26 October, 2020

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Some Lessons Beyond Floods & Landslips

By Mahesh Senanayake

Mahesh Senanayake

Mahesh Senanayake

The island wide catastrophic situation that we are experiencing nowadays teaches us some timely lessons or reminds us of lessons that we have already learnt and have forgotten. These lessons range from the enshrined norms of humanity to reviewing of our policies, rules and regulations that govern construction of houses, large scale commercial buildings and town planning.

The first lesson that it teaches us is the “kindness and unity” that are overwhelmingly seen among majority of the Sri Lankans amidst some politically driven complaints or suspicion of division among the people. Irrespective of cast, religion, race or language, we have got together as one nation to share the grief of our affected fellow countrymen thus defying the observations of a few minds with vested interest who are waiting to see a divided country. A packet of rice prepared by a Sinhalese fills the hungry tummy of a Muslim or a Tamil and vice versa. The dry rations, clothes, medicine or any other relief materials donated do not carry the stamp of chauvinism. The three forces or the police did not ask for religion or the cast in helping the affected people. Hence we as one nation have once again taught those who are waiting to see the topics of federalism, division or separation to emerge to foster their political ideologies a lesson that had already been taught to them in previous occasions such as Tsunami in 2004 or at the end of the 30 year old war. The lesson is that we are still a united country and we do not believe partition among the people.

A proper system to manage the relief items given by the people would have been improved in our disaster management process for which we gave a serious thought in 2004 aftermath the Tsunami.

There were several occasions that the announcements were made to the effect that cooked food items were not further required and in some occasions that enough food items were not delivered to the interior of the affected areas. This is mainly due to many authorities, organizations, societies and groups of people working in isolation to help the victims. The lesson here is that there should be proper coordination among the relevant authorities and the general public.

Another barrier in the rescue operations has been the public who visit the sites of landslips and floods to witness nature’s rampage which has hindered the progress of the operations. Let us determine not to indulge in such sightseeing soon after a catastrophe. This demands us to rethink whether it is safe and fair to move in large groups to affected areas thus hampering the rescue operations.

Today national newspapers revealed that there had been few incidents where underworld gangs and drug addicts had taken charge of the relief items and hoodwinked the unsuspecting public who eagerly wanted to help the affected. The punishment meted out to such thieves should be couple of times higher than in a normal case of robbery both as per the law of the land and law of the nature.

The government has decided to grant tax concessions for relief items as per an announcement made by the Finance Minister Ravi karunanayake. However the authorities should be extra vigilant as we have some unscrupulous merchants who are good at making use of the opportunity by forging documents to show that items imported are for relief aid and sell the these goods in the ordinary market. We need the vigilance of the customs, ministry of finance and ministry of trade and commerce to intervene.

The lesson we follow next is the how effectively to help rebuilding of those scattered lives. It would not be hard to understand the mental agony one would go through after having his house completely destroyed leaving no trace or what so ever. Most of the damaged or destroyed houses had been built on bank loans or spending one’s savings earned by engaging in a vocation or inherited from the previous generations. Now how are they going to rebuild their lives?

The government has taken a decision to allocate Rs 2.5 million per destroyed house for rebuilding ( the correct term would be “to build” as most of the houses have completely vanished in the landslide affected areas). In building the house the biggest burden will be to find suitable lands to build “new” dwellings as most of the affected areas have been identified as “ not suitable” for constructions. On the other hand, how would an ordinary man (who may have to again obtain a loan to build a “new” house) bear the cost of repayment of a bank loan taken to build his house which now does not even have the foundation, besides losing the entire land that belonged to him? Will requesting the banks to look at ways and means to waive off interests ,or default interests partly or fully be too much in a battered economy ? These people will expect some sort of relief in that sense. In the same coin, if there are SMEs which have got affected beyond resurrection on its own due to loss of assets will have to be supported through a special scheme as the courage of the affected entrepreneurs should be protected to resurrect the local economies in the affected areas.

Minister of Disaster Management Hon Anura Priyadarshana Yapa has officially announced that new legislation would be introduced making prior approval from national building research organization compulsory before any construction .While appreciating the move , we would like to mention that there are similar approvals required prior to constructions which are not properly paid heed. The requirement to obtain approval and clearance from the Coast Conservation Department before building a hotel close to the shore or from the Central Environmental Authority before setting up a factory or commercial operation are few examples where no proper attention is given and the laws pertaining to those who break the law are quite insufficient. Thus we need to relook at the entire spectrum with a pragmatic approach and the relevant organizations or departments should be adequately equipped with resources and their efficacy should be enhanced to meet the modern demands.

