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Serving Sri Lanka

This web log is a news and views blog. The primary aim is to provide an avenue for the expression and collection of ideas on sustainable, fair, and just, grassroot level development. Some of the topics that the blog will specifically address are: poverty reduction, rural development, educational issues, social empowerment, post-Tsunami relief and reconstruction, livelihood development, environmental conservation and bio-diversity. 

Saturday, July 02, 2005

NHDA compiles technical guidelines for houses in coastal belt of Sri Lanka

ColomboPage: 30/06/2005"

National Housing Development Authority (NHDA) Chairman Parakrama Karunaratne said the NHDA has compiled a set of comprehensive technical guidelines for housing development in the Sri Lanka coastal belt with secure methodologies resistant to natural disasters.

Addressing a workshop in Colombo recently with the participation of professionals and intellectuals of governmental and non governmental organisations, Mr. Karunarathne said the aim of the workshop was to initiate action to develop the guidelines based on housing development in the coastal belt of Sri Lanka, into a national guideline so as to successfully counter the impact on houses by national disasters.

Housing and Construction Industry, Eastern Province Education and Irrigation Development Ministry's Additional Secretary S.R.Kanganayagam observed that Sri Lanka has experienced various national disasters of different magnitudes in the past. "It is time that we study and evolve national guidelines based on past experiences. It is important that all resource persons should pool their knowledge and expertise to make this a success," he said.

Urban Development Authority (UDA) Chairman Gemunu Silva said that instead of several institutions preparing different guidelines based on their own concepts and policies it was important to arrive at a national guideline through dialogue among all related agencies. He commended the guidelines prepared by the NHDA and said that those would be very helpful to all involved in reconstruction process.

General Manager of NHDA Piyal Ganepola said the workshop would help to improve the existing guidelines acceptable at national level and the international donors and organisations would be encouraged to be active partners in our development process within an accepted policy framework.

Consultant at the German Technical Co-operation (GTZ) Hilki Ebert, expressing her views said that the individuals and organisations who volunteer to help the victims of natural disasters should be properly guided in their missions to enable them to perform their activities in accordance with local conditions and administrative structures.

The representatives of Ministry of Housing and Construction Industry, Eastern Province Education and Irrigation Development, Ministry of Urban Development and Water Supply, National Housing Development Authority, Ceylon Electricity Board, Sri Lanka Land Reclamation and Development Corporation, Buildings Department, Centre for Housing Planning and Building, University of Moratuwa and several other local and foreign non-governmental organisations participated in the workshop. The German Technical Co-operation sponsored the programme to develop the guidelines into a disaster reconstruction programme at national level.

Download guideline from NHDA for Housing Development in Affected Costal Belt of Sri Lanka

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Eastern Burghers carrying heavy burden

Daily News: 01/07/2005" by Chandani Jayatilleke

AKKARAIPATTU, It's been six months since tsunami struck Sri Lanka on December 26, 2004. Over 31,000 have died and over a lakh had been driven into camps, tents and temporary wooden houses around the island.

Survivors are still trying hard to get accustomed to their new lodgings. The living conditions in many of these temporary huts are basic. People have started realising that their loss is permanent. And at the same time, people of different communities have begun to feel the need for being with their own cultures and surroundings. They yearn to go back to their 'homes'.

Despite the tragedy, they somehow get about with their daily life uninterrupted; they send their children to the nearest school; some have even started income earning activities. Some work as unskilled labourers, while some others still await employment. For them, life is an uphill task.

However, they no longer complain about minor issues. Housing is their main worry. Many survivors say that they have received little or no help from the authorities to rebuild their houses and businesses.

Housing is the paramount need of the displaced at present. Be it South, North or the East, all survivors have one dream - a house of their own.

Government authorities and aid agencies have made promises and asked the survivors to be patient till they finalised matters, so that the affected communities could be given better facilities and housing which would help them thrive in the years to come.

In certain areas, land has become a major issue for the delay in reconstruction work. Lack of sufficient lands is a major issue in the east too. Many people in the east hesitate to move into other areas, beyond the buffer zone, saying that their livelihood would be affected if they moved out to a different area. Many of the affected people were employed as fishermen, coconut pluckers, carpenters and masons.

There is this tiny Burgher community in Akkaraipattu. They are reluctant to settle down in a village which is far. "Our soul is here. Our livelihoods are here. And we can't go to a different area at all," says Joseph Nixon, whose house got washed away. "We have just started to look for income earning activities. Some of our people have started working as labourers," he adds.

Nixon says that they can build their own home if the Government allocates a plot of land in the surrounding area and provide them a small loan.

"We can find jobs and sustain by ourselves, if we have our own place to live," he says.

At present, Nixon and 16 other families of his community live in one-roomed, wooden huts built with the assistance of an NGO and a philanthropist named, Kumari Thilip in Akkaraipattu.

These tiny houses have electricity. They get water through two large barrels. Margaret Barthlet, another survivor, said that they have just started sending their children to school. "Our children and women are safe in this camp site. However, we have limited space and there's nothing called 'ours' here. We need to get on with our lives as we did before," she says.

However, there is no way for us to rebuild our houses at the same location as it is within the 100-metre zone," she laments.

Many of these families suggested that there is a four-acre land in the close vicinity, but beyond the buffer zone. "If there is any organisation or a person, who could purchase the land, block it out, we can build our own houses," Nixon says.

The international community has pledged three billion dollars for tsunami relief and reconstruction.

According to experts, the reconstruction and rehabilitation work will cost more money and more time over the next few years. The dedication by the aid workers, agencies and the Government for a longer period is necessary to restore the lost homes and businesses.

The massive earthquake that triggered in the tip of Indonesia, swept across the Indian Ocean, sweeping away lives and communities in 12 countries - from Indonesia to Somalia on the east coast of Africa.

Governments say more than 170,000 people died or disappeared, although many aid agencies and survivors say the toll may be close to 300,000. The victims came from all over the world - at least 2,000 tourists from Europe and North America were lost from the region's beaches - making this a global disaster.

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Friday, July 01, 2005

Scientific Facts on Ecosystem Change

Development Gateway: Questions, Details and Source on Ecosystem Change are addressed in this publication by Green Facts. The material content of most of the texts on Source on Ecosystem Change are directly sourced from the Millenium Ecosystem Assessment, the leading scientific report produced in 2005 by a large international panel of scientists of the MA (Millenium Ecosystem Assessment). The Questions and Details on Ecosystem Change were written by the Green Facts editorial team.

Contributor: Denise Senmartin ( Editor )
Published Date: March 30, 2005
Topics: Environment and Development

Access this resource

Download the full report

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Six Months On .... Learning from the Tsunami

Google Groups : Humanitarian Information Centre Sri Lanka (HIC): "A special issue of Forced Migration Review (FMR) is being printed in and distributed from Sri Lanka. Published in English, Tamil, Sinhala and Bahasa Indonesia, the issue brings together local and international analyses of the effectiveness of the post-tsunami humanitarian response by key leaders of relief and recovery operations.

The full text of all 26 articles in the English language version will be available on our website http://www.fmreview.org/ on 6 July and in early August in the other language editions.

Table of contents is at: http://www.fmreview.org/contents.htm and a preliminary version with seven key articles (including on Sri Lanka) is at: http://www.fmreview.org/tsunamiarticles.pdf
To receive a hard copy, without charge, please email: fmr@qeh.ox.ac.uk and indicate which language edition you wish to receive"

Here is a list of articles that directly relate to Sri Lanka

Ethnic conflict, the state and tsunami disaster in Sri Lanka by Jayadeva Uyangoda, Sri Lankan Social Scientists’ Association

Reflections on post-tsunami psychosocial work by Ananda Galappatti, The Mangrove

Livelihoods in post-tsunami Sri Lanka by Simon Harris, Christian Aid

Six months on: facing fears by Lyndon Jeffels, UNHCR Sri Lanka

Logistical challenges by Steve Matthews, World Vision International

Small fish trampled in post-tsunami stampede by Irene Fraser

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Strong on Governance, Weak on Infrastructure and Finance

SriLanka - Strong on Governance, Weak on Infrastructure and Finance - ADB and WB Assess Sri Lanka's Investment Climate: COLOMBO, June 27, 2005, Despite gains in reducing corruption and red tape, Sri Lanka's investment climate remains unattractive due to continued political instability, weak infrastructure, and poor access to finance, says a recently completed study by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the World Bank.

“Achieving a permanent peace is undoubtedly one of the important steps Sri Lanka can take toward improving its investment climate,” said Peter Harrold, World Bank Country Director for Sri Lanka. "If sustainable poverty reduction in Sri Lanka is to be achieved, the country needs to raise the overall level of investment. This joint report between ADB and the World Bank presents the first comprehensive scientific analysis of the factors that are inhibiting investment: domestic and foreign, urban and rural. As such, its findings offer very important guidance for priorities," he said.

The report will be launched June 28, 2005, with the Hon. Sarath Amunugama, Minister of Finance and Planning, delivering the keynote address. Based on an island-wide survey of more than 2,000 enterprises, the report highlights the difficulties that small-scale rural entrepreneurs face in starting and growing a business. The survey found that small businesses in Sri Lanka’s rural areas are hampered by poor transport, limited access to the formal financial sector, and frequent power outages. Although the island boasts a dense road network, as much as 90 percent of it is in poor condition because of lack of maintenance. The report points out that this dramatically increases travel times and contributes to almost half of all agricultural produce spoiling before reaching a market.

Firms in the North and East of the country affected by the conflict have developed coping strategies, such as reducing their inventory, producing from a residential location, and increasing outlays on security.

Urban businesses, located mostly in the Western province, enjoy better access to roads and other forms of transport, but are affected by the high cost and unreliable supply of electricity. This situation leads nearly 75 percent of urban manufacturing firms in Sri Lanka to purchase a generator, a significantly higher proportion than competitor countries like China (where only 27 percent do). As it can cost 3 to 4 times as much to generate electricity with a generator, urban firms are only half as productive as they could be with more reliable power.

“This is a further example that Sri Lanka needs to address squarely the issue of power supply, cost, and efficiency, through increased generation according to the least cost expansion plan; reduction of the short-term debt burden of the power utility; and restructuring of CEB.” said Alessandro Pio, ADB Country Director for Sri Lanka. “It is like a stool with three legs: it will not be stable and reliable unless all three are in place,” he added.

While Sri Lanka has to do better in terms of electricity and transport to catch up with better performing countries in the rest of Asia, there are areas where the country excels. One such area is telecommunications where early reform of the sector has seen a rapid expansion in the number of landlines and mobile phones along with plummeting prices and increased choice. Similar gains have been made in the garments, plantations, and airline sectors.

Another important constraint exposed in the report is the country’s labor regulations which can be characterized as inflexible and arbitrary. Offering no certainty to the investor, they discourage firms, especially local firms, from job creation. The laws have also resulted in distorted business practices such as massive outsourcing and an increase in the use of temporary and contract labor, reducing training opportunities, productivity, and the potential to capture economies of scale.

