A repeated tale

Monday, 30 May 2011 00:22 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

LIKE the seasonal rains the problems that they bring also come by turns. The recent spate of heavy rain has left several parts of the country inundated and eight people dead. The challenges that rise from this repeated threat are nothing new, and yet every season tragedies continue to occur.

It was reported over the weekend that more than 16, 956 persons and 4609 families have been affected by the recent adverse weather conditions including landslides and floods affecting Kegalle, Galle, Kalutara, Gampaha, Ratnapura and Kurunegala Districts.

The Disaster Management Centre (DMC) has also stated that the largest number of 7095 persons has been affected in the Biyagama area in the Gampaha District while 6604 were affected in the Colombo District. Furthermore 284 houses have been damaged, eight persons were reported killed and 10 injured during this period.

Ten camps have been setup to assist the displaced while several navy boats have also been deployed to rescue those affected by floods and heavy rain in these areas. Short term assistance has been provided in the form of cooked meals and shelters. However given that the rain may continue, the rehabilitation of these people and returning them to their homes will take further assistance and time.

Infrastructure development is a major focus of the government. However there is also a need to consider stemming the damage done by seasonal disasters such as heavy rain and floods. This is nothing new with the changed weather patterns; but people continue to die and property continues to be destroyed resulting in significant losses to the economy.

Natural disasters cannot be stopped but their damage can be minimised. This is one instance when the strong community links can be used to assist people and reduce the amount of time that will lapse before the people can return to normalcy and productivity. The gap in children’s education and the prolonged hardships that they face due to their livelihoods being disrupted are all burdens that are ultimately shared by the rest of the country.

Therefore at this point is it important for all stakeholders to assist in the relief measures and ensure that the affected areas recover as soon as possible. It is also imperative that at least some measures are taken to reduce future damage that could be caused by floods. Infrastructure development in this regard is crucial since most of the existing projects could face setbacks due to adverse weather conditions.

Multi-million rupee development projects that have provided roads, bridges and access ways were swept away in the recent spate of floods in January. Repeating the same development work is hardly cost effective and could pose development challenges.  Providing relief for previously affected people is still important as well as overseeing the long term welfare of the thousands that have been affected over the last few weeks.  

One point that needs to be highlighted is the attention that policy makers and other stakeholders including the private sector must pay to assisting in disaster management. Their involvement should be, not only supporting disaster management initiatives, but also preventing the same disasters from being repeated in the future.