Another dimension to this is that the poor attention is paid by us as a nation to proper town planning. How many further years can we afford to bear the losses incurred to the economy due to floods in the capital Colombo which is the heart of the country’s economy? It is no secret that from mediocre downpour to heavy torrential rains can plunge the city and retard all economic activities from making hoppers to trading in the stock exchange. The successive governments have failed in this regard and at least the incumbent government should now take a serious note of this and commence an initiate or a strategy, even if they face severe criticism from the opposition (the right word must be the” joint opposition”). This country needs modern knowledge and technology for town planning and development activities be it constructing a culvert or an express way. In this regard why not a separate authority be formed and breed a group of “town planners “with modern brains through the public and private universities?

The yeomen service by the three forces and the police sparks the thought that the strengths of the rank and file in a post war do not only lie in using them for cleaning of gardens, digging of canals or just gate keeping. The risk these soldiers and officers face during rescue operations is quite equivalent to the risk they faced during the war , perhaps the current danger is much bigger than what have faced as this time they have to fight the wrath of the nature which is beyond human control. Honorable Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was the first to pay his tribute to these soldiers by stating that the soldiers were celebrating the victory of the humanitarian operation in the same corresponding period by engaging in a similar rescue operation facing all natural obstacles with the true spirit of bravery.

Finally there is one solace. There has not been much political bickering at national level compared to previous catastrophes wherein some political figures made huge monies while some used the opportunity to enhance their image through the self – named foundations. Nevertheless, this time around some grass root level politicians are working hard to win the hearts of the people by using the relief items collected from the public or institutions as they are expecting the local government polls to happen soon. In this context, I am not too sure whether we are taught a lesson or we will teach them a lesson?

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Latest comments

  • 7
    1

    With regard to “Town Planning”:

    Has anyone noticed that Colombo’s flooding has increased exponentially since the UDA’s ‘beautification’ drive headed by Gotabhaya?

    The reason for this is obvious to anyone who understands land management.

    When catchment areas are filled in order to ‘reclaim’ land there is nowhere for the excess water to go and so catastrophe follows for those unfortunate enough to be in the lower areas.

    The Port City will, no doubt, add to the horrors of flooding when the Beira Lake’s outlets are blocked by the impending ‘development’.

    • 1
      1

      The beautification of Colombo by Gota and his team at least gave us a few years of respite from the grime, garbage and dirt- the result of neglect during the war years…revealing what is possible for Colombo and its environs as well as for other cities, should peace stay with this Nation. We saw what a gracious city Colombo could be once more, and it was indeed with gratitude that citizens enjoyed the public spaces and the cleanliness.
      Why drainage from the City of Colombo failed causing flooding is because the sea level has risen to heights above those of the Kelani River as well as that of the canals draining into the sea, making it disastrous for the low-lying regions. We have been spared major floods, after new drainage lakes were created to take the excess water, but it was too much to cope with during this current deluge.

      The world leaders have refused to accept the reality of “global warming”, but with the melting of the ice caps and the resultant rise in sea levels, many nations, especially island nations will have to face this reality and do the needful, helping each other with both concepts and implementation in Prevention as well as Relief. Sri Lanka will surely rise to that challenge.

  • 3
    0

    1.We need to look at accepted principles of town planning right now before any building starts.
    2. ”at the end of the 30yr war”: the war is silenced in the North and the East by the armed forces that are given power in administration and economic activities. So the oppressed people would obviously try to work out whether to let the government trample them or go for federalism or ……. The Armed Forces are truly engaged in humanitarian relief in the South while those in the North are inhumanly thrusting a 7-day ”pompous celebration”(that is what the notice by the Army says) of Vesak on the unfortunate people.

  • 2
    0

    The author does not know what Civil Security Department and Civil Military Coordination are doing in the North and the East.

    • 9
      0

      Neither does he no that land can be reclaimed because he is sitting on the structure plan and talking of action plans which are merely socially engineered- the grease yakka of our times.
      When `the top`is interested in power and money like the stupid arab on camel back who got a rolls royce due to the yankees finding the Oil there is calamity.