The report suggests that steps taken towards establishing a peaceful solution to the conflict and improving political stability will spur investment in Sri Lanka. The report also urges the government upgrade the energy and transport sectors so as to benefit both rural and urban firms. Measures to stabilize the economy by reducing the deficit, expanding access to finance and reducing its cost, taking measures that will lead to improved efficiency and effectiveness of the state-owned banks are also recommended. Small enterprises in rural areas are among the most challenged firms in the country. Government can support them by strengthening marketing channels through regional chambers of commerce, improving business development services, and focusing on establishing promising business clusters.

For more information on the World Bank in Sri Lanka, please visit:

News Release No:2005/536/SAR
Contacts: In Colombo:
WB: Chulie de Silva (94-11) 5561323
ADB: Hasitha Wickremasinghe (94-1) 238-7055, Ext.12
In Washington, DC:
WB: Benjamin Crow (202) 473-5105

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Thursday, June 30, 2005

Life After the Tsunami - Where Does Sri Lanka Go Next?

Dheshapalana.blogspot.com: "Thursday, February 24, 2005
Accountability now seems the need of the hour. It is something we Sri Lankans have called for from our public officials for days now unknown; but for sure, the future of Sri Lanka post-tsunami, has taken a dramatic twist. Let us remember however, that all is not lost. While accepting that the human death toll was unprecedented in terms of psychological damage to those who survived, there still appears more than a glimmer of hope for Sri Lanka at the end of the tunnel - that however is in economic terms; many thanks to the international community who's fiscal aid flowed into the nation's coffers in an hour of national need.

As a battered nation picks up the pieces and meanders down narrow streams of hope, the question that has since emerged is: where do we go next?

It appears essential that Sri Lanka's public officials now start working in the interest of the longer term. A contentious issue of the recent past has been the coastal "buffer zone," where the government has proposed building a barrier of mangroves - in light of the findings post tsunami on how the latter acted as a speed-breaker to the force of the waves on December 26. Initial proposals from the State were that the buffer zone stretched three-hundred metres inland; this was negotiated down to one-hundred metres by the local business community, in anticipation of what it viewed as a crippling blow that such a proposal would deal to the tourism industry, in terms of beach resorts. As we inch closer to two months since the tsunami, the issue remains unresolved. The result - reconstruction along the battered coastline stalled in its tracks.

The Government called for impartiality in dealing with the national crisis. It called for unification deviod of political and other differences. Yet, as it advertised its campaign "Helping Hambantota" in its post-tsunami reconstruction drive, the colours of the newspaper advertisements were unmistakable - striking shades of deep blue and red. Impartiality? Your guess is as good as mine.

The inability of the coalition heavyweight to reign in its partner in light of the latter's heavy politicising of aid distribution in the south was also no feature in the cap for the Government; the unsparing display of party flags and banners on relief convoys and refugee camps was evident for all to see.

The Opposition for their part, have been no saints. A campaign to free a jailed party strongman got back on track, with a prominent member of its ranks - also a leading constitutional law expert in the country - taking centre-stage at the BMICH in Colombo last month, to deliver a lecture on the legality of the imprisonment of the said strongman.

I wonder all over again, if it is at the least surprising to note that no reference was made whatsoever to the actual words uttered by the strongman concerned. Contempt of the Supreme Court were the charges levelled.

It must also be said that the traditional lighting of the oil lamp at this 'legal seminar' was done by none less than four prominent party parliamentarians. Impartiality? Let us think again.

It remains clear that the time for change is long overdue; and I'm not refering to a change in government. Sri Lanka's self-interested political culture has got to change. It is also pertinent to call into question, the nation's outdated electoral system. Proportional Representation may well ensure equitable distribution of seats in Parliament. However, with the heavy fragmentation of votes in the recent past, brought on by the recent influx of political parties into mainstream politics since the Constitution of 1978, it is high time that the nation looks towards systemic change.

Let us however return to the need of the hour. The peace process, stalled though it was, silenced the guns. The cruelty of nature however showed no mercy, as Sri Lanka struggled to return to her feet.

The Government for its own part, seized the opportunity to rectify long-standing shortcomings in grossly underdeveloped (and resultantly poverty-stricken) regions on the island, allocating considerable funding for redevelopment, on a scale hitherto unknown. Here of course, the necessary credit is due. However, while the State gathers its resources and produces a blue-print for new and improved townships, public focus has since shifted towards accountability.

Whether or not the funding would reach those most in need (at least for the moment), remains largely unknown. Hence it is apparent that transparency is the need of the hour.

The carpet was pulled under the nation's feet. Will the urgently necessary levels of transparency and accountability prevail for Sri Lanka to meet the magnanimous challenge that fate has set forth? Only time will tell.

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Dockyard delivers two state-of-the-art aluminium crew boats to the Middle East market

Sri Lanka BUSINESS:Monday, 27 June 2005 - 2:36 AM SL Time

On June 10, 2005, for the first time in the maritime history of Sri Lanka, Colombo Dockyard Limited (CDL) delivered two Crew Boats (Lamnalco Oryx and MV Lamnalco Oribi)) built for the Middle Eastern Market.

The Client (LAMNALCO LTD) an international company based in the United Arab Emirates, intends to use these Boats in the Offshore Oil Fields of West Africa, to transport Crew and Goods from Shore to Offshore Installations.

The Crew Boat 30 metre in length is of all aluminium construction and is fitted out with two CUMMINS Main Engines driving two Conventional Fixed Pitch Propellers, achieving speeds in excess of 20 knots.

Thirty-two 'Airline style' seating arrangements for the comfort of the travelling Crew and ergonomically designed living quarters for 7 Boat Crew with Mess, Galley and Toilets have been provided.

With a fuel capacity of 20 Tonnes and a fresh water capacity of 10 Tonnes, the Crew Boat has an endurance of in excess of 700 nm and her crew is capable of operating at sea for extended periods.

The Boat is highly manoeuvrable while working close to offshore installations and within harbour premises.

In order to provide for Owners operating practices and requirements, the wheelhouse is installed with an additional Aft Control Station to ease manoeuvring operations.

The Crew Boat including all its material, machinery, equipment, piping, workmanship etc. are built in accordance with the requirements of the Classification Society (American Bureau of Shipping) and also meeting Cypriot flag state requirements.

Colombo Dockyard Limited operating in collaboration with Onomichi Dockyard Co. Ltd. Japan, Celebrated the 30th anniversary in operations in August 2004, has strengthened its position as a versatile specialized work boat builder in the international market.

The crew boat project generated approx. US $ 3 million, boosting the local ship building industry.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Tsunami survivors in eastern Sri Lanka look to the future

Associated Press: 26/06/2005"

Tsunami survivors in a sprawling relocation village in eastern Sri Lanka held no memorials Sunday to mark the six-month anniversary of the disaster that destroyed many of their homes and families, saying they want to leave the bitter memories behind and look to the future.

Some were busy laying foundations for new homes being built by a private relief group, while others mixed concrete or worked in vegetable gardens or small shops.

"I heard on the radio that today is the six-month anniversary," said 60-year-old Vairamuttu Kandasamy, who lost his wife to the raging waves on his 35th wedding anniversary.

He also lost a daughter and three grandchildren and now lives alone in a hut, one of dozens of temporary tin-roofed and thatched sheds that dot a vast stretch of sandy land in the Pasikkudah Model Village. The Dec. 26 Indian Ocean tsunami killed 31,000 Sri Lankans and displaced about 1 million more.

Kandasamy's entire fishing village was relocated to Pattiadichchenai, several hundred meters from the sea, because of a government ban on reconstruction within 200 meters (yards) of the sea.

The villagers did not organize any memorials to mark the six-month anniversary.

"The dead are gone now and the lost belongings are lost. Now we have to look after the survivors," said Kandasamy, who heads a group of 40 families in the village.

In a special place in his hut, Kandasamy keeps a black-and-white picture of his wife which he says was taken 30 years ago. He survived the waves by climbing a coconut tree with one of his granddaughters.

Kandasamy spends his time building a new home with concrete blocks and is proud of having laid a strong foundation all by himself, digging deep into the sandy ground.

Kanagasooriyam Velmurugu, 28, who lost his parents, his wife of six months, and 25 other extended family members, was devastated after the disaster but has begun to accept the reality and now is looking to the future. Coming from a family of bicycle repairers, he has started working in another man's shop and hopes he will be able to set up his own shop in the future.

Palaniandi Arumugam is also working again, growing chilies and onions on a plot close to the village, but complains of having to live in a tin-roofed house under the scorching sun.

"It is with God's grace that our children have survived any disease in this sun," said Arumugam, a father of four. He is waiting impatiently for December, when the relief group has promised to complete the new houses.

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THE TSUNAMI'S AFTERMATH : A second wave of grief

Houston Chronicle: 25/06/2005" Towns and villages are being rebuilt in Sri Lanka, but jealousy and anger over aid divide many residents By TIM SULLIVAN , Associated Press

PERALIYA, SRI LANKA - It was different, people here tell you, in those first few days after the ocean came roaring over the horizon and slammed into Peraliya, driving trees and boulders through the village and leaving behind more grief than anyone thought possible.

Tsunami survivors shared water, food and what medicine they could scrounge. Some passed shovels back and forth, searching for survivors. Others stared at one battered, bloated corpse after another, trying to figure out which body belonged to which family.

It's how things are supposed to work in places like Peraliya, a community of fishermen and small traders where families, friendships and neighborhoods are woven into an intricate web.

"The whole village was like one family" in those early days, said Sriyawathi Malani Gunathilaka, who lost her only son. "We shared the sadness."

'All about the jealousy'

But six months later, the community that has inhabited this sandy land for generations is coming apart, its social networks snapped by jealousy over which family gets how much aid and how soon. The resentment is magnified by officials who have left villagers desperate for information about what will happen to them.

The Dec. 26 tsunami killed about 450 people from Peraliya and an adjoining village, and more than 31,000 across Sri Lanka. About 900,000 people were left homeless.

It's the aftermath, though, that may destroy Peraliya.

"Everything has changed completely," said Sriyawathi, sitting on a water-stained easy chair, one of the few pieces of furniture left after the waves knocked down most of her house. "It's all about the jealousy."

Within days of the tsunami, help began pouring in. Vacationing surfers put up tents and local politicians brought truckloads of food. Within a couple weeks, the professional aid community had dispatched teams across Sri Lanka.

Peraliya still resembles a battle scene, with half-built structures, piles of wreckage and spaghetti-like coils of wiring strung haphazardly.

On some days, only a few dozen people loll around a village where more than 1,500 once lived. Hundreds of villagers have moved in with relatives, found cheap shacks to rent elsewhere, or become squatters inland.

Money troubles

But even the poorest villagers now have somewhere dry to sleep, though sometimes it's just a wooden shack. Everyone gets a few dollars worth of rice and other essentials each week. Homes — real homes of concrete and brick — are finally going up.

Promises of more to come dance around the village. Politicians talk of land, and visiting foreigners talk of engines for fishing boats. Always, there's talk of cash.

And that's the problem.

