unit, in partnership with the ILO Income Recovery Technical Assistance Programme (IRTAP) and the UNDP Capacity Development for Economic Recovery Project (CADREP) Project, for District Secretaries and Divisional Secretaries. During these workshops participants expressed the need for joint planning and consensus, community involvement and clear implementation guidelines. As a conclusion of the workshops all Districts and Divisions agreed on a 3 month action plan to develop Divisional Livelihood Plans for the 35 tsunami-affected DS Divisions in the six Districts of Jaffna, Killinochi, Trincomalee, Batticaloa, Hambantota and Galle.
Agricultural training programs are on going in Galle district. So far 13 training courses have been completed, 11 in paddy cultivation and two courses in home gardening
The Spanish Red Cross in collaboration with the Department of Export Agriculture plans to restore the livelihood of tsunami-affected cinnamon cultivators in Galle. So far 387 cinnamon cultivators have been identified as beneficiaries and land is being cleared for cultivation for 347 beneficiaries in Galle.
IFRC under its Vocational training held a training program for carpentry on 5 January in Talbot Town, Galle. Furthermore IFRC in collaboration with the Vocational Training Authority (VTA) distributed tool kits, each kit worth of over Rs 15,000 to 72 tsunami-affected beneficiaries on 9 January at the end of a comprehensive training by VTA in tiling, wall painting and aluminum fabrication.
The Australian Red Cross plans to help communities in Killinochchi develop their own brick making businesses and have requested assistance to identify agencies capable of giving business training.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Replacement of boats, engines destroyed by tsunami is chaotic - FAO

Sunday Observer: 08/01/2006" by Elmo Leonard

Sri Lanka took 12 months to replace the first of its 187 multiday fishing crafts destroyed by the Asian tsunami. But, smaller boats are oversupplied due to too many players being involved. Of 4480 FRP boats destroyed, 4321 such vessels were replaced end-December and 2264 more FRPs are pledged for replacement by NGOs.

There is also a gross oversupply of traditional craft (TC) 11,158 TC destroyed; 8636 replaced and 3037 more pledged by NGOs.

Far more smaller fishing craft have been replaced, than existed before the tsunami, FAO Consultant, Leslie Joseph said.

In the Galle, Matara and Hambantota districts of the island's south, of the 868 boats delivered, only 272 (31 percent have gone to genuine beneficiaries. Of 1860 TC delivered, only 757 (40 percent) have gone to genuine beneficiaries.

Sri Lanka's replacements of boats and engines damaged and destroyed by the tsunami is chaotic, Joseph, who carried out the FAO report, just released said.

The replaced multiday craft is a 38 foot vessel built at one of the island's six boatyards which export boats.

The vessel cost $70,000, using a Dutch grant of $25,000, now, available for every multiday boat destroyed.

The balance from a pay-as-you-earn-scheme, supported by local banks.

Amsterdam's pledge apart, this whole operation of replacement is muddled, Joseph said. Bearing a fleet of 1500 multiday craft, the island's exports have not dropped significantly, the Fisheries Ministry, Director General (Development) A. Hettiarachchi said.

According to the FAO survey: 175 replacements of multiday boats are pledged by NGOs. One day boats: 29 replaced of 276 destroyed, 364 pledged. Beach seine craft 204 replaced of 818 destroyed and 354 more pledged by NGOs.

Since October last year, Cey-Nor Foundation Ltd, the state run, fishing craft and net manufacturer (funded by FAO for repairs following the tsunami), stopped repairs of boats. But, A J Fishing the main player in coastal campaign repair work, is active. According to FAO, multiday boats damaged: 676, repaired by Cey-Nor 657, by NGOs 123, total repaired - 780. One day boats damaged 83, repaired by Cey-Nor - 681 by NGOs - 223 - total 904. FRP boats damaged 3211, repaired by Cey-Nor 1404; by NGOs 2854 total 4258. TC 2435 damaged, Cey-Nor repaired 1674, and NGO's 1805, total 3479. Beach seine craft 161 damaged, repaired by Cey-Nor 40 by NGOs 94 total 134. The FAO survey on update of engine repairs is similar.

The Fisheries Ministry's count on fishing craft is a mere indication, Joseph said.

Apart from pre-tsunami, even today, less than 50 percent of the island's fishing craft is registered; the majority of TC go unregistered.

There is no reliable information on the number of fishing craft used in Tamil Tiger held areas, Joseph said.

Immediately after the tsunami, a few unrelated government departments made separate assessments of fishing craft destroyed and damaged.

As departments, non involved in fisheries were made use of, claims for fishing vessels were made by non-fishermen and those who had not owned boats.

Now, the total number of smaller fishing craft in operation far exceeds the number of similar types of craft which were in use before the tsunami and has lead to a further erosion of the island's coastal fisheries resources.

Immediately following the tsunami over 100 NGOs began supporting the fishermen, often competing with each other, and disregarding the local authorities, who issued entitlement cards. Some fishermen are on the list of more than one NGO.

Some NGOs say that as the issue of cards were delayed, they devised their own ways of identifying beneficiaries.

Mushrooming boatyards are found under coconut trees.

There are many reports by FAO, of the hulls of boats breaking up in the high sea. There is pressure for more entitlement cards to be issued, while the NGOs are adamant they will not pull back.

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Monday, January 16, 2006

IESL celebrates 100 yrs, concentrates on sustainable technological development

Sunday Observer: 08/01/2006" by M. P. Muttiah

United Kingdom's Cardiff Centre for Astro Biology Director Prof. Chandra Wickremasinghe in his Guest of Honour address at the centenary celebrations of the Institute of Engineers, Sri Lanka (IESL) at the BMICH on January 6, said that at the present moment a holistic top-down world view was badly needed, respecting that the planet is a delicately balanced system with its components intimately and inextricably inter-linked.