      When the picturesque nation built by europeans who brought cash crops was given to the monkey by accident without a shot being fired.- the monkey got a hand grenade. hena_nayakyo;)))

  • 0
    0

    Luxmy Silva; you are Right:-

    We Sinhala Buddhists have to Practise Positivity.

    On Every Occasion there are the ‘Nay Sayers’ with their Negative Comments, which Demoralise the People who are doing something Useful and Worthwhile!

    Is it Jealousy or Envy that we can’t do what they are Doing, or just a Habit of saying the First thing that comes to Mind!

    • 6
      0

      All are social climbers like the southern monkey unique in the world – bringing ladders down. If you weren’t you would be innovating. keep eating more bath guli.

  • 0
    0

    One has do to a thorough research on the causes of landslides. For example on The impact of the accelerated Mahaweli project on landslides and also the Port City Project. Its adverse effects on the envioronmet. So these research projects will definitely enlighten the present rulers.

    • 5
      0

      Look at it backwards from what we had- it takes long to be young -pablo picasso

      terraces from rock, bamboo , drainage, cash crops,

      get on with those are the digits – what did anyone do killed more than..

      seagulls.

  • 1
    0

    From these landslides & floods, all sensible professionals with the sense of social justice have to answer two questions.

    1. What is the cause for alternating droughts & floods – is is due to the destruction of the rain forest over the hill countries under the name of economic development.

    2. Reason for the landslides – probably due to the construction of reservoirs in the hills and excavation of granite for other developmental programs.

    Unfortunately, the Government interested in constructions from where they find the cuts. The urbanization only help the rich to travel from one end of the country to the other in a day so that the rich can work in one end of the country and can be with his friends & family for the dinner at the expense of nature. Can anybody say that their is proper development at the grass root level.

    We need a good judiciary with public interest litigation & representative standing to protect the poor and to bring equality in the society.

  • 0
    1

    The beautification of Colombo by Gota and his team at least gave us a few years of respite from the grime, garbage and dirt- the result of neglect during the war years…revealing what is possible for Colombo and its environs as well as for other cities, should peace stay with this Nation. We saw what a gracious city Colombo could be once more, and it was indeed with gratitude that citizens enjoyed the public spaces and the cleanliness.
    Why drainage from the City of Colombo failed causing flooding is because the sea level has risen to heights above those of the Kelani River as well as that of the canals draining into the sea, making it disastrous for the low-lying regions. We have been spared major floods, after new drainage lakes were created to take the excess water, but it was too much to cope with during this current deluge.
    The world leaders have refused to accept the reality of “global warming”, but with the melting of the ice caps and the resultant rise in sea levels, many nations, especially island nations will have to face this reality and do the needful, helping each other with both concepts and implementation in Prevention as well as Relief. Sri Lanka will surely rise to that challenge.

  • 0
    0

    How do you get rationality in development with rulers who are pawns of foreigners. Their economic policy is to borrow money play out 40% and create an infra structure which destroys the environment resulting in new diseases , floods landslides and sell the sovereignty of the people. on balance there is no production as the destruction far out weights the production created as we are seeing now.
    Look at the poor in Aranayake made destitute by the anti environment policies of the previous govt whose hench men cut down trees , carried out urbanisation with out town planning, allowed house price increase torun a non productive economy etc
    Whether it is yahapalanaya or raja palanaya this is the predicament of the country IMF/World bank/chinese/indians dictate our economic policy and the rulers bull shit us about sovereignty. best example is borrowing billions from india and signing a trade pact so that india can send their unemployed here. what hope?No hope for this country unless the politicians are reined in and made to account.

  • 1
    0

    In holding the previous government responsible for the Aranayaka landslide, etc. “vas” states:

    “….the poor in Aranayake made destitute by the anti environment policies of the previous govt whose hench men cut down trees , carried out urbanisation with out town planning, allowed house price increase torun a non productive economy etc…”

    “Vas” should be careful when making such blatantly foolish allegations…
    1. In point of fact the Aranayaka hillside was cleared for replanting rubber with tea. Should such replanting NOT take place? The owners of the plantation, whether state or private, made the decision to do so based on valid economic rationale.
    2. “henchmen” cutting down trees has proceeded under every govt. in power, and still continues under the Yahapalanas. Your blaming the previous regime is plain bias.
    3. As for “town planning”… Town Planning Divisions have existed from colonial days in towns and Municipalities in this country, but have had little effect on controlling “urbanization” with people wanting to move to where trade, educational and health facilities are alwats better. Try getting the people who live alongside the seashore in Moratuwa, and who were supported by the UNP to stay put after the Tsunami, when efforts were made to encourage movement to reside further inland! Or those living alongside railway lines to move to other better protected areas!
    4. Allowed “house price increase” ?? Does ‘Vas’ honestly think the previous govt. should have controlled real estate prices??
    5. As for the “poor being made destitute by anti-environment policies”…
    the fact is that living standards of ALL, from bottom to top, improved during the last regime.
    That upward improvement is reflected in all economic criteria and assessments for Sri Lanka.