The trouble can be heard in the grumbling among the fishermen, who have split into rival factions. It's in the silence between neighbors. It's in the virulent undertow of whispers and the relentless covetousness of people who have lost everything.

"Everyone is angry at someone," said Manjula Jayasiri, a fisherman squatting on the floor of his temporary home, a wooden shack built with Danish aid money. Around him, a small group of friends and relatives shouted in agreement. "Since the tsunami, the whole village is divided."

If Jayasiri is exaggerating, it's not by much.

Relationships sour

People still living in temporary shelters are angry at those with houses. Fishermen with no boats are angry at those who received them. People whose homes were within 110 yards of the ocean are angry that the government has said they must move. Many villagers are angry at the committee formed to decide how to distribute the handouts that poured in.

It takes little to drag someone into the bitterness.

Sriyawathi is a formidable matriarch who worked desperately to keep her family out of poverty, particularly after her husband was slowed by a stroke. Her drive left her with few close friends, but she was still cared about in the village. Her neighbors mourned with her over the loss of her 19-year-old son and worried when she cried long into each night.

Now, some neighbors have cut ties with her, jealous that a Buddhist monk raised money for a well-built foundation and reinforced columns for her family's new house, while other nearby homes, though put up more quickly, were built with poorer materials.

One neighbor, who had allowed Sriyawathi to splice into her electricity connection, said the line must go. Another neighbor doesn't speak to her anymore.

The degree of jealousy perplexes Sriyawathi. She points out that her family — and not the monk's charity — will be responsible for building most of her new house.

She has emerged from the worst of the pain of her son's death and has started putting her family's life back on track. She has become increasingly knowledgeable about aid applications, and helps oversee the men building the house's foundation.

She doesn't have time, she insists, to worry about the bitterness that has engulfed the village. Still, she's saddened by it.

"I don't know what we have to be jealous of," she said, smiling gently.

Details lacking, not money

Given the bitterness, it seems strange that there's one thing Sri Lanka doesn't lack: reconstruction money.

Pledges of $3 billion in international aid and debt relief poured into the country after the tsunami, and despite the half-built, half-destroyed feel of most villages, aid officials insist things will improve dramatically over the next year. There is enough money pledged to rebuild roads, schools, houses and more, experts say.

"I'm absolutely not going to paint a picture that everything is fine, but there is a huge amount of activity that has already started, and an even larger amount of activity that is set to go," said Peter Harrold, the World Bank chief for Sri Lanka.

What there isn't, though, is information. If the money is out there, no one has told the people of Peraliya — and most other villages — how it will reach them. Top regional officials have yet to visit, except for a few quick memorial ceremonies.

The people who live within the 110-yard coastal buffer zone, for instance, have heard they'll be given land in a forest about six miles away. But no one has seen the land or knows anything about the houses that will be built there.

The government, for its part, insists things are going well. A recent headline in the government-run Daily News said Sri Lanka's program to distribute foreign relief money had won "global praise."Finance Minister Arath Amunugama said of the program: "This novel system has eliminated unwanted red tape and is a very efficient system."

Few villagers would agree.

"We don't have anything," said Jayasiri, the fisherman. His house was in the buffer zone, and as new homes have been erected nearby, he's become terrified he will be left with nothing. "We don't even know where we're going, and someone a few meters away already has a house?"

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Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Business community campaign to solve power crisis

Sunday Observer: 26/06/2005"

The country is in a serious power crisis owing to the failure to implement the mega power projects planned several years ago. The business community is now engaged in a campaign to make the public aware and pressure the authorities to solve the crisis immediately.

The Government and donor community propose to restructure the CEB and create independent government owned units for power generation, transmission and distribution.

In the debate on the re-structuring of the CEB, the trade unions say that the government and politicians are responsible for the crisis and last week we published the allegations of the CEB engineers union. The Unions are also against re-structuring and say it is a move to privatise the CEB.

However, CEB officials also cannot wash their hands from the responsibility of the present crisis. Top officials and powerful engineers are also involved in these controversial deals. A section of the CEB engineers who did not wish to be quoted accused the "engineers' mafia" for blocking the CEB reforms.

These engineers are responsible for the inefficiency and bureaucracy of the CEB. They are enjoying high salaries and other perks and they fear losing them after the reforms and therefore are reluctant to go ahead with any form of restructuring in the CEB.

All top positions of the CEB are held by engineers. Even the post of Assistant General Manager (Personnel Administration) is filled by an engineer.

The engineers don't allow the appointment of an AGM (Finance) because it should be filled by an accountant and as a result the most responsible financial management position is held by a Finance Manager instead of an AGM, they said.

There is evidence that shows the inefficiency of the CEB. The CEB under utilises its installed capacity. Only 35% of the country's total installed capacity is used to generate power.

Only 30% of installed hydropower capacity and 40% of installed thermal power capacity is used, according to Environment Foundation Limited (EFL).

The high system loss is one point. It is estimated that nearly 20% of power generated is wasted to the system. However, the CEB engineers union says it is normal system loss and the CEB is better off than countries such as Bangladesh where the loss is nearly 50%.

EFL says that about 9% of the loss is due to non technical reasons or illicit and unauthorised tapping of power, which reflects ineffectiveness in the CEB distribution. The power piracy accounts for 663 GWh a year which is enough to power 275,000 households and is a Rs. 5.1 billion financial loss to the CEB, EFL said.

CEB engineers also stressed the need to shift to low cost coal power generation. They pointed out that coal is the main source of electricity generation in most countries. In India it is 78%, USA 50%, China 76% Poland 95% but in Sri Lanka it is zero percent.

Feasibility studies and engineering designs of the Norocholai coal power plant have been completed. It is the government that took the decision to halt the construction of the plant and the CEB cannot go ahead with it.

The present government recently moved to re-start the project but it lapsed again. The other site identified for a coal plant is Mawella in the Hambantota district. The detailed study has not been done for this site.

The CEB has made progress with the Upper Kothmale hydro project and many issues have been resolved but the date to start work has not been fixed as yet. In the latest survey of The Economist magazine discussed the intensifying power crisis and escalating energy costs.

The crude oil price is no longer an issue in electricity costs in many countries because after the first oil shock in 1970s the world shifted to alternative energy sources such as coal, nuclear and natural gas. Oil accounts only for 7% of the world's electricity generation.

The only problem today is energy for vehicles, the report said. However, even after several oil shocks Sri Lankan leaders failed to shift to alternatives with a long term plan. Today 56.5% of CEB generation capacity is high cost thermal.

CEB engineers are also pessimistic about other alternative renewable energy sources as a measure to the present crisis and emphasises the necessity of a large coal power plant.

Wind, micro hydro and dendro cannot be used to provide the base capacity. They can be used to supply peak capacity with a stable base capacity of coal, they said.

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Microfinance vital to build lives, businesses in a crisis

Sunday Observer: 26/06/2005"

Microfinancing is absolutely necessary for micro and small entrepreneurs to build their businesses in the event of any crisis situation, said Executive Director of the Foundation for Development Cooperation (FDC) Beris Gwynne.

He was addressing an international conference to discuss strategies to build awareness on the importance of micro financing and emergency relief.

Microfinance will help to mitigate or reduce the damage caused as a result of any natural or man made disaster, Gwynne said.

The conference was held last week with the participation of government, private sector and international representatives at the HNB Tower.

The theme of the conference was "The Pan Asia Forum on Capacity Building for Microfinance in Crisis Situations".

Gwynne said microfinance is an essential tool to help rebuild lives and living conditions of affected entrepreneurs.

He said that it could also help to prevent or mitigate the effect of a crisis situation by restoring their business entities to its former position.

In a situation such as the tsunami disaster microfinancing projects could help entrepreneurs to re-start their businesses with hope and dignity, he said.

The Program Manager of FDC Stuart Mathison said that microfinancing needs policy and new products to reduce the vulnerability of their clients.

Microfinance should be smart to reduce the impact on rebuilding and recovery process in a natural disaster or conflict situation.

One of the objectives of this forum was to identify capacity building needs and to design a regional capacity building program, he said.

Senior Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka W.A. Wijewardena said that a crisis may occur due to various reasons.

He said that some feel that micro entrepreneurs will not survive after a crisis which is a misconception. It is the need of the hour to find solutions in rebuilding micro entrepreneurs.

After a crisis situation these projects could enhance the lives and businesses of affected people, he said. Sri Lanka had been hit by the tsunami and most of the micro enterprises were affected along the coastal line. Therefore emergency relief and microfinance projects helped those affected tremendously, he said.

Wijewardena said that the loan recovery rate on microfinance projects were 90 per cent which is a healthy situation.

Most microfinance entrepreneurs are very particular to pay their loan instalments on time and this is the reason, he said.

Other normal recoveries have dropped from 70 per cent to 30 per cent during the last decade, the Senior Deputy Governor said.

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Protests erupt in tsunami-devastated areas of Sri Lanka

WSWS: 25 June 2005" By Ivan Weerasekera and W.A. Sunil

Six months after the December 26 tsunami hit Sri Lanka, more than a million people in coastal areas around much of the island are still living in temporary shelters, refugee camps or with relatives and face an uncertain future. Much of the promised assistance has failed to materialise and reconstruction has barely begun.

The government’s arbitrary imposition of a rebuilding ban near the coastline has compounded the difficulties confronting many families, particularly fishermen, trying to put their lives back together. While the victims are restricted from constructing homes on previous sites, they have been offered no alternatives.

A World Socialist Web Site reporting team visited the area south of Colombo last week where there have been a series of protests this month over the government’s failure to provide assistance to the victims of the tsunami. In the coastal strip immediately south of Ambalangoda, hundreds of people have blocked the main road with crude barricades and clashed with police and riot squads.

We witnessed the third protest march on the morning of June 17. More than 200 men, women and children had reached Seenigama after marching from Telwatta, another coastal village around three kilometres away. The villages of Telwatta, Paraliya, Seenigama and Varallana were badly affected by the tsunami. The protesters gathered in the grounds of an ancient shrine.

A spokesperson told us: “We came here to register our protest by ritually smashing coconuts at the portal of the shrine to curse the insensitive authorities who have left us destitute for over six months. They stopped the monthly grants after two months and are now getting ready to stop our rations. It will cut our sole remaining lifeline after the disaster struck us totally without warning.”

Hundreds of police had been mobilised from 11 stations and were lined up like soldiers preparing for a major battle. Every 500 metres or so along the main road and the railway line, which run parallel along the coast, there were squads of riot police and groups of police. At Seenigama, police officials warned the protesters against blocking any roads.

Nevertheless, a pitched battle erupted in the evening. Hundreds of angry protesters gathered at the Urawatta bridge and blocked the main Colombo-Galle road with a makeshift barricade of rocks, logs and tsunami debris. When police moved in to remove them, demonstrators attempted to beat them off by throwing stones. Those in the forefront of the protest were mainly women.

Other demonstrations have taken place in the same areas. On June 12, some 2,000 people from four coastal villages between Ambalangoda and Galle—Paraliya, Totagamuwa, Akurala and Seenigama—used a bus to block the Colombo-Galle highway for hours. Again there was a violent clash as police attacked the protesters with batons and rifle butts. Four people were arrested.

