Aftermath of the floods

Friday, 28 January 2011 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

THE floods have finally receded and the affected families – 286, 997 to be exact – are breathing a sigh of relief. The immense hardship they underwent due to the floods and destruction is almost over. But now they are faced with a new problem – that of restarting their lives.

We highlighted this problem in our editorial on Wednesday, stressing that a mechanism needs to be set up to restore the lives and livelihoods of the affected. We reiterate again today the importance of taking quick action in this respect.

A number of countries have promptly responded to our call for assistance; over Rs. 1 billion in aid and donations have been received from the major countries, including our friendly neighbour India. It is now the responsibility of the Government to implement a meaningful relief programme on behalf of the affected.

The Government has already spent over Rs. 150 million to provide assistance to the affected and also deployed the armed forces in the rescue of those affected and marooned. We are therefore hopeful that in the same spirit, the Government would set up a mechanism for the disbursement of this relief in an equitable manner.

It’s not that we are not aware of the manipulations that could be used in the distribution of this aid. This should certainly not go the way the resettlement of the war affected in the Wanni was handled. Irrespective of the sanctimonious intentions expressed, we have seen this programme being implemented half-heartedly. It is as if the Government is lacking the political will to address the issue. But let us not be too pessimistic. What worries us is the concern expressed by Transparency International regarding the distribution of this relief aid.

Transparency International has in a press release called on the Government, the general public and volunteer agencies to be mindful of the possible lapses in the distribution of aid to the affected and highlighted the importance of ensuring that a transparent mechanism is in place to see that the affected receive maximum benefits.

“Transparency International Sri Lanka is deeply grieved with the disaster caused by the recent floods, causing immense hardship to thousands of families. While appreciating the timely intervention of a number of countries by providing prompt assistance for the benefit of flood victims, TISL stresses on the need to be extremely cautious and transparent in the distribution of aid to the affected people, minimising the lapses that may occur,” TISL has said in its release.

We believe that the Government would heed this urgent call and devise a system to ensure that the relief is distributed in a fair and reasonable manner.

But even as we heave a deep sigh of relief that the worst is over, news reaches us that there was heavy rain in Kalmunai and Pottuvil in the Batticaloa and Ampara Districts on Tuesday and Wednesday, triggering fresh fears of possible floods. No damage to life and limb has been reported. We hope the rains would cease, letting  a little sunshine into the lives of those threatened with fears of floods.

The biggest floods in decades have wreaked havoc, killed hundreds of people and displaced millions in many countries all over the world. Australia, Brazil and Columbia have been deluged by rain and floods in the early part of this month. And all these countries are limping back to normalcy. There seems to be a hidden meaning to all this – something that mankind does not realise enough.

Perhaps mankind is tinkering with nature a little too much.