    • 0
      0

      Country First
      When idiots can only see economic development with out seeing the negative effects which ultimately is non productive the rulers must take the responsibility for that debacle. It is thoughtless development when Aranayake was cleared for Tea plantation. No thought was given to the future consequences. Whose fault is it>? Is not the rulers?
      2) House price rises and Urbanisation. Is it not the govt that thoutlessly carried out the policy of urbanisation. Borrowed and fuelled a economy that only went to fill the pockets opf the politicians and there henchman. Result Flooding , damage to environment etc Uncontrolled urbanisation Whose fault
      3) Idiots don’t understand how house prices rose .
      Devaluation of currency by printing, uncontrolled loans to buy houses , low interest rates, Encouragement of bribery and corruption Whose fault
      In the last 5 years Sri Lanka doubled its debt, Who pays for it. The Corrupt who stacked their money in Panama Etc. No the poor in this country
      Upward improvement economically was on borrowed money not production. Fools cannot understand it.
      No the political class has no excuses. The environmental damage in the name of development was geared for them to earn the money and the country to pay for it
      Country first my foot!. Country last. See the economic mess we are in. Idiot.

      • 0
        0

        To Vas:

        Your responses reveal your own idiocy in the way you interpret what has happened through decades of the West’s efforts to control a NEW EMPIRE and PIVOT TO ASIA.
        The absolute shortsightedness and the ineptitude of Yahapalanas who took power by irresponsibly selling out Sri Lanka’s independence to settle all the problems you say were created ONLY by the last regime. But the country’s situation is the outcome of mistakes by many successive governments including the current one that made undeliverable promises.

        A STUPID WAR that they ALL were involved in until it was brought to an end, thank goodness, giving a chance for the people of this nation to breathe PEACE at least for a few years. But it is not to be. Watch out for happenings in the next few weeks, for it is the PEOPLE of this island who will have to pay for all the mistakes of its leaders, PAST & PRESENT.

        • 0
          0

          Country Fist,
          Another sycophant who defends previous regime that has done immense damage to this country by destroying the judiciary,Borrowing money and investing in mega projects with no return except for the politicians and their henchmen etc cannot be excused. Ignorance is one thing but deception is inexcusable. I agree on one thing and that this damage to the country has been done by successive governments but Maximum by the Rajapakses. With regards to yahapalanaya it is no different except that it prevented the country been run down to regime of the Rajapakse clan. I agree also that since 2005 all governments including the Rajapakse govt was implementing the programme of Ranil W and the IMF and WB of the programme Regaining Sri Lanka . The only difference is that Rajapakses borrowed money with High interests from China. Country first is the Fig Leaf to cover the sins of the corrupt. Country first, You cannot fool all the people all the time. Rajapakse and is clan won the war but sold the country.

          • 0
            0

            To “Vas”:
            Your response to mine states: ” since 2005 all governments including the Rajapakse govt was implementing the programme of Ranil W and the IMF and WB of the programme Regaining Sri Lanka . The only difference is that Rajapakses borrowed money with High interests from China. Country first is the Fig Leaf to cover the sins of the corrupt. “

            Aren’t you wearing a huge fig leaf for what has gone on at the Central Bank, when you accuse only the previous regime of corruption? The CB fiasco under this RW/MS regime will cost the country much, much more over 30yr and this has been pointed out to no avail, with everything brushed under the carpet. I am no defender of Corruption – only facing tha fact that is a practice by ALL…so let us not talk of Corruption as being a particular evil of the Rajapakses…in fact they did show progress in the country while this govt is in an economic and developmental rut, for all the promises made which the people were foolish in believing. Plus: the utter folly of attacking China when they were the ONLY country ready and able to help, and having to go back on bended knee for what might have been negotiated for, readily.