It would do no good to develop technologically if the technologies so developed would destroy the quality of life for future generations.

He said the responsibility of engineers was to advance technologically fulfilling the aspirations of the present generation to the fullest, but without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Prof. Wickremasinghe said that astronomers were of the opinion that a planet like Earth orbiting other stars and other suns must be exceedingly common. But to think of polluting the planet only to populate another is not a practical option for a few centuries into the future.

The sustainable development is a noble concept, but all nation states and politicians pay only lip service. But a conflict inevitably arises between the unbridled greed of a few rich countries and the collective will of the rest in preserving and protecting the environment, he said.

He said that when he was an undergraduate in Sri Lanka, engineering was taught in three departments and the subjects were confined to construction of buildings, roads and bridges, hydraulic technology, machines and electrical systems.

"Nowadays, the list of disciplines that come under engineering has grown tremendously, encompassing almost every area of human endeavour including chemical engineering, bio technology, space technology etc.

Sri Lankan engineers have successfully adapted and transplanted the most modern technological developments in the Western world to serve the specific needs of this nation.

The engineering profession has to embrace inter-disciplinary skills to meet the global challenges of the this century such as responding to climatic change, providing food, water and sanitation throughout the developing world," he said.

Prof. Wickremasinghe expressed the hope that Sri Lankan engineers would build upon the achievements of the past and devise new strategies of sustainable technological development in the decades to come.

Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake, Former Chairman of the Indian Space Commission Prof. V. R. Rao and several others addressed the gathering.

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Sunday, January 15, 2006

Chandra blames lack of leadership for nation's plight

Daily Mirror: 12/01/2006"

Chandra Jayaratne, a former chairman of The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce and a past 'Sri Lankan Of The Year', says that "the lack of enlightened leadership" that is willing to make decisions through people's eyes has washed out Sri Lanka's hopes of building a model nation in the post-tsunami milieu.

On the business TV programme, BENCHMARK, last Sunday, he pointed out that some decisions had even been made "on egoistic accounts", though policymakers knew they were wrong.

Jayaratne expressed hope that the new Development Authority set up by President Mahinda Rajapakse would make a fresh start and learn from mistakes made over the past year. Sri Lanka must benchmark itself against the tsunami-hit province of Acheh, in Indonesia, he said - and he expressed hope that efforts to improve the livelihoods of the impoverished would be done in a more structured and planned manner.

Whilst Jayaratne conceded that all the main players in the reconstruction effort - the government, the LTTE, NGOs and even the business community - had started out with good intentions, they should now accept failure. He felt that there is a need for all stakeholders to sit down for talks and expressed hope that this process may be facilitated in the near future.

"The Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) buzz has expanded today. The people who are willing and committed to CSR are not restricted to top executives of companies. but a large number of people and institutions have joined the fray. Committed people with the right mindsets are of best value, and the government - together with civil society and even affected people - must mobilise these (forces). and that would bring results," Jayaratne surmised on the programme presented by leading business magazine LMD.

Asked if he thought that some corporates had capitalised on the tsunami disaster to make CSR figure prominently in their annual reports, Jayaratne replied that if five per cent did capitalise from the tragedy, the rest had done what was right. He was full of praise for the private sector's approach and commitment to tsuanmi aid and rehabilitation - but the reality is this cannot continue forever, he observed. Business must now look for ways and means to lend additional support through technology, best practices and human feeling, as opposed to funding, Jayaratne opined.

Corporates need to extend a hand to emancipate people suffering as a result of the tsunami disaster and even others, he asserted - and poverty alleviation should be the focus of CSR in time to come, Jayaratne added.

Reflecting on the country situation, he remarked that there was "a very big likelihood of a return to hostilities". He felt that the private sector, together with civil society, needs to demonstrate that solutions to problems must be found in a non-violent manner.

Jayaratne once proposed that all parties concerned with the peace process sign an MoU.but today, there are less chances for that to work, he said, due to the polarization that has taken place as a result of elections. At this time, the best bet would be to demonstrate what people really want out of the ethnic conflict and their expectations for the future of the country to be clearly defined, Jayaratne told BENCHMARK's Savithri Rodrigo.

So why has the corporate community remained silent all this while? "Business is yet to see the real impact a return to hostilities would have on their future. There is also the economic impact of high oil prices. A return to war would impact inflation; the exchange rate, and our sovereign rating would also be at risk. The private sector has not done much thinking about the next 18 months, and I would ask them to do some risk analyses and look at future markets," Jayaratne responded.

BENCHMARK is produced by the wrap factory and airs on TNL on Sundays at noon, with a repeat at 9.15 p.m. It is also telecast on cable TV - LBN's Bloomberg segment - on Mondays at 10 p.m.

"I give the private sector full marks for its approach and commitment to the tsunami disaster, but that cannot continue forever - now we have a much bigger audience of people whose effort and capabilities could be used for CSR."

"It would be best to demonstrate what people really want out of the ethnic issue and for the future generations of the country. The pressure must come from the bottom."

"Telling government what they should do at this stage would be a wrong step. If it [business] does so, the private sector would be further alienated from government and decision-makers. Let us hope that people power would drive our leaders to support this country going in the right direction."

Chandra Jayaratne, Former Chairman - Ceylon Chamber of Commerce on BENCHMARK, 8 JANUARY.

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