The following evening, hundreds of people again blocked the road to demand the immediate release of those arrested. The police were compelled to back down and free the prisoners. After police officials promised to look into the problems, the protests subsided. The protest we witnessed flared up because nothing had been done.

The demonstrators were demanding plots of land and houses in suitable areas for the people who lived within 100 metres of the sea—now subject to a rebuilding ban. They wanted their legal rights to the previous land to be preserved as well as the 2.5 million rupees ($US2,500) compensation promised by the government. They were also calling for basic essentials—provisions, a promised monthly allowance of 5,000 rupees and water, electricity and toilets for their temporary accommodation.

Widespread devastation

These protests provide just a glimpse of what is taking place in coastal areas in the north, east and south of the island. The villages south of Ambalangoda are part of the administrative district surrounding the southern provincial capital of Galle. Officially, 4,141 lost their lives in this area alone and another 23,053 families or 120,000 were displaced. The actual figure could be higher. The waves swept inland causing destruction up to two kilometres from the coast. At Paraliya, an entire train was washed off the tracks, killing an estimated 2,000 passengers.

The response of the government and police to the latest protests has been to crack down on demonstrations. According to the Daily Mirror on June 20, the southern deputy inspector general of police W. Prathapasinghe has banned all demonstrations and processions along the southern coastal belt from Bentota to Tangalla. When contacted by the WSWS, Prathasinghe was defensive, claiming he had only warned people “not to demonstrate and take part in processions on the highways”.

There is no doubt, however, how the police will respond to future demonstrations. Young people, who we spoke to, were reluctant to have their photographs taken for fear of police harassment. They told us that police had warned they would be arrested for taking part in protests.

The government is desperately seeking to suppress the issues raised by the tsunami. Tilak Ranaviraja, head of the Task Force for Relief (TAFOR), told the Sunday Times on June 5: “I had a meeting with foreign and local NGO (non-government organisation) officials to discuss the housing program. They expressed satisfaction on the progress of work.”

Ranaviraja had to admit, however, that “it is true there are people in camps and tents”. But he blamed the victims, saying that many people had a house but refused to leave the refugee camps because they wanted to get relief supplies. The real situation is the opposite. Thousands of people are suffering in camps without even basic facilities because they have no alternative.

Ranaviraja told the newspaper that each temporary house was at least 400 square feet (37 square metres) in size. In fact, most are little more than one-room huts roughly built with wooden planks and a thin aluminium-sheeting roof. Most are less than 200 square feet and in the Seenigama and Paraliya areas are less than 120 square feet. They lack kitchens, toilets, electricity, water or any basic furniture. They leak when it rains and are unbearably hot on sunny days.

Many tsunami victims are angry that aid money appears to going to politicians, their relatives and friends, rather than those who need it. “The government authorities say the cost of a single house is 500,000 rupees, but they are not worth more than 200,000. Politicians and businessmen are filling their pockets through construction contracts,” they told us.

Chitra, a mother of three children from Telwatta, now lives with her sister. Her husband is a bus conductor and she sells vegetables to supplement the family income. She explained that the family had been given 15 sheets of galvanised iron to build a house. “How can a decent family live in such a dwelling with children?” she asked.

Chitra angrily explained that no one from any of the main political parties—the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), United National Party (UNP) or Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP)—had visited them or asked about their problems. In the immediate aftermath of the tsunami, politicians made a great fanfare of their visits and promises. Now they do not bother.

B. Indika Ruwan from Paraliya said: “I am an electronic technician. I lost my workshop and working instruments. The government promised to provide self-employees like me with the necessary instruments and tools and also to provide assistance with bank loans, electricity bills and pawned jewelry. But all those promises were just for media propaganda.”

A. Gamini, a father of two children and retired from the navy, said: “The government promised to provide houses with facilities. Now they are going to push us into poultry cages.” Ratu Misilin Nona, an 82-year-old woman still living at a temple as a refugee, said she was concerned about news that the government was planning to stop food rations.

We spoke to a group of young people, all unemployed, who were very angry at the government. Expressing his disgust, one youth said: “As the tsunami destroyed our fishing boats and equipment, we cannot go fishing. The government promised to provide boats but only two have been given for the entire area. We are terribly disappointed.”

An official from the Paraliya Development Foundation, a volunteer organisation, explained that they had invited government politicians in early June to come and discuss the problems of the people in the areas, but were ignored. Then they invited the opposition UNP, whose representatives came, made promises and did nothing.

The callous indifference of the government and opposition parties alike to the plight of tens of thousands of people throughout the island is an indictment of the entire political establishment.

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Monday, June 27, 2005

Tsunami 6 Month Commemoration - HIC Sri Lanka

HIC Sri Lanka 26/06/05
Following is a selected list of articles, featured at the HIC Sri Lanka web site, regarding the tsunami six month commemoration.

UNICEF response: Indian ocean earthquake and tsunami UNICEF response at six month updateThis update marks six months since a massive earthquake off the coast of Sumatra triggered the worst natural catastrophe in living memory. Within this relatively short period of time, a great deal has changed: the dead have been buried, the homeless have been given shelter, and the orphaned have received care and protection. read more

Facts Regarding Post-Tsunami Recovery Six Months On (PDF 67 KB): The tsunami's devastating impact Some of the assistance provided to date by UN agencies

UNDP Sri Lanka - Update of Tsunami Recovery Programme (PDF 52 KB)

FAO - Building back better livelihoods Six month (PDF 34.7 KB)

ILO Press Release - 40% of tsunami-victims who have lost their jobsstill need means of livelihood - 6 months after (PDF 23.1 KB)

Save the Children - Six-Month Progress Report(PDF 757 KB)

Voice of America - Six Months after Tsunami, aid questions linger (PDF 27 KB)

Oxfam - Tsunami 5 months On (PDF 64 KB)

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Improved infrastructure would strengthen the economy - Prof Bhaduri

Sunday Observer: 26/06/2005" by M.P. Muttiah

India's Jawaharlal Nehru University Professor Amit Bhaduri, delivering Dr. N.M. Perera Birth Centenary Oration on `the Dilemma of Development: The State or the Market?' on June 23 at the BMICH, Colombo said that Sri Lanka could take advantage of a national monopoly in areas such as tourism, fisheries, tropical fruits and vegetable based food processing.

The main idea was to keep as much of the value added as possible in the country by reducing the import content of the final product and by getting a better deal in the international distribution network for these products, he said.

Prof. Bhaduri said if Sri Lanka had some advantage of national monopoly would help bargaining. He pointed out the need for trying some high-tech areas. This would help the country not to rely on producing only traditional products. He said that Sri Lanka had an edge over most developing countries due to a wide spread level of minimum education. The Government had to undertake the upgrading of infrastructure with little dependence on foreign finance or investment.

He emphasised the need for increased and continuous accountability of the government on how the budgetary provisions were spent, and this could be achieved by providing people free access to information.

Bhaduri said that if the Government succeeded in improving infrastructure, it would have the advantage of creating employment and expanding the size of the internal market in the short run to help achieving the synergy between the market economy and the state.

The creation of an updated infrastructure would genuinely increase the competitive strength of the economy and improve the climate for domestic and foreign investment. "This policy has a fair chance of success only with tighter control of the capital account of the payments than Sri Lanka has at the moment, without going for a liberal regime of trade in goods and services. Developing the internal market requires both expansionary as well as regulatory policies by a more transparent and accountable government", he said.

Prof. Bhaduri said that politicians and their advisors should face the problems of market mechanism honestly, instead of taking a convenient ideological short-cut, almost invariably encouraged by IMF and the World Bank, he said.

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Let's hear the hum of the handloom once again in this Eastern hamlet

Daily News: 25/06/2005" by CHANDANI Jayatilleke

IN KALMUNAI - Six months after the tsunami, the villagers of Marudamunai - a hamlet in the east coast which was badly hit by the sea surge - are trying hard to revive their handloom industry.

Carpenters are busy with their tools and the weavers are occupied with their handloom machines while men and women in the village get on with life with the little resources that the tsunami had left for them.

In Marudamunai where a large population of Muslims live, handlooms were their main livelihood before the tsunami completely destroyed the wooden looms owned by many villagers.

Prior to that, handlooms were a thriving business. Villagers weaved the famous Batticaloa sarongs, sarees, bed sheets, napkins, handkerchiefs and many other handloom products.

Marketing was never a problem for them. Their products sold fast and they also had many traders visiting the village to purchase their produce. But the tsunami reduced their industry to nothing.

Many of their looms went under water. As a result, they have not been able to get back to their work during the last six months. The disaster had already made their lives miserable. The weavers did not have the finances or determination to restart the business.

This is when the ITDG, an organisation which promotes small technologies to mitigate poverty, came to support the revival of the handloom industry in this village. This was following a request made by some weavers. Subsequently, ITDG officials visited the village, met the villagers and drew up a plan to revive the industry.

In Marudamunai, there are 200 households who owned handlooms, of which 160 owners were affected by the tsunami. Some 148 looms got washed away and 675 looms were partly damaged.

ITDG has chosen a list of beneficiaries who are members of several co-operative societies. These include Zam Zam Co-operative Society, Marudamunai People's Company, Rahumania Co-operative Society, North Marudamunai Handloom Co-operative Society, Nila Co-operative Society, and Mohamediayar Co-operative Society.

"We have decided to repair 50 per cent of the looms that were totally or partially damaged. And the repair work is now under way," A. Wijeyan of ITDG told the Daily News.

"Accordingly, we will repair 300 looms and will also provide 50 new looms by July 20," he added.

We visited some of the loom owners during our visit to Marudamunai on Monday.

I.L.M. Asanar is a chief member of a co-operative society which owned 23 looms. He lost eight of them and two of his workers died. "ITDG has promised to repair four of my looms which is a great help. I feel very satisfied with this program," he said.

Asanar used to weave 15 sarees a day and each saree gave him a profit of Rs. 60.

But, at present, he does not get any income as his looms are not usable.

"We want the ITDG to introduce to us some new technologies - to increase the productivity and improve quality," Asanar said adding that "many representatives from foreign agencies who visited our village had promised to purchase our produce and also to find us export markets in the future."

To meet this demand, we need to increase our production capacity, he added. Wijeyan of ITDG said they intend to introduce a new loom which is easy to handle, so that the productivity will be increased immediately.

This community has also received some assistance from the Small Industries Ministry and a few orders have also been received from several organisations to produce material for Sunday school uniforms.

An NGO from Norway has requested them to produce certain kinds of mats to be exported. Asanar is a masterweaver who won a Presidential award in 2004. Fifty four people from his community won this award.

A.L.A. Salam lost eight of his 10 looms to the tsunami. Under the ITDG program, he would be getting two looms.

A.C.A. Raheem had 35 looms of which 24 got damaged. He had 35 employees earlier. He got six machines repaired and has restarted the work. And he is getting four looms under this program.

"I hope to go into full production when the looms are replaced. We had a lot of business before, therefore, we want to rebuild what was lost," he said.