            You cannot be serious in attempting to defend what has gone on during this period of Yahapalana governance, wherein they talk of Law and Order but throw the Constitution to the winds; make empty promises that cannot be fulfilled; and subsist politically on harassment and unproven allegations leveled at their political rivals.
            The prominence (i.e., flattery?) given to Pres. Sirisena at G7 and the Corruption Summit is supposed to compensate for any real help, and of course our politicians and cohorts lap it all up. No lessons learnt from history…that much is certain. We are still in true colonial mindset!
            When will we re-learn to rely on our capabilities?

  • 0
    0

    I agree with you on the yahapalanaya but this cannot get rid of the damage done by Rajapakse govt.

    • 0
      0

      To Vas:

      Glad you agree regarding the Yahapalanas…and I agree that certain mistakes of the Rajapakses cannot be condoned. But in balance, the good that was accomplished by ending the Eelam wars, and the visible progress made in a bare 5yr period from 2009-2014 is a record for this country, of for any other on the planet for that matter.
      Setting right the extremes has involved far too much vengefulness, and may come full cycle to haunt the Yahaps when all this is over.
      Question:
      Is this path of Hate and Vengefulness now being taken the Right Way to make the needed correction?
      We all know that many among the “finger pointers” are themselves guilty of trading in Money and/or Power, and have little conscience about the nation and what especially those who gave of themselves to preserve it, have suffered already.

  • 0
    0

    Finger pointing by the illiterate middle classes is not the answer. It is time the civil society establishes a Save Sri Lanka movement as the political class have failed the country. They do not know where they are leading us .The sycophancy must stop. WE were told the old fox the most brilliant politician JRJ was going to make Sri Lanka one of the best democracies in the World. Consequences of his pro western sycophancy ended up with a war of 30 years and a corrupt governments. Now I am told of the brilliant , most honest ,RW will lead us to hevens gate. All bull shit.we are fast on our way to be a subjugate nation of India. Its time for the civil society to wake up. We cannot trust the politicians any more!

  • 0
    0

    Vas says: “Finger pointing by the illiterate middle classes is not the answer. It is time the civil society establishes a Save Sri Lanka movement “

    Questions:
    1. What is civil society if NOT one that has as its principal component, the backbone of any society which is the MIDDLE CLASS, which you now accuse as being “illiterate”?
    2. How do you see this Save Sri Lanka Movement being organized?

    • 1
      0

      CountryFarce

      “1. What is civil society if NOT one that has as its principal component, the backbone of any society which is the MIDDLE CLASS, which you now accuse as being “illiterate”? “

      The backbone of the society the Middle Class needs to put their backbone where it should be.

      “2. How do you see this Save Sri Lanka Movement being organized?”

      Building a rainbow coalition based on liberal principles (values).

      The rest can join you and MR clan and keep singing Sinhala National anthem with gusto. For you that will solve the problems.

  • 0
    0

    TO ALL PARTICIPANTS IN THESE THREADS…
    TOWARDS PURSUING DISCUSSION on the recent DISASTERS
    WITH CIVILITY & GOOD SENSE –

    Re. the Future of the Planet that is OUR HOME…Can we expect this kind of address from any of our leaders??
    ———–
    A truly Exceptional and rare speech by the Prime Minister of Bhutan, exhibiting the kind of political discourse that is all but extinguished from contemporary politics. PLEASE WATCH

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Lc_dlVrg5M

  • 0
    0

    TO ALL PARTICIPANTS IN THESE THREADS…
    TOWARDS PURSUING DISCUSSION on the recent DISASTERS
    WITH CIVILITY & GOOD SENSE –
    Re. the Future of the Planet that is OUR HOME…Can we expect this kind of address from any of our leaders??
    ———–
    A truly Exceptional and rare speech by the Prime Minister of Bhutan, exhibiting the kind of political discourse that is all but extinguished from contemporary politics.

    PLEASE WATCH
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Lc_dlVrg5M

  • 0
    0

    TOWARDS PURSUING DISCUSSION on the recent DISASTERS
    WITH CIVILITY & GOOD SENSE –

    Re. the Future of the Planet that is OUR HOME…Can we expect this kind of address below from any of our leaders??
    ———–
    A truly Exceptional and rare speech by the Prime Minister of Bhutan, exhibiting the kind of political discourse that is all but extinguished from contemporary politics.

    PLEASE WATCH
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Lc_dlVrg5M

  • 0
    0

    There you are true leader and a great human . Sri Lankan politicians cannot touch his toe.

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