By Sarath Wijesinghe –
“Salawa” is in a suburb with a mixture of a township and village in the famous and traditional “Seethawaka” Kingdom in Sri Lanka on High Level Road not too far from Colombo the Capital. It is one of the most fertile areas in Sri Lanka famous for fruits, vegetables, industries, greenery water falls river/canals and cultivation of small and commercial crops such as tea rubber and coconut. It is called “KOSGAMA” a village of jack fruit- the fruit only second to rice for Sri Lankans. People living there were happy and contended fortunate to possess natural beauty and the resources for agriculture with abundance of water and smooth climatic conditions. Plywood factory thriving in one era was closed for mismanagement and the premises were utilized by the army for storage of ammunitions. We propose to discuss the human tragedy and wanton destruction to the property and livelihoods of citizen to explore possibilities of remedial and preventive measure rather than ponder on security aspects or on the blame game. “Salawa” is destroyed beyond recognition /repairs as it is and the blast has destroyed the entire township suburbs livelihood of the community and the residences which is a common knowledge to the citizen today. Today “Salawa” in “Kosgama” is a ghost town/area with ruins and full of mud and soil with ruminants of destroyed houses and business premises. It is synonymous to “Visala” a township in “Jambudeepa” – India completely destroyed and The Roman Empire destroyed due to struggles with the Barbarians in 117 CE with large scale loss in 376 all due to man-made disasters. Court of inquiry and many other inquiry panels and personalities are appointed by the government to find the cause and source of the tragedy. But the fact remains whoever is to be blamed whatever is the cause it is a man-made disaster that should and could have been averted if proper precautionary and safety matters have been enforced and carried out. We are worried and concerned and there is lot to say and make remarks on the issue- yet patiently waiting for the outcome of the inquires.
National Security / Priority
National Security is the main area to be considered as this incident will lead to many other unforeseen incidents and trouble makers can make use of the situation for their agenda to destabilise the country. USA, Israel, USSR, India, China and many countries in the global community give priority to security over any other consideration. We hear of accusing each other on the origin and magnitude of the disaster, but less on preventive measures and future strategies to control future incidents on similar magnitude. It is unhappy to discuss trends of distress and destruction of a nation or citizen, but it is necessary to discuss trends to make it right and come out with solutions for man-made disasters. Destruction ends are most destructive and continuous. It takes place after the one another and fears to think of what comes next. Most disasters are manmade and few are natural. We live against nature with wilful destruction of the Mother Nature protecting us and living beings and the entire living beings paying for the sins of few selfish individuals.We went through Tsunami years ago which is a natural disaster affected mainly the sea cost of many countries with wanton destruction and deaths of hundreds of thousands of animal kingdom. Recent disasters are wanton and continuous, one after the other. Floods, landslides and then the “Salawa” disaster, all of which are fully or partially man made.
Major Flood ever in the history after 24 years
Floods have affected 301,602 with 21,484 displaced in 25 districts with an impact on 300,000 Sri Lankans. Deforestation, sand mining, excavations for historical monuments for sale, Clarence of jungles including the sanctuaries by politicians, blocking of the water flow to rivers and the sea by construction blocking paths, filling of lands with no proper plan for sale are some of the contributory factors the Ministry of Environment and the government is unable to control mainly due to political interference and favouritism. In the west the ministry of environment is as powerful as the portfolios of the leader of the state. In England and Europe it is extremely powerful ministry that any project will have to be vetted by the Ministry of environment. This is the worst flood after 24 years and the worst in the history and the worst to come due to continuous destructions of environment in large scale. Classic but a sad example is that some powerful persons close to the temple of tooth are said to excavate the land with Baco-heavy machinery machines for gem mining indication how political and financial power overpowers governance. Rivers have turned into lakes due to sand mining in the river preventing for water flow to the sea thereby the sea water is flown back to rivers catalysing floods and landslides. Waste is dumped creating mountains of garbage with a threat to the citizens with no proper plan or a strategy Water falls are drying due to deforestation and constructing unplanned Hydro power. Water is contaminated by multinational companies with their wish and will with the power of money and international politics powered by Fat Cat NGOs powerful in “Kelani” River being the most polluted. Ministries of Health, Environment and other line Ministers and Ministries are wither unconcerned, busy or not interested. Citizen is keen interested and worried but helpless in this most politically polarized society with the blame game on the opposition and the previous rulers governors lecturing like saints. Ground work is now set and progress for a future major Floods by continuing the same process in living against the environment and wanton destruction of Mother Nature by ourselves. We lost 1.6 billion on tea due to floods which is fraction of the loss incurred. It is not foreigners or any unforeseen power that destroys us. We are responsible for our own destruction by ruining our environment, culture and unplanned strategies’ for the future of the children and the Nation we love so much.
Sri Lanka has not experienced major disasters of this magnitude until the unplanned developments and destruction of the environment took place in the name of development and using our natural resources and heritage for money. Money has changed our values. Our children are no longer our precious valuable treasures we protect as eyes. They are misused by close friends or relatives and transform for money with the influence of pounds and dollars or the drugs and other unlawful addictions. Recent landslide which is also is the largest a most dangerous ever in the history has buried hundreds of citizens alive with the destruction of a large area leaving potential landmine areas. Main causes of the land mines also due to deforestation, unplanned constructions, clearance of the jungle, planting and removing plants with no planning and checks on mountains, excavations, “Chena Cultivations” with clearance of the forest for timber and houses. Threat of landmines continues with the continuous destruction and it appears that there is non control over the origins of this manmade disasters leading to floods and landslides. Wild life is diminishing fast due to perching. We will no longer be the country of elephants, gems and wild with wild animals and forests like “Sinharaja” with rare animals and plants.
We are in a main cross road in our history on the existence of the planet and our nation in danger of being gradually destroyed by actions by our own self-destruction on environment and way of life. Our forest area is reduced drastically, wild life is diminishing, water all over is contaminated, landslides and floods are rampant, water flow is blocked and low lying ares are being filled for unplanned development, citizen consumes unhealthy poisonous food and water including junk food sold by multinational companies powerfully settled in Sri Lanka with political and power of dollars and pounds, sand mines and soil excavation is uncontrolled, water falls streams and rivers are drying, weather pattern is changing for worse and unfortunately governance is either inefficient, incompetent or not interested. If immediate steps are not taken all will sink together whatever the race or party they belong to. Minister of environment, Health and other line Ministers and Ministries will have to work hard with a strategy and a plane considering this is a national issue, with the corporation of all parties and races. NGOs will have to divert the attention to nation building instead of clamouring for human rights and other political rights leaving it the politicians to handle. The culprits of all three major man-made disasters are the rulers who were responsible for the protection of the environment and the selfish citizens and companies continuously and mischievously destroying the environment and culture of the country they live in. The governance should be firm steady and plan out with a vision for the future to meet the challenges. It is too late now for Long lectures, petting, and mild requests as the mischief makers have got the taste of money due to the ignorance and inefficiency of the Governance. It is time for the rulers to shed shame, differences and get together to rid this tragedy which is imminent unless immediate drastic steps are taken.