M.I. Warith had all 10 of his looms damaged by the surging sea water. He had 15 people working in his plant and four died when the tsunami hit their village. His plant is within the 200 meter buffer zone and now he is unable to go there and restart his business as they are not allowed to rebuild in the same area. He is married with three children. He is getting four looms under the revival program.

A.L.A. Majeeth lost weaving thread worth Rs. 10 lakhs. He had over 20 looms and used to make 100 bed sheets, 200 hankies and 25 sarees a day. Now with the remaining looms, he manages to do five sarees and 20 bed sheets a day which is not sufficient for living.

He had 25 people working for him, now he has only five. "I used to pay 250 rupees per person. Now I pay 40 rupees per person, because now I have only a few people and they do not have any other income to get on with life. They need money and I have decided to give them more," Majeeth said.

However, once the looms are repaired and the new ones are made, the weavers still need up to Rs. 30,000 per loom to revive their work.

They need to fix many other parts to make the looms work and they also have to purchase thread to start the project. The weavers are hopeful that some agency would come up to support them at this juncture.

Many of the workers do not own any looms. They only operate looms belonging to handloom owners on a daily or weekly basis.

Women weavers are dominant members of such groups working for a wage. These groups either work in the factories belonging to handloom owners or else work in their own homes using the looms of the owners.

A considerable number of women workers are engaged in work involving application of dye, weaving borders and floral designs. They have lost these occupations and their income sources after the tsunami.

Wijeyan said that ITDG is aware of this factor and decided to establish a common weaving centre with a view to grouping individuals to work for a daily or weekly wage through a co-operative society and help re-establish their livelihood.

"We need to provide them training in new technologies and create an interest in handlooms among a new generation. Our wish is to see that this group is working towards achieving their goal by being responsible for the functioning of this weaving centre," he added.

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Sunday, June 26, 2005

Six Months After

IT has been nearly six months since the tsunami struck11 nations surrounding the Indian Ocean, killing morethan 200,000 people. The tragedy touched the chord of our common humanity. Forty countries committedmilitary forces to provide food, water and shelter tothe survivors. Millions of Americans contributed morethan $1 billion to the relief effort. Millions of others across the world also sent contributions, and the United Nations and hundreds of charitable organizations rushed to the region.
This rapid response yielded substantial dividends. Widespread starvation was avoided. There were no epidemics.
Of course, the recovery effort has a long way to go. Hundreds of thousands of people remain homeless, andunable to work. Thousands of schools have to be built, and many of the region's children remain frightened and distressed. Fortunately, the United Nations, international financial institutions, governments, businesses and nongovernmental organizations have pledged billions of dollars to help the tsunami generation "build back better."
As the special envoy for tsunami relief for the United Nations, I am working to make good on that commitment. To achieve our goals, I have asked all those involved in tsunami relief to agree to the following agenda:
First, we are developing a joint action plan detailing precisely who will do what, where and when, to avoid duplication of effort, ensure efficient use of resources and leave no person or community behind. For example, we all agree on the need for an early warningsystem. The plan will identify who is responsible for financing and building the system, where it will be located, how the system will actually alert the public, and who will oversee its maintenance and reliability.
We are also devising a reporting system to ensure that donations are being used appropriately and a unified scorecard to show what we have achieved and to be done.
Second, we will work to restore the livelihoods of thesurvivors; to finance new economic activities to raise family incomes above their pre-tsunami levels; and to increase the capacity of local governments, nongovernmental organizations and businesses to undertake the gargantuan reconstruction effort.
To diversify the affected economies, we need to makesmall loans - micro-credit - available for new ventures or for the expansion of existing ones. And we must help restore tourism in the entire region, especially in the Maldives, where destruction of tourism facilities, fishing operations and other enterprises and homes ran up losses in excess of 60 percent of the country's annual gross domestic product. Most tourist operations are open for business, but most potential visitors don't seem to know that.
Jobs for local people in the reconstruction will require large vocational training programs. Thousands of masons, wood workers, supervisors and laborers are needed.
Third, we must move survivors from tents and barracks to decent transitional shelters as soon as possible. Although there are still some frustrating delays in getting government approval for contracts and for imports of machinery and materials, there are fewer bureaucratic obstacles every day. All of the affectedcountries have good plans, with able people in chargeof executing them.
Still, the housing shortage presents a seriouschallenge. Last year, before the tsunami, 5,000 new homes were built in Sri Lanka alone need almost 100,000 homes. In Aceh Province in Indonesia, 2,000 schools and 200,000 homes must be constructed. Even the United States would havea difficult time getting a million people back into their houses in a year or two.
The construction effort also carries significant environmental risks. Whole sale, unrestricted logging can cause deforestation in some regions, particularlyin Indonesia, doing great damage to rainforests andsetting the stage for more natural disasters. Timberneeds to be obtained legally, and conservation measures, like replanting mangrove trees rather than developing the land from which they were uprooted, should be part of the reconstruction.
The housing problem is further complicated because many ownership records were swept away by the waves. And in many small villages, such documents never existed. In some of the affected countries, up to 90 percent of displaced people have lost their identity documents. The World Bank is financing a "titling"project in Aceh to help Indonesians develop aneffective property-rights system - it is an initiative that should be replicated across the region. (SriLanka must also resolve conflicts arising out of thegovernment's policy largely prohibiting reconstruction within a "buffer zone" near the water. Many survivors who want to return to their old land oppose the restrictions and their concerns should be taken into account as they are in Indonesia.)
Finally, we must do all we can to assure that thevoices of the most vulnerable are heard. Will women survivors be involved in the design and execution ofthe recovery process? Will their property rights be protected? Will the Dalits (also known as the"untouchables") of India be discriminated against? Will poor families get documentation for their assetsand have access to lines of credit? Will national governments give localities greater flexibility to meet their particular needs? Will children who survived be able to get back to school? Will the disaster usher in a new chapter in the peace processes in Sri Lanka and Aceh, thereby making it easier for aid to be distributed and reconstruction to take place wherever it's needed?
Thanks to the generosity of millions of people, we will have the resources to meet these daunting challenges. The World Food Program of the United Nations is feeding more than 700,000 people daily. Unicef is making substantial commitments to meetingthe area 's large needs for water and sanitation. Other United Nations agencies are doing their part. But most of the financing for reconstruction and recovery is in the hands of donor governments and charitable groups like the Red Cross, Catholic Relief Services, and hundreds of other nongovernmental organizations. In order for the recovery effort to succeed, these groups have to be treated as equal partners in the planning process.
Of course, the reconstruction process will proceed more smoothly in Aceh and Sri Lanka if all parties to the longstanding conflicts there are involved. Cooperation might even lead to greater prospects for peace in both places. On my most recent trip to the region, I visited the Jantho camp for displaced people in Aceh, where I met a woman who had lost nine of her 10 children. As one of the camp leaders, she introduced me to the youngest camp member: a 2-day-old boy. She said the child's mother wanted me to give him a name. I asked if there was an appropriate Indonesian word for "new beginning" and was told that there was: "dawn," which in their language is a boy's name. I think a lot about that little boy, and our obligation to give him a new dawn. We can do it together.

William Jefferson Clinton was the 42nd president.

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Watergy in Sri Lanka

Alliance to Save Energy - Promoting Energy Efficiency World Wide: Watergy in Sri Lanka: The Alliance has applied its Watergy™ concept to the work in Sri Lanka as it develops responses to municipal energy efficiency challenges, placing particular emphasis upon opportunities within the water and wastewater sectors and street lighting areas. This effort is centered on partnerships with the City of Colombo, the National Water Supply and Drainage Board (NWSDB), and the Sri Lanka Energy Managers Association (SLEMA). In the early stages of work this initiative has developed several pilot studies focused on demonstrating the steps that municipalities can take as they seek to develop methodical approaches for applying energy efficiency to the provision of municipal services.

Saving Energy—Increasing Access to Water

Sri Lanka requires locally developed models that can be used to increase understanding about how to effectively manage energy used for pumping, treating and distributing water. Presently the country’s water management body is experiencing a significant increase in electricity billing combined with an approximately 45 percent rate of unaccounted for water. Some of the energy challenges faced by the National Water Supply and Drainage Board (NWSDB), overseeing water distribution to Colombo, include monthly energy consumption of 5.2 million kWh and a corresponding monthly bill of Rs. 45 million (US$ 466,000).
With Alliance to Save Energy, US Asia Environmental Partnership, and United States Agency for International Development (USAEP/USAID) support, NWSDB has taken steps to improve energy efficiency in the Sri Lankan town of Kantale, steps that have led to energy savings of 45 percent and increased water service from one hour a day to uninterrupted access. One of the major water consumers in the area, an important temple in this region, echoed support for the NWSDB’s work:

The Alliance and USAEP/ USAID began working with NWSDB in late 2001. NWSDB is Sri Lanka’s national water and wastewater utility responsible for providing these services across the country. NWSDB was supported by the Alliance with help from the Sri Lankan Energy Manager’s Association (SLEMA), which performed an energy audit of the main water pumping station supplying water to Colombo’s 2 million residents. Ready to take on new efficiency projects, and bolstered by the innovation of the “watergy” approach, NWSDB engineers sought out applications in other parts of the country. The country continues to work towards a lasting peace after over 20 years of conflict and improved access to water will play a big part in the country’s reconstruction.
The Kantale water system was built in 1984 when it was among the country’s state of the art facilities, having a daily capacity of 36,000 cubic meters providing water to over 480,000 in Trincomalee, in the northeastern region of the country. Expansion of the system in the eighties and nineties led to less than optimal operating conditions, increases in electricity consumption, and a reduction in water provided to local residents. Understanding the opportunities for improving the system’s pumping operations, including pump replacements and installation of variable speed drives, engineers were able to install decommissioned pumps from other systems, pumps that more closely matched system head and maximal operating requirements. Since these upgrades were put in place in early 2003, NWSDB has reported monthly savings of over fifteen thousand dollars, at a total project cost of twelve thousand dollars.

Continuing Support for Watergy Work in Sri Lanka

The Alliance / USAEP / USAID continue to support NWSDB’s effort to provide improved service to customers and reduce energy consumption of water operations. Based on this partnership and demonstrated results, NWSDB is putting into place an energy and water efficiency cell that will take efficiency to all corners of the utility’s operations. Powerful opportunities to factor efficiency into new projects exist thanks to the flow of donor funding supporting the rebuilding process. As part of this effort Alliance staff recently meet with NWSDB staff involved in the planning of new water projects for five municipalities supported by a sixty million dollar Asian Development Bank project. By considering efficiency opportunities from the start of these projects, NWSDB can reach many more Sri Lankans in need of water, at a lower cost to the country’s people.
For more information on this activity contact Felicia Ruiz, Senior Program Manager, fruiz@ase.org

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Parliament Select Committee on Natural Disasters

Sri Lanka Parliament Select Committee on Natural Disasters was setup to investigate whether there was a lack of preparedness to meet an emergency of the nature of the Tsunami that struck Sri Lanka on December 26, 2004 and to recommend what steps should be taken to ensure that an early warning system be put in place and what other steps should be taken to minimize the damage caused by similar natural disasters. Eleven meetings have been held so far. Here are the summary reports of the meetings posted on the committee's website.

Meetings 1 -- 11

12th Meeting of the Select Committee – 29 March 2005
Representatives of the media were invited by the Select Committee to participate in an open discussion on what role the media can play when a natural disaster occurs. Mr W B Ganegala, Secretary, Ministry of Information and Media, Mr S D Piyadasa, Director General of Government Information, Mr M M Zuhair, PC, Chairman of Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation, Mr Newton Gunerathne, Chairman of ITN, Mr Hudson Samarasinghe, Chairman of Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation, Mr Janadasa Peiris, Chairman of Associated Newspapers of Ceylon, Mr Rosmond Senarathne, Director of Swarnavahini, Mr Sarath Kongahage, Director of Sirasa Television, Mr Kingsley Rathnayake, Director of Sirasa FM, Mr Anthony David, Editorial Board, Sunday Times, Mr Bandula Jayasekera, Editorial Board, The Island, and Mr Amal Jayasinghe, Bureau Chief for AFP were all present at the meeting.
All representatives of the media expressed the need for a means through which credible and accurate information relating to natural disasters can be disseminated to the public.
Kingsley Rathnayake, Director of Sirasa FM, stated that although dissemination of relevant information regarding natural disasters is important, it is imperative that the government establishes a system where the media is privy to such information. He recommended setting up a disaster frequency that will cut into the main programmes of all channels and warn the public of an impending disaster. This requires a central authority with the responsibility of disseminating relevant information to the public via the media. He also raised the issue of evacuation where the media has the authority to issue evacuation notices, but they cannot take the responsibility to reassure the public of safety in returning to their homes.
Mr M M Zuhair, Chairman of Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation, spoke about the system in place in Japan. He stated that the best way to disseminate information regarding natural disasters was through electronic media. He stressed the need for a central authority to inform the media of the ground situation and of any official warnings in order for the respective organisations to inform the public. He said that like in Japan we should have one authority that has the best capacity and widest network in public broadcasting to inform the largest amount of people.Mr Rosmond Senarathne, Director of Swarnavahini, recommended that a board of professionals with appropriate expertise is needed to explain what the basic guidelines should be for the media and the public to follow when faced with a natural disaster.
Mr B Ganegala, Secretary, Ministry of Information, stated that the government should be responsible in giving out relevant information to the public and the central authority should be a government-controlled one. He also stated that current licensing guidelines should be changed and they should be inclusive of issues the media has pertaining to natural disasters.
Mr Amal Jayasinghe, Bureau Chief for AFP, stated that natural disasters should not be treated as a news event but as a means of telling the public what to do in an emergency. He also stressed the legal implications involved because not all warnings will culminate into a disaster. He said that creating public awareness is important and the media can be utilised to do so.

13th Meeting of the Select Committee – 30 March 2005
HE Salvatore Zotta, Italian Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Dr Wilbert Kehelpannala, Senior Research Fellow for the Institute of Fundamental Studies, Dr N P Wijeyananda, Former Director General of the Mines Bureau, Prof Kapila Dahanayake, Senior Professor of Geology, University of Peradeniya, Mr Sarath Weerawarnakula, the Geological Survey and Mines Bureau Director, and Mr P H Dharmaratne, Surveyor for the Geological Survey and Mines Bureau, attended the 13th meeting of the Select Committee.
Ambassador Salvatore Zotta briefed the members on the agreements reached between the Italian delegation and relevant local authorities. He presented three substantive project proposals, which were agreed upon with the consultation of Tissa Vitharana, Minister of Science and Technology, and professors from the universities of Colombo and Moratuwa.
The three projects proposed are:

• High technology impact assessment aimed at providing Sri Lankan experts with the technology needed for emergency management and natural disaster mitigation - particularly from meteorological, hydrological and oceanographic hazards. This technology is imperative when it comes to advance territorial planning - helping to identify areas vulnerable to natural disasters.
• Creation of a coordinating network, which is composed of chancellors of the involved universities in both Italy and Sri Lanka. This will help to integrate a university course in disaster mitigation from both a practical and theoretical perspective.
• The promotion of cooperation among both the higher education institutions and emergency management agencies of Sri Lanka in order to foster development and exchange of disaster knowledge among scientists, practitioners, decision-makers, legislators and citizens.
These project proposals will be financed from Sri Lanka’s remitted debt to Italy.
Mr Sarath Weerawarnakula, the Geological Survey and Mines Bureau Director, stated the need for Bathymetry models in order to delineate the coastal zone and identify areas that are safe to proceed with reconstruction.Dr Wilbert Kehelpannala, Senior Research Fellow for the Institute of Fundamental Studies, made a presentation that was corroborated by years of research. He spoke about earthquakes, showing graphs of the fault lines that ran across the country and evidence that Sri Lanka is vulnerable to earthquakes and tremors especially in the Central Province. He also spoke about the seismic lines that run through the Himalayan Mountains and off the southern coastal belt. He linked the compression between the plates as the reason behind the tremors in the Central Province.
The second segment of his presentation was focused on tsunamis. He stated that through his research he had found evidence of Pallieo Tsunamis in Yala. He showed visuals of historical artifacts that date back to the 2nd Century BC. Speaking on the impact of the prehistoric tsunamis, he stated that they were high-energy waves, which had destroyed the sand bars that safeguard the coast. When the sand bars are eroded, this allows the water during high tide to flow inland.He concluded by giving the committee three recommendations:

• The need to evaluate the coastal belt through ocean topography when taking implementation polices regarding the reconstruction and rehousing effort.
• A buffer zone to be implemented because the coastal zone has been eroded, allowing the water to flow in.
• Creating awareness among the public especially those who live in tsunami-affected areas.
Mr P H Dharmaratne, Surveyor for the Geological Survey and Mines Bureau, disagreed with the research done by Dr Wilbert Kehelpannala. He stated that when going ahead with reconstruction work they should check the height and not the length when implementing the buffer zone. Since the geography of the coast is not consistent, certain areas along the coast were not affected. That has to be taken into consideration when reconstructing. He stressed that if a buffer zone is to be implemented the security of the people, economic development and coast conservation need to be thought about.
Mr Sarath Weerawarnakula, the Geological Survey and Mines Bureau Director, brought to the notice to the Select Committee that an imbalance in funds needs to be rectified at the Pallekele Seismological Centre. The need for a national data processing unit was highlighted and he said that training too was lacking at present.

14th Meeting of the Select Committee - 31st March 2005
The Select Committee, along with media personnel went on a field visit to the Geology Centre in the University of Peradeniya, the Pallekele Seismological Centre and Kuliatta, an identified landslide prone region in Kandy.
Udeni Amarasinghe, Senior Lecturer in Engineering Geology, explained how the Geology Centre in the University of Peradeniya works. He stated that under proposals made by him, the Seismic Station donated by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JAIC), was set up within the university premises and was for academic and research purposes. The Geology Centre in Peradeniya receives data sent by three other seismic stations located throughout the country. The University of Peradeniya operates these centres, which are set up in the universities of Oluvil, Ruhuna and Colombo. He also stated that it is impossible for seismometres to predict tsunamis since the relevant equipment can only measure vibrations generated by earthquakes. The lack of tsunami detection buoys in the Indian Ocean poses a major problem and he recommended that with the help of UNESCO, an investment should be made to have them in place on a regional level.
The next site was the official Seismic Centre located inside a prison in Pallekele. Operated by the Geological Survey and Mines Bureau (GSMB) the station relays seismic information to the GSMB head office in Colombo. The Select Committee was able to meet up with the experts running the station including Dr N P Wijeyananda, Former Director General of the Mines Bureau. The recommendations made were the need to have trained seismologists in Sri Lanka, a link up between the GSMB and the University of Peradeniya, and for resources that are in place to be developed into a national data centre.
The last leg of the tour was at Kuliatta, a landslide prone site that was recommended by Prof Kapila Dahanayake, Senior Professor of Geology at the University of Peradeniya. A town hall meeting was held at the Waldubula Maha Vidyalaya with the attendance of all relevant officials to investigate whether the area and Kandy district as a whole was prepared for any emergency.
The main recommendation made by the representatives of that area was the provision of building licenses with the consultancy of geophysicists and the Land Department in order for vulnerable areas to be identified.
Prof Kapila Dahanayake, who headed the discussion, stressed the need for a mechanism for the people in the region to be informed of natural disasters since the Central Province is prone to landslides. He also recommended educating children about natural disasters and that it should be incorporated into the school curriculum.
The Parliamentary delegation included Mahinda Samarasinghe John Amaratunga, Nadarajah Raviraj, Rauff Hakeem and Mahinda Wijeysekera.

15th Meeting of the Select Committee - 5 April 2005
Mr Udeni Amarasinghe, Senior Lecturer in Engineering Geology, University of Peradeniya, Mr Asela Weerakoon, Representative for the Foreign Ministry, Mr Sujatha Cooray, Deputy External Officer for the Foreign Ministry, Mr Priyantha Serasinghe, Senior Fellow for Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and a delegation representing the Virginia Institute of Technology which was led by Dr Fredrick Krimgold met with the Select Committee.
Udeni Amarasinghe explained the role he played in forming the Geology Centre in the University of Peradeniya. He stated that under proposals made by him to JICA, he received the necessary assistance in setting up the system for academic and research purposes in 2003. The Geology Centre in Peradeniya is the central agency, which receives data sent by three other seismic stations located throughout the country.
Although his aim in installing this was for academic purposes, he recommended that it should be upgraded as a seismic warning system. He also stated that JICA was keen to restore the system in Peradeniya, which had a software problem for eight months, causing the system to shut down.
Mr Priyantha Serasinghe of JICA agreed with what was said by Mr Udeni Amarasinghe on extending further cooperation and improving the relationship between the two stakeholders.MP Rauff Hakeem added that apart from the seismology monitoring system, the Asian region needs tsunami buoys to analyze wave height and force, in order to detect a tsunami.
Mr Lakshman Kadirgamar, Minister of Foreign Affairs, in response to the above stated that he is chairing the Indian Ocean Rim Association meeting to be held in Mauritius and he will bring the issue up on behalf of Sri Lanka.
A delegation representing Virginia Tech made their presentation to the Select Committee regarding cooperation with local universities. Dr Fredrick Krimgold stated that strengthening universities’ capacity to handle disaster management especially in the field of research is an important aspect of the overall system. He stated that the delegation was an initial exploratory mission, which was here to assess the needs of local universities with regard to incorporating disaster studies. The proposal being made by the mission is the establishment of a centre for disaster studies, which will integrate natural science, engineering and sociology.

16th Meeting of the Select Committee - 25 April 2005
The Select Committee summoned a wide range of NGOs to share their views on the tsunami and to participate in an open discussion about the role the NGO sector plays in the event of a natural disaster.Representatives from Rainbow Bridge, Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies, National NGO Council of Sri Lanka, Sarvodaya, Sri Lanka Red Cross, Lions Kashyapa, St. Johns Ambulance and Brigade, Save the Children, Sahana Foundation, World Vision, Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO), National Peace Council, YWCA, All Ceylon Buddhist Congress, Habitat for Humanity, and World View participated at the hearings.
An overview of the three study tours the members of the Select Committee took to Australia, Japan, South Korea, Turkey and Germany were presented at the hearings. Mahinda Samarasinghe headed the delegation to Australia while both the study tours to Japan and South Korea and to Turkey and Germany were led by Professor Tissa Vitharana and John Amaratunga respectively.
The Australian government sponsored the study tour to Australia where Dr Greg French, the Australian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka provided the necessary assistance.Mahinda Samarasinghe spoke on the three-pronged approach present in Australia’s national disaster management policy and how Sri Lanka could use that to our benefit. Sri Lanka is lacking expertise in Disaster Victims Identification (DVI) and an advanced course in this subject in Canberra was one such proposal made by Australia. The training and mobilization of youth to volunteer in the event of a natural disaster and the federal system the Australian government bases its natural disaster policy on were the other criteria Sri Lanka could benefit from in the long term.
Kate Wanderwood, Manager of Rainbow Brigade - an Australian NGO, spoke on the work they are doing with respect to psychological trauma of children. They are providing a link between schools in both Australia and Sri Lanka to help build relationships among the children in order to learn about the different cultures.
S. Sivasupramanium, a representative of the TRO, spoke on the difficulty of delivering relief to tsunami-affected areas especially in the north and east. He stated that Sri Lanka needs a mechanism to regulate the flow of aid to the country. Through this, the government can ensure that aid sent by donor countries and INGOs is what the Sri Lankan people actually required.
Dr Vinya Ariyaratne, representing Sarvodaya, spoke on the need for a national policy on disaster management and the role the NGO sector should play in that framework. He also stressed that NGOs should voluntarily disclose the amount of funds they receive so that accountability and transparency is not undermined. He recommended that it is a facilitation mechanism that is required as opposed to a coordination mechanism alone.
Lal Hevapathirana of World View Sri Lanka stated that one of the main shortcomings in the aftermath of the tsunami was the lack of coordination between NGOs. He also spoke about the problems they faced regarding the clearance of goods from the Sri Lankan port.
Dr. Jayathilake, the Field Commissioner of the St Johns Ambulance, recommended the incorporation of first aid programmes into schools. He also stated that the services offered by organisations like St Johns were not given due recognition by the government.Lydia Lechman, a representative from World Vision, stated that community-based volunteer programmes were needed in Sri Lanka.
Dr. Jehan Perera of the National Peace Council raised the issue of the buffer zone and stated that he was concerned about the different treatment meted out to different districts.Professor Tissa Vitharana, Minister of Science & Technology, responded to the query by explaining the scientific evidence backing the need for a buffer zone. In 1981, the Coast Conservation Act set aside 300 metres as a buffer in order to protect the coast from exploitation. Besides the tsunami, global warming has a huge effect on island nations like Sri Lanka. With the threat of land inundation because of the sea level rising during high tide combined with catastrophic weather, every country needs a buffer zone. He went on to explain that the Indian Ocean has two earthquake belts running across Sumatra and the Maccaran, which have seismic activity. At the Kobe meeting, Professor Katayama, a leading analyst in seismic events, in a discussion with the minister, stated that the Asian people must understand that there is an increase in seismic activity in the region. The only way to mitigate the risk is by encouraging coast conservation programmes that involve the growth of mangroves and coral reefs.
Responding to the issue of different treatment to different districts with regard to the buffer zone, he said that the implementation of the buffer zone was not motivated by discrimination but that the government is responsible for protecting the lives of people as well as property.

17th Meeting of the Select Committee - 26th April 2005
Representatives from all religious groups along with the Government Agents from affected districts shared their experiences of the tsunami at the 17th meeting of the Select Committee.Tilak Ranaviraja, Commissioner General for Essential Services and Chairman of TAFOR, Kapila Dahanayake, Senior Professor of Geology, University of Peradeniya, Sarath Weerawarnakula, Director of Geological Survey and Mines Bureau, Jean Pierre Massue and Akira Akazawa, representatives from the International Organization of Migration (IOM), and Philip Frayne from the American Embassy were also present.
A Buddhist priest representing the Ampara district said that as a result of the tsunami, people of all castes and creeds came together for immediate relief efforts. He said that this was the manner in which the country should go forward. In presenting his recommendations, he expressed the need for a coordinated body of governance. He also was of the view that all Grama Niladharis need to have a census of the people living in each district and that the role of the Pradeshiya Sabha should be expanded to better cope with natural disasters. Each district should also be informed of the probable disasters it could face and given the appropriate resources to mitigate it, he said.
A Catholic priest representing Tirichovil in the northeastern part of the island spoke on the need for the lives of the people in that region to return to normalcy. The provision of tools to rebuild lives and livelihoods were also important. He stressed the need for psychological counselling for those affected as well as special provisions to be made for school children sitting their Ordinary and Advanced levels this year.
Dinesh Gunawardena, Minister of Urban Development and Water Supply, responded to the query on making special provisions in education. He stated that the Advanced Level examinations have been postponed until mid June, and that all children living in affected areas were issued, in collaboration with UNICEF, with the necessary textbooks and stationery, and those students can opt to take their national exams next year.
Tilak Ranaviraja, Commissioner General for Essential Services and Chairman of TAFOR, briefed the Select Committee on the status of the relief effort thus far. He said that all those living in temporary shelter would be moved into transitional settlements by the end of May 2005. Each family will be provided with 200 square feet of space and electricity. He also stated that 18,500 transitional shelters have been completed and 17,500 people have already moved.The Moulavi representing Sammanthurai stated that although 62 mosques were affected by the tsunami, they continued to provide food and shelter to victims. He said that these venues were congested and the people were psychologically affected. He explained the need for the maintenance of cultural centres and of helping people to reclaim their livelihoods.

18th Meeting of the Select Committee – May 3, 2005
At the 18th meeting, the Chairperson Mahinda Samarasinghe tabled the first draft of the Natural Disaster Bill done by the UNDP. He also announced that the draft report on the recommendations made during the Australian study tour undertaken by a parliamentary delegation was released.
Jeff Murdoch, Akira Akazawa and Ramraj Narasingham from the International Organization of Migration (IOM), Dr A R Subbiah and Lolita Bildhan from the Bangkok based Asian Disaster Prevention Centre, Jean Pierre Massue, Member of the European Mediterranean Inter Governmental Group and of the European Academy of Science and Arts, and Nora Belachchi, expert on natural disasters made their presentations to the Select Committee.
Dr A R Subbiah made an assessment of the Early Warning System for Sri Lanka for the UNDP. He stated that the relevant authorities need to trace the movement of the winds to warn of imminent danger of floods in the area. Sri Lanka’s lack of a flood warning system was a deterrent to the monitoring of the impact of floods. Speaking on droughts, he stated that authorities need to possess the ability to forecast them in advance. International forecasters can predict changes in weather patterns through the use of Global Precipitation Forecasts three months ahead. Dr Subbiah also stressed the importance of delivering locally relevant climate information so that authorities can preempt this and plan the agriculture industry accordingly.Jean Pierre Massue spoke on the local levels of disaster preparedness and emergency response in Sri Lanka. An ISCR survey called ‘Preliminary Lessons learned from the Tsunami’ conducted in Kobe showed that the world is vulnerable to natural disasters and people need to look into the careful conservation of the coast, he said. He stressed the need for Sri Lanka to invest in mapping data called Geographic Information System (GIS). He made several recommendations to the Select Committee based on his research. He stated that there were five key areas that need to be looked into when having an Early Warning System:
• Risk Prevention
• Elements involved in an Early Warning System
• Crisis Management
• Debriefing
• Rehabilitation
He also stressed that there has to be a legal basis when making policy decisions and capacity building should be based on an inter-ministerial and decentralized approach. When speaking on the importance of education he said that children are the most vulnerable to natural disasters and are also the most receptive to risk prevention messages.

19th Meeting of the Select Committee- 4 May, 2005
Dr Ajith Udagama, Dean of the University of Moratuwa, A J W Nanayakkara, Director General of the Census and Statistics Bureau, Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, Serini Siriwardena and Ashantha Welikala representing the Centre for Policy Alternatives, and Dr Deheragoda, representative from the Geography Department, University of Sri Jayewardenepura, made their recommendations to the Select Committee.Jeff Murdoch and Akira Akazawa from the International Organization of Migration (IOM), Jean Pierre Massue, Member of the European Mediterranean Inter Governmental Group and of the European Academy of Science and Arts and the representatives from the UNDP were also present.A J W Nanayakkara released the data the bureau collected in the aftermath of the tsunami to the Select Committee. In all districts, 39,617 houses were completely damaged, 10,660 houses were partially damaged and cannot be used while 38,561 houses were partially damaged but can be used. He stated that officials should depend on police records to confirm the number of people who lost their lives in the tsunami in Sri Lanka. When asked by the Select Committee why there were discrepancies in the statistics released to the public on the death toll, Mr Nanayakkara said that different organisations were collecting data and thus the statistics were overlapping or falling short because the system was not a coordinated one. He stressed the need for a decentralized system of data collection at a grass root level.
Dr Ajith Udagama stated that a system involving the Grama Sevaka Division, District Offices and Provincial Councils was important for the collection of accurate data. He also stated that there should be a central point where all stakeholders can have access to the relevant data in order to conduct a proper needs assessment. He emphasized that in order for that system to work, the data repository needs to be computerized and work across multiple ministries.
Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu stated that the culture of governance in Sri Lanka was to centralize everything. He stressed that it was important to use local knowledge and local structures in implementation and coordination of disaster management for effective data gathering. Speaking on the key problems we face, he stated that coordination and communication between government officials because of the culture of governance in the country was lacking, the political imperative in the country is on the distribution of relief, too many ministries were spread too thin, and there was a lack of involvement of both the local and provincial authorities in the interest of central governance.
Dr Deheragoda stated that one central body of research is needed so that allocation of funds will be easier.

20th Meeting of the Select Committee - 17 May 2005
Mr R A D B Samaranayake, Director of the Coast Conservation Department (CCD) and representatives of both the Urban Development Authority (UDA) and the National Physical Planning Association made their presentations to the Select Committee.Mr Samaranayake stated the importance of coastal conservation and managing the environment. He also showed the legislation, which gives it the authority to implement policies concerning the protection of the coastal belt of Sri Lanka.
• Coast Conservation Act No 57 of 1981
• Coast Conservation Amendment Act No 64 of 1988
• Coastal Zonal Plan 2004 - yet to be enacted
The CCD follows an Environmental Impact Assessment Plan, which helps to enact appropriate acts. The Coastal Zonal Plan 2004, which is yet to be enacted, was prepared before the tsunami. The recommendations made within the act are relevant to the situation in post tsunami Sri Lanka as well. Mr Samaranayake stated his support of the buffer zone.
He presented a three-pronged plan, which they have already given as a recommendation to the cabinet to look into. He explained that a buffer zone would be in place and it will be divided into three sections for easier implementation. The seaward reference line and the reservation area are strictly forbidden areas with regards to development activities. The restrictive area is what the experts call a soft zone where people will be allowed to do development activity in respect to the tourism and fishing industries in consultation with the CCD.
The CCD Director also presented a new plan where they have divided the coastal belt of Sri Lanka into 99 zones. Each of these zones will be analyzed with the Environmental Impact Assessment Plan to find vulnerable areas within the coastal belt. All these recommendations are given to an appointed committee of relevant representatives from the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Ministry of Forestry and Environment, Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and Social Welfare, Ministry of Urban Development and Water Supply, and Ministry of Science and Technology.
Regarding the buffer zone he stated that the existing management plan should be kept in place with the addition of rest areas and fishing and tourism industry related structures. However, no new housing settlements would be allowed. He stated that the CCD is following the guidelines set out by TAFREN.
When asked by the members of the Select Committee why no other country had a buffer zone, with the inclusion of both Japan and Banda Aceh in Indonesia, Mr Samaranayake responded that Sri Lanka had a high erosion rate as opposed to other countries.A representative of the UDA stated that when planning development activities, the socio economic and geographical aspects are looked into beforehand. Densification and expansion of the land are also done along with the reservation of sections of the land. Due to increasing economic activity along the coast, almost all urban areas are centred there apart from the hill country, which is also dense in population. He stated that conservation of the land is an imperative for the country to prevent natural disasters like floods and landslides.
He recommended that policy planners encourage development activity in the interior of the country, so the population density will decrease along the coastal belt.Speaking on the possible threat of earthquakes he stated that when high-rise buildings come up in Colombo, the UDA advises investors with a pre-qualification system. The National Housing Development Authority (NHDA) also has housing guidelines, which investors follow during development stages.The National Physical Planning Association based their representation on the need for a new National Physical Structure Planning for Sri Lanka. Their representative discussed the fact that disasters have a huge impact on people and the economy alike.
Planning in the past was based on three attributes:
• Availability of resources
• Economic disparity
• Geo-climatic regions
Sri Lanka cannot sustain itself on agriculture alone, thus the expansion of tourism, IT, industries and services. The object of a sound economic plan is for people to live in and around industrial regions.
The coastal belt and the hill country are vulnerable to natural disasters and the population densities in those areas are high because of economic opportunities and development activities. The objective of a new National Physical Structure Plan for Sri Lanka should be to provide incentives for people to move away from vulnerable regions. To achieve that, the government needs to focus on concentrated development in the interior of the country. He also spoke on the need to balance urban development and population density.
He presented a three-pronged approach for future development activity in the country:
• Reduce the population at risk on the coastal belt and in the central hills
• Balance economic and environmental activity
• Provision of opportunities in rural areas

21st Meeting of the Select Committee - 20 May 2005
Priyantha Serasinghe, Group Director of The Maharaja Organisation, Kingsley Bernard, President of the National Chamber of Exporters (NCE), M P T Cooray, Secretary General of the Joint Apparel Association, Ranjith Rajapakse, General Manager of Associated Motorways, K C Suwarnaraj, Chairman of the Vavuniya Chamber of Commerce, Stanley Jayasekera, Head of Global Trade for the National Chamber of Commerce, K Palaymianly, Member of the Old Moors Association, and M Atton, Deputy Secretary General of the Ceylon Chambers Forum, attended the Select Committee hearings.
Mahinda Samarasinghe stated to those present that the private sector needs to play a larger role in the coordination of reconstruction efforts and of protecting employees in the event of a natural disaster. He briefed them on the systems in place in California and Honolulu, which he had learnt about during a parliamentary study tour. California has a business forum called BICEP, which looks into the welfare of businesses and of employees in the event of a natural disaster, and he suggested this should be implemented here.
Priyantha Serasinghe spoke on the role his organisation played in earlier natural disasters as well as in the aftermath of the tsunami. They were able to implement plans for relief aid to reach affected areas immediately because they were already doing relief work in flood affected areas. He also stated that The Maharaja Organisation utilises its media division to create awareness. Speaking on corporate social responsibility, he said that people and organisations need to be proactive and not reactive to natural disasters.
Stanley Jayewardene stated that the National Chamber of Commerce had an arm of the district chamber of Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) organised in 15 districts. This network helps the National Chamber of Commerce to dispatch aid to affected areas and to give assistance to affected businesses as well.M P T Cooray stated that there was a need to make employees aware of how to identify a natural disaster and know what to do when it occurs.
Mahinda Samarasinghe, the Chairman of the Select Committee, briefed the heads of the business community on the government’s plan of action for the mitigation of natural disasters. He stated that a natural disaster council, which consists of the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader as well as five members of the parliament, was to be set up in the near future. The council will be linked with a technical committee, which will coordinate relief efforts with a National Disaster Centre.

22nd Select Committee Meeting - 7 June 2005
The Select Committee held its 22nd meeting with representatives from the Colombo Municipal Council as well as Provincial Council members from each district. Mahinda Samarasinghe, the Chairperson of the Select Committee explained the role the Select Committee plays in both formulating and recommending certain policies through the Natural Disaster bill. He stated that policy makers cannot centralize decisions that need to be made by relevant authorities on the field. Each district faces unique risks that need to be looked into by the people who can provide expertise in those fields. For example, all Provincial Councils need to have a disaster management plan, a storage of dry rations, medicines and also a fire engine truck and ambulance.
A representative of the Sabaragamuwa Provincial Council stated that the province was vulnerable to floods and landslides, had a high population and needed a pre-preparedness plan. He also stated that they diverted their resources to help Hambantota and Galle during the tsunami and were now facing a short fall.
A representative of the Negombo Municipal Council stressed the importance of being warned early about a tsunami. He stated that the disaster Sri Lanka faced last December was an eye opener to other problems - the lack of resources and the unpreparedness on all levels of governance when dealing with natural disasters.
The Mayor of Colombo thanked the Select Committee for giving them a forum to speak about the system, what it lacks and what it needs. He stated that Colombo had an emergency preparedness plan even before the tsunami but reiterated the need for investments and resources. For instance, the Colombo Municipal Council received a fire engine after five years but had no investment to upgrade the equipment. The main challenge the city of Colombo has to face is the lack of resources corresponding with the need to develop the emergency preparedness plans already in place.
The representative of the Nuwara Eliya Provincial Council stated that the main natural disasters in the area were forest fires and earth slips but they had only one Backhoe metre to use.
The representative of the Hambantota Provincial Council stated that the main challenge any government faces was in the decision-making process. The people of his district were still facing difficulties in the aftermath of the tsunami. The government had difficulty finding land and then releasing it to the affected people.
Mahinda Wijesekera explained the need for Provincial Councils to have an emergency plan to deal with the outcome of any disaster. He stated that when a delegation comprising members of the Select Committee went on a study tour to Germany and Turkey, they learnt the importance of having a civil service as well making sure emergency plans filtered down to the grass root level. He asked the representatives of the Provincial Councils to share their thoughts on how many people they needed to handle their work as well as whether they were receiving sufficient resources. He spoke on the buffer zone issue by asking the Provincial Council members who represented tsunami-affected areas to share their experiences on the challenges facing people there.
The Mayor of Galle stated that they have four fire engines and 12 people to operate the equipment. He requested the Select Committee to provide them with new equipment, better resources and new laws giving them authority.Vajira Abeywardena briefed the Select Committee on the lack of progress made on the debris embedded in the sea. He said that up to now the Coast Conservation Department had failed to look into the matter. He also asked that the history of tsunamis happening in the country should be looked into and released to the public to create awareness.
Prof Kapila Dahanayake, Head of the Department of Geology, Peradeniya University thanked the Select Committee for its role in identifying the need to have better equipment in the seismological centres in the country. JICA is providing the necessary resources needed to repair the seismology equipment in the Peradeniya University.
The representative of the Provincial Council in Matara stated that there was a need for the resources that were to be spent in the case of an emergency to be allocated separately. He asked that the circulation notice where the government disallows government agents and people who have a livelihood that generates revenue and are affected by the tsunami to receive compensation to be removed.

23rd Select Committee Meeting - 8 June 2005
The Deputy Ambassador of Italy, Prof Ferruchchi from the University of Calabria, Prof Deheragoda, Head of Geography, University of Peradeniya and representatives from the Irrigation Department, Mahaweli and River Basin Development Authority and the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) were present at the 23rd Select Committee meeting.The Deputy Ambassador of Italy introduced Prof Ferruchchi for a follow up of the project proposal he presented to the Select Committee in March 2005. The Deputy Ambassador of Italy explained the status of the project proposals the Italian delegation, which Prof Ferruchchi was a part of made to the Select Committee and the Government of Sri Lanka.“Ambassador Salvatore Zotta presented three substantive project proposals, which were agreed upon with the consultation of Tissa Vitharana, Minister of Science and Technology, and professors from the universities of Colombo, Ruhuna and Moratuwa. We are also looking at how to go on with a programme of academia - with high-level cooperation between the governments of Italy and Sri Lanka. We are looking to broaching Prof Ferruchchi’s project proposal. We want to have it done as soon as possible. This will have no link to the debt moratorium. Prof Ferruchchi’s will discuss the proposal. I believe it is called digital mapping of the coast or Hyper Dam. It will study coastal areas especially tsunami-affected areas,” the Deputy Ambassador of Italy stated.
Prof Ferruchchi made a presentation to the Select Committee on the need for a digital model construction, focusing on geomorphological studies on the coastal belt of Sri Lanka in March of this year. He expressed that the Italian government would like to extend their cooperation to Sri Lanka in going forward with digital monitoring of a country, which can be done by an overhead satellite and can identify areas vulnerable to natural disasters.
This high technology impact assessment aimed at providing Sri Lankan experts with the technology needed for emergency management and natural disaster mitigation - particularly from meteorological, hydrological and oceanographic hazards. This technology is imperative when it comes to advance territorial planning - helping to identify areas vulnerable to natural disasters.
Prof Ferruchchi introduced the preliminary stage of the project to the Select Committee informing them that after the MoU was signed with the Government of Sri Lanka, the project could begin.
“The focus of the project is the mapping of the coastal areas. We will start a preliminary survey from space. This is already being done through space borne radar or spatial technique. There will be no need to use topography on the ground. This is the fastest, easiest and cheapest method to use. The second survey will be done through the digital surface model - 1 square km resolution in width and 10 square km in height. This will be a space borne survey. It is done with special equipment like laser scans. It will include everything between Galle and Jaffna anti-clockwise,” Ferruchchi stated.Further explaining the project he stated that it could be done in three parts.
It will carry out infrared lasers to make a model to look into vegetation inclusive of houses and such and the map of the coast. It will help to design a better defense from natural disasters and the like. This can be done in three parts:
“Space borne technique, which will be done as soon as the MoU is signed, the air borne technique, which needs to be done in clear weather. We have been in touch with the Meteorology Department who says that Sri Lanka is in the middle of a monsoon. So we will have to do it between mid July and mid September, if everything goes according to plan. The third is the specialized radar borne laser survey - this will help us to observe the coast better. This equipment is state of the art - the patents are exclusively owned by Italy,” he